Many people believe that slavery is an ugly thing of centuries past — long dead and good riddance. But nothing could be further from the truth. Modern slavery is a global problem. Since January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month I thought this would be a good time for us to be aware, get informed, and maybe even assist in the fight against slavery.
If you are one of the many who thought that slavery was a monstrous evil from bygone times, or at worst, happens rarely and only in third world countries, you’re not alone. These are very popular myths.
But slavery has never gone away. Evil never does just leave quietly, simply because a law changes. It might retreat into the background for a little while, until the worst of the storm blows over, only to slyly creep back later, often with a new face or new name; maybe even gussied up a bit with a fresh new style and some perfume.
It will even convince folks that it doesn’t live in their countries, and certainly not their neighborhoods.
But look closely and you’ll see the ugly, wicked crone underneath the new guise, and smell the rotting stench underneath the eau de parfum. Pay close attention and you’ll catch glimpses of foul evil in places you would never expect. Even your nice neighborhood.
Because evil never just goes away.
Old Evil, New Name
Any way you slice it, slavery is still slavery. The main glaring differences between modern slavery and that of ages past is, 1) it’s technically illegal and therefore, not obviously and openly practiced (in most places, that is; more on that later); and 2) it has a new name — Human Trafficking.
I’m not sure how I feel about the new moniker. On the one hand, it seems like little more than a euphemism designed to somewhat sanitize the word slavery, and make it a bit more palatable. It seems to smack of political correctness.
The words, human trafficking cause many people to think of human smuggling, where people choose to be aided by smugglers — usually for a huge fee and often in deplorable transport conditions — to illegally get across a border. This is one thing I dislike about the name.
On the other hand, the term, human trafficking is a bit more descriptive than slavery, since there is a lot of buying and selling going on, and the moving of modern-day slaves from place to place (although rarely across continents or overseas).
Maybe we should call it slave trafficking.
Human Trafficking Myths
First, let’s dispel some myths. We’ve already addressed the one about human trafficking vs. human smuggling. Here are a few more:
- Human trafficking doesn’t happen in the US.
Hah. I wish. It is happening every day here in the land of the free. The Polaris Project estimates the number to be in the hundreds of thousands. No country is immune from it.
- Modern-day slaves ended up that way due to fraud or being kidnapped.
Many are either deceived or outright kidnapped, but certainly not all. In many countries, some desperately poor families sell their children, and many single mothers turn to prostitution to feed their children, as often this is the only way available for them to earn a living. Others sell themselves into indentured servitude to pay off a debt.
- Only women and young girls are trafficked.
The International Labour Organization estimates that 25% of those trafficked are men and boys. They are sold into the sex industry, the fishing industry, and other labor industries.
- Victims are bought and sold for use in the sex trade industry only.
These modern-day slaves are not used for the world’s oldest profession only. According to the Department of Defense, 21 million people worldwide are the victims of forced labor, bringing in profits of about 51 billion; and 4.5 million worldwide are the victims of forced sexual exploitation, bringing in 99 billion.
But that’s globally. According to the Polaris Project here in the US, the calls to their human trafficking hotline in 2017 for sex trafficking were 6,081, compared to 1,249 for labor trafficking. Sex and labor calls were 377, and not specified calls were at 817.
- Slavery is illegal everywhere; therefore traffickers who are caught must face the legal consequences.
It’s illegal as a technicality only in many places; yet still accepted and openly practiced, such as in Mauritania.
- Human Traffickers are virtually always men — especially when it comes to sex trafficking.
Being a trafficker is an equal opportunity enterprise. Many women are traffickers.
To the Trafficker, Slaves Have Many Uses
Let’s break it down a bit, shall we? For instance, when we say that a certain number of people are sold into the sex industry, what exactly does that mean? Prostitution? Stripping?
Yes, and yes. Some are pimped on the streets, others reside in brothels. Many are forced to work in strip clubs and massage parlors — where they obviously must do much more than merely remove their clothes, or give relaxing massages.
Many others are forced to work for “escort” services or work in hotels and motels. Even restaurants, health and beauty services, and healthcare services can be fronts for prostitution or otherwise “employ” modern-day slaves. And speaking of prostitution, the average age for those entering the sex trade is 12-14 years old.
Then there’s the forced labor aspect of modern slavery. In many places, men and boys are forced to work on fishing boats or in construction. Women and even little girls are often used for construction projects as well, for example as bricklayers, or as domestic help. And of course, all too often they are sexually abused as well.
But there’s another, very ghoulish use for trafficking victims that few know about — that of using victims for organ harvesting, either with or without their consent.
While it’s true that there are some who are desperate enough for money, either to survive or to simply supply an addiction, who will willingly sell an organ, many more are either tricked into it or, in extreme cases, kidnapped for their organs.
But perhaps the most surprising of all…
Tune in next week when I’ll be revealing what this is, plus providing you with ways you can help in the fight against modern slavery, as well as links to some websites where you can learn more.
And please, help raise awareness by sharing this post on social media!