Modern Day Slavery
I read President Jimmy Carter’s recent book A CALL TO ACTION Women, Religion, Violence and Power (2014) over the weekend. He articulates in a direct and clear voice about subject matter that is difficult yet pervasive across the planet: genocide of girls, “honor” killings, child marriage and dowry to name just a few. But he is at his most compelling in his discussion of modern-day slavery and prostitution of children and women.
Carter reminds us that while slavery is illegal all over the world today sources such as the Global Slavery Index and the UN International Labor Organization estimate there are just under 30 million people trapped and transported against their will and enslaved today. It is likely that more people are being trafficked over borders against their will than at any previous point in our history. Add to that the hundreds perhaps thousands of children and women who are coerced by family members, boyfriends or “friends” into the commercial sex trade within their own state and it is easy to understand why the trafficking of humans of which over 80 percent are children and women is an underground multi-billion dollar business. Many of these children and women are drugged and transported to “brothels” in motels, private homes and condos. The primary advertising tool of the human traffick business is the internet.
So what is trafficking? Sex trafficking is a commercial sex act that is induced by force, fraud or coercion. If a child in under the age of 18 and is engaged in prostitution, that child is considered to be a trafficked victim under the law as no child is able to give legal consent to such abuse. Domestic Servitude (Labor) Trafficking involves the transportation, harboring, and recruitment by means of fraud or force for unpaid work. One might think trapping and forcing a child or grown women into the role of a sex or domestic slave is rare, particularly in the United States. It is not.
A Sex trafficker’s tool kit includes trapping by false pretense, victim starvation, confinement, beatings, physical abuse, rape including gang rape, threats of violence to them or to their families, forced drug use and shaming; that is revealing their activities to their family and friends. Sex trafficking does not have to involve the movement of its victims from one city or country to another; it occurs within family units where family members force children or women into trafficking for money.
If lucky enough to be rescued from the conditions of modern-day slavery, victims are left with physical and psychological effects that last a lifetime: drug and alcohol addiction, broken bones, vaginal and anal tearing, post-traumatic stress syndrome, sexually transmitted diseases, forced abortions, suicidal thoughts, shame, mistrust, intense fear to name just a few of the most common.
The most common age of entry into the commercial sex industry is 12 to 14 years of age. The FBI has identified Atlanta as one of 14 cities in the US with the highest incidence of children exploited in prostitution. Each month, just in Georgia alone, 300-500 girls are commercially sexually exploited throughout the state of Georgia and on average 7,200 men pay for sex with adolescent girls in Georgia each month. And that is just Georgia.
Wisconsin, the state in which I live, is not innocent of modern-day slavery. Wisconsin is home to both international and domestic trafficking. According to the Wisconsin Office of Justice Assistance, the majority of Wisconsin citizens do not believe that human trafficking is a Wisconsin problem but they are wrong. Human trafficking has been reported in both rural and urban cities within the state. Sadly, Wisconsin research data report that the majority of victims are forced into commercial sex exploitation by those who have the primary responsibility for them: family members. Incredible as it may be, there are reports of high school boyfriends who sell their girlfriends for money for sex to friends and acquaintances. Such behavior is illegal, immoral and repulsive.
So what can be done? Take the time to educate yourself and your family about the real and present danger of child and human trafficking. Education is power. The topic is unpleasant and upsetting; but the consequences of becoming informed on child and female trafficking by way of having a loved one trafficked is catastrophic.
Acquire an in-depth understanding of the link between drug addiction, pornography and child and adult prostitution as a multi-billion dollar industry; an industry that acquires its “product”, children and adult victims, by way of entrapment, coercion and violence. Pay attention and believe information that local law enforcement professionals present in the media and in local presentation programs.
If you see any signs that a child or adult you know may be a victim of trafficking, reach out for assistance in making a contact with that individual. Many victims are unaware that the kind of life they have been subjected to is illegal. Most are fearful that their lives will become worse or they will be killed if they ask for help. Professional training is a must in approaching a suspected victim; don’t go it alone.
Finally, take an active step in your own community and state by demanding laws that support violence against women and children. Ask what is being done in your community and state to support child and adult victims of domestic violence, commercial sex trafficking, domestic trafficking and child violence in the way of health programs and a host of related services for its victims. Put organized pressure on state and national politicians to attend to the serious business of passing strong anti-human and child trafficking laws. Demand legislative results, not lip service or endless games of denial, of politicians who are paid to ensure the protection of its citizens’ civil rights. Ask for strong laws to be enacted which will protect undocumented immigrants and to expose and hold legally accountable wealthy corporate farm owners who force farm workers in involuntary servitude, a practice that has close similarity to the practice of slave holding on southern plantation farms before the American Civil War.
Jimmy Carter warns that prejudice, discrimination, violence, physical and mental abuse fall disproportionately on women and girls and that holds particularly true in the case of modern-day slavery. The solutions are multifaceted but one thing is clear: unless and until women stand up, organize and demand the stop of modern-day human trafficking, just a drop out of the immense billion dollar modern-day slavery profit bucket will be enough to entice otherwise good men to do nothing.
I know we all want to purchase products made in the USA but it is a next to an impossible challenge. I bought sheets at Macy’s today; top quality Macy’s brand (not Martha). As I unwrapped them and tried them on the beds to make sure they fit, I noticed that all three sets were made in India. One set I am returning; there was a handwritten note inside one of the fitted sheets that I could not figure out except the word Macy. It was dirty; looked like it had been used or someone who was working on it (maybe a child) had dirty hands. Obviously returning this set for a different one. I know why some people do not want to read, discuss,or otherwise be informed about where and by whom most of the products Americans purchase today come from; and the conditions where those children and women work. But I could not help but think about those sweatshops today. I would be willing to pay more for high quality products that are made in this country by workers that are fairly paid and are at least 18 years of age. It would make me sleep better at night.