More slaves today than ever in history

I came across an enlightening piece on slavery today in Foreign Policy. It’s written by E. Benjamin Skinner, author of A Crime So Monstrous: Face-to-Face with Modern-day Slavery.

The article leads with a description of Skinner negotiating for the purchase of a young girl between the ages of 10-12 for domestic duties and sexual ones. Later while discussing his research he says, “I did not pay for a human life anywhere. And, with one exception, I always withheld action to save any one person, in the hope that my research would later help to save many more. At times, that still feels like an excuse for cowardice.”

I can completely relate to that. Many times during my trip I wanted to single out a worker and lend them a hand. I’m not a rich man, but the few hundred dollars I could afford to donate to one person could have been life changing. I talk about this struggle in a round about way in my most recent contribution to the World Vision Report.

Here are some other bits from the piece I found interesting:

* In the popular consciousness, “slavery” has come to be little more than just a metaphor for undue hardship. Investment bankers routinely refer to themselves as “high-paid wage slaves.” Human rights activists may call $1-an-hour sweatshop laborers slaves, regardless of the fact that they are paid and can often walk away from the job. But the reality of slavery is far different. Slavery exists today on an unprecedented scale.

* As many as 17,500 new slaves continue to enter bondage in the United States every year.

* Many feel that sex slavery is particularly revolting—and it is. I saw it firsthand. In a Bucharest brothel, for instance, I was offered a mentally handicapped, suicidal girl in exchange for a used car. But for every one woman or child enslaved in commercial sex, there are at least 15 men, women, and children enslaved in other fields, such as domestic work or agricultural labor.

Another eye-opening work on modern slavery is Nobodies: Modern American Slavery and the Dark-side of the New Global Economy by John Bowe. Bowe’s book is very readable and I found his accounts of how farmers/businessmen don’t setout to be slave owners but become them anyhow fascinating.

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