Human Enslavement

“That slavery still exists may surprise some readers, but the practice of violently coerced labor continues to thrive in every corner of the globe. There were 28.4 million slaves in the world at the end of 2006, and there will most likely be a greater number by the time you read this.  Some are child slaves in India, stolen from their homes and worked sixteen hours a day to harvest the tea that middle-class consumers drink or sew the carpets that adorn their sitting rooms.  Others are bonded laborers in South Asia, Latin America, and Africa, who accrue or inherit debts that can never be repaid, no matter how long they work.  Slaves in the U.S. harvest agricultural products:  onions, avocados, and corn in Texas, California, Florida and the Carolinas.  Up to 5 percent of the world’s cocoa beans are picked by slave hands in the Ivory Coast.  Slaves continue to harvest coffee in Kenya and Ethiopia, and they burn wood in hellish furnaces in Brazil to produce charcoal that is used to temper the steel in everything from garden sheers to car axels.

Approximately 1.2 million of these 28.4 million slaves are young women and children, who were deceived, abducted, seduced, or sold by families to be prostituted around the globe.  These sex slaves are forced to service hundreds, often thousands of men before they are discarded, forming the backbone of one of the most profitable illicit enterprises in the world. Drug trafficking generates greater dollar revenues, but trafficked women are far more profitable.  Unlike a drug, a human female does not have to be grown, cultivated, distilled, or packaged. Unlike a drug, a human female can be used by the customer again and again.

The brutalities associated with sex slavery are perverse, violent, and utterly destructive. Whips, cigarette burns, broken bones, starvation – every slave has suffered these tortures, but sex slaves suffer each of these as well as innumerable counts of rape – ten, fifteen, twenty or more times per day.  In brothels around the globe, I met women and children who suffered unspeakable acts of barbarity.

The global magnitude of victimization of young women and girls is staggering.  Every minute of every day, the most vulnerable women and children are raped for profit with impunity, yet efforts to combat sex trafficking remain woefully inadequate and misdirected.  There are several reasons for this insufficiency.  First, despite increased media attention, sex trafficking remains poorly understood.  Second, organizations dedicated to combatting sex trafficking are underfunded and uncoordinated internationally.  Third, the laws against sex trafficking are overwhelmingly anemic and poorly enforced.”

Excerpt from Sex Trafficking:  Inside the Business of Modern Slavery by Siddharth Kara


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