Slavery - The Persistence of Human Bondage
January 2012 is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month
Our Nation was founded on the enduring principles of equality and freedom for all. As Americans, it is our solemn responsibility to honor and uphold this legacy. Yet, around the world and even within the United States, victims of modern slavery are deprived of the most basic right of freedom. During National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, we rededicate ourselves to preventing and ending human trafficking, and we recognize all who continue to fight this serious human rights violation. (read more)
Read how cuts in anti-trafficking programs, even those with bipartisan support, will stall efforts to curb global slavery activity. Howerve, the US State Department's Trafficking in Persons (TIP) programs Tier program, in which countries that do not make progress in their own anti-trafficking programs, faces its own controversy. (read more)
ROM's vision is a world where people and organizations are free to make choices that control their destiny. The persistence of slavery and human trafficking, where
individuals have lost their freedom at the hands of others who exploit their weakness, reduces the freedom of all of us. ROM donates 10% of its net profits to organizations committed to reducing the
tragedy of human trafficking and bondage.
By conservative estimates there are 30 million men, women, and children living in slavery or in forced working conditions around the world today - more than at any other time in history. They are forced to work for no pay under the threat of violence. Slavery in the 21st century takes many forms, the most common being debt bondage, sexual servitude, chattel slavery, and the severest forms of forced labor. About 600,000 to 800,000 people are trafficked internationally every year. Approximately 80% of them are women and children.
Slavery in the United States
If you think slavery in the US ended in 1865, think again. Slavery is an extremely profitable industry, with trafficking in the US estimated to yield $9 billion
annually. According to a groundbreaking CIA Intelligence report, 100,000 slaves currently live in the US, and 14,500 to 17,000 victims are trafficked into the “Land of the Free” every year. But don't
expect to see slave auctions or wanted posters for runaway slaves. Contemporary slavery in America is hidden away from the public eye, relying on deception and threats. But it is every bit as brutal
and unforgiving as that 'peculiar institution' of centuries past.
Slaves are often lured to US shores with the promise of a good-paying job. Smuggled across the border or even walked through customs with a legal visa, victims are then forced to pay off exorbitant 'travel expenses.' Some are forced into prostitution, others domestic work or garment sewing. Others still are lured into agricultural work, like peach picking.
Why hasn’t more been done to end a dehumanizing, universally condemned practice? One challenge is that slavery today takes on myriad, subtler forms than it did during the Atlantic Slave Trade — including sex trafficking, debt bondage, forced domestic or agricultural labor, and chattel slavery — making it tougher to identify and eradicate.
Types of Slavery
CHATTEL SLAVERY is closest to the slavery that prevailed in early American history. Chattel slaves are considered their masters’ property — exchanged for things like trucks or money and expected to perform labor and sexual favors. Once of age, their children are expected to do the same. Chattel slavery is typically racially-based; in the North African country of Mauritania, for example, black Africans serve the lighter-skinned Arab-Berber communities. Though slavery was legally abolished there in 1980, today 90,000 slaves continue to serve the Muslim Berber ruling class. Similarly, in the African country of Sudan, Arab northerners are known to raid the villages in the South — killing all the men and taking the women and children to be auctioned off and sold into slavery.
DEBT BONDAGE, or bonded labor, is the most widely practiced form of slavery around the world. In Southeast Asia, where it is most prevalent, debt bondage claims an estimated 15 to 20 million victims. The staggering poverty there forces many parents to offer themselves or their own children as collateral against a loan. Though they are promised they will work only until their debt is paid off, the reality is much grimmer. Thanks to inflated interest rates and fresh debts incurred while being fed and housed, the debt becomes impossible to pay off. As a result, it is often inherited by the bonded laborer’s children, perpetuating a vicious cycle that can claim several generations.
SEX SLAVERY finds women and children forced into prostitution. Many are lured by false offers of a good job and then beaten and forced to work in brothels. In Southeast Asia, however, it is not uncommon to find women coerced by their own husbands, fathers, and brothers to earn money for the men in the family to pay back local money lenders. In other cases, victims pay tens of thousands of dollars to get to another country and are then forced into prostitution in pay off their own debts. In still others, women or girls are plainly kidnapped from their home countries. The sex slavery trade thrives in Central and Eastern Europe and in North America. An estimated two million women and children are sold into sex slavery around the world every year.
FORCED LABOR often results when individuals are lured by the promise of a good job but instead find themselves subjected to slaving conditions — working without payment and enduring physical abuse, often in harsh and hazardous conditions. Victims include domestic workers, construction workers, and even human mine detectors. Migrant workers are particularly vulnerable, as their constant changes of location make the organized crime rings that traffic them difficult to bust.
How Traffickers Operate
Traffickers tempt their victims by advertising good jobs for high pay in exciting cities or by setting up bogus employment, travel, modeling and matchmaking agencies to lure unsuspecting young men and women into the trafficking networks. In many cases, traffickers trick parents into believing their children will be taught a useful skill or trade once removed from the home. The children, of course, end up enslaved. In the most violent cases, victims are forcefully kidnapped or abducted.
Once traffickers move them from their homes to other locations – within their country or to foreign countries – victims typically find themselves isolated and unable to speak the language or understand the culture. The victims rarely have immigration papers or have been given fraudulent identification documents by the traffickers. Victims also may be exposed to a range of health concerns, including domestic violence, alcoholism, psychological problems, HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.
"Traffickers prey on the most vulnerable members of our human family, violating their most basic rights, subjecting them to degradation and misery," stated
then-Secretary of State Colin Powell in presenting the report he said displayed "the resolve of the entire US Government to stop this appalling assault on the dignity of men, women and
While the report focuses on person-trafficking in eighty-nine other countries, Secretary Powell reported that some 50,000 women and children are trafficked annually for sexual exploitation into the United States. "Here and abroad," said Powell, "the victims of trafficking toil under inhuman conditions -- in brothels, sweatshops, fields and even in private homes."
Source: American Anti-Slavery Group
- American Anti-Slavery Group (iAbolish)
- Polaris Project
- U.S. State Department Web site on human trafficking
- Wikipedia Article: Trafficking in human beings
- About.com article on modern slavery
Compelling Books About Modern Slavery
- Escape From Slavery: The True Story of My Ten Years in Captivity and My Journey to Freedom in America
- Enslaved: True Stories of Modern Day Slavery
- Disposable People: New Slavery in the Global Economy