Slavery in Our Time

For the first time, the U.S. government acknowledges modern-day slavery in the United States.


One-hundred-and-fifty years after the abolition of slavery, the State Department has acknowledged that people in the United States continue to be bought and sold as property.

 The department’s 2010 “Trafficking in Persons” (TIP) report, a global review of human trafficking and civic and legal responses to it, lists the United States for the first time among the nations that harbor modern-day slavery.

The report was a long time in coming. In 2001, when Washington was rolling out landmark anti-trafficking legislation, Maria, a Mexican woman, testified before the House Committee on International Relations on her experience with sex slavery in Florida. “If any of the girls refused to be with a customer, we were beaten. If we adamantly refused, the bosses would show us a lesson by raping us brutally. We worked six days a week, twelve hours a day. Our bodies were sore and swollen. If anyone became pregnant we were forced to have abortions. The cost of the abortion was added to the smuggling debt,” she said.

The report gives the United States high marks for its efforts to combat trafficking, but victims remain scattered throughout the workforce, hidden from view: the captive migrant tomato picker, the prostitute bonded by a smuggling debt, the domestic servant working without pay.

The media often focus on stories of young girls lured into prostitution rings. But government data suggest that “more foreign victims are found in labor trafficking than sex trafficking,” particularly in “above ground” sectors like hotel work and home healthcare. Estimates vary, but the number of victims worldwide could be more than 12 million children and adults.

Today’s slave trade capitalizes on vast inequalities, sharpened by economic globalization, that spur migration across national borders. Many governments have instituted anti-trafficking policies, but with uneven success. The TIP report states that 23 countries got an “upgrade” in the ranking of their anti-trafficking programs. But 19 countries were “downgraded” due to “sparse victim protections, desultory implementation, or inadequate legal structures.”

Despite the country’s relative wealth and sophisticated legal system, slavery trickles into the United States through deep cracks in labor and immigration laws.

Victims often remain hidden because they depend on their bosses not only for their livelihoods but for protection from immigration authorities. Even for documented workers, legal status is not a safeguard, and precarious temporary worker visas may even facilitate trafficking.

Stephanie Richard, director of policy with the Los Angeles-based Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST), told In These Times: “We’re actually seeing an increase in the number of cases of people coming in on lawful visas, and then ending up in human trafficking … because people are using those visas as one of the forms of coercion for keeping people working for them against their will.”

To its credit, the State Department’s report stresses that anti-trafficking measures should not just emphasize cracking down on trafficking crimes, and that a comprehensive “victim-centered” approach should “focus on all victims, offering them the opportunity to access shelter, comprehensive services, and in certain cases, immigration relief.”

To qualify for special immigration relief­-the T visa­-trafficking survivors must cooperate with law enforcement investigations—a process advocates say can be humiliating and traumatic. That may be why the number of T visas granted each year is far smaller than the estimated number of survivors. And despite pressure to bring survivors into the criminal process, the Department of Justice’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit reported only 47 convictions in 43 human trafficking prosecutions in fiscal year 2009.

This year’s report glosses over the systemic failures that fuel the thirst for cheap labor—or even free labor. Sienna Baskin, an attorney with the Sex Workers Project—which campaigns for legislation to protect the rights of trafficked sex workers in New York—sees a correlation between the trafficking epidemic and immigration and law enforcement policies that criminalize victims. Baskin told In These Times, “The growing problem of labor exploitation could be lessened by comprehensive immigration reform that provides visas and fair wages to all workers.”

The Florida-based Coalition of Immokalee Workers merges anti-trafficking, immigration reform and labor activism in its campaigns for farm workers’ rights. The group was recently honored by the White House for its Campaign for Fair Food, which has successfully pressured corporations to adjust their labor policies across the supply chain, from the tomato farms all the way up to restaurants like Taco Bell.

At the D.C. event announcing the new TIP report, Laura Germino, coordinator of the Coalition’s Anti-Slavery Campaign, said that 20 years ago the United States refused to acknowledge “that the unbroken threat of slavery that has so tragically woven through our history … was a constant.” She added, “But here’s the good part. There was nowhere to go but up.”



Why Is Thailand a Hub for Child Sex Tourism?

The city of Pattaya, Thailand, never intended for a pillar of their economy to be foreign men buying sex with children. Nor did they intended to become world-famous as a playground for pedophiles. And they certainly didn’t expect to see celebrities arrested on their streets for sex crimes. So how, then, did this small Thai city become the world capitol of child sex trafficking?

In Pattaya alone, there are an estimated 2,000 children involved in the prostitution industry year round, with an additional 900 or so traveling to the area for tourist season each year. These children are, for the most part, controlled by someone else, like a family member, a brothel owner, or a pimp. In addition to being deprived of an education, children in the sex industry are at increased risk for contracting HIV and other STDs, rape, and physical assault. Survivors of child sex trafficking are marred for years by the physical and emotional scars of their abuse.

Thailand, in general, and Pattaya specifically have become notorious for their child sex tourism industry through a combination of social, political, and economic circumstances. In Thailand, there is a massive wealth gap between the elite of the country and the populous, many of whom are very poor. The lack of social services and support for poor families and homeless children means there are few ways to get extra money other than prostitution. There has also been a long tradition of political corruption in Thailand, making it easy for pedophiles to buy their way out of trouble when caught with a child. As the availability of children and the laxity of law enforcement became known, Thailand grew as a destination for men seeking sex, and the child sex tourism industry grew in response.

Now, especially in areas like Pattaya, the money (spent at hotels, bars, restaurants, etc.) brought in by people traveling to Thailand for sex with children is a major component of the local economy. These factors can lead to a culture of tolerance for child sex tourism, which exists in many parts of Thailand.


Former Child Soldier Threatened for Speaking Out

Sita Tamang was forcibly recruited as a child soldier when she was just thirteen years old. She survived several years in Nepal’s Maoist army, escaped her life as a child soldier, and traveled to New York to speak about her experience in front of the United Nations. But for Tamang, escaping slavery was just the beginning of her ordeal. Because the people who coerced her into being a soldier in the first place are determined to silence her.

Five years ago, Sita Tamang was recruited from her home in Nepal by the Maoist People’s Liberation Army (PLA), which was plotting to overthrow the Nepali royal dynasty. Her teen years were spent performing hard labor for the PLA, sometimes for up to 14 hours a day. She was trained on how to use firearms, including how to shoot a gun. And she watched as friends and peers just like her were killed or maimed for life while fighting the “People’s War” they hadn’t signed up for.

Tamang survived her ordeal, and summoned the courage to speak out publicly about it. She worked with the U.N. to secure the release of nearly 3000 children who were kidnapped and coerced into the PLA like her, and she told her story to top U.N. representatives. In return, the U.N. was supposed to provide her with an alias and anonymity. But after Tamang was photographed several times while helping the U.N., her identity soon became known across Nepal. To some of her fellow countrymen, she was a hero. But to the PLA, she was a liability.

When Tamang returned home to her mother after her trip to New York, five PLA combatants showed up at her house to issue a warning: be quiet about your experience, or else. Unsurprisingly, the PLA, like other organizations which force children to become soldiers, don’t want the details of their young recruits’ terrible lives leaking out. And Tamang is not the first former child soldier to report pressure from the PLA to toe the party line. Others have reported being threatened or coerced into signing up with the Maoist cause, even after escaping servitude.


Red Light Special: Send a Message With Slavery Sucks Postcards

Are you sick of wasting your money on useless plastic crap made in overseas sweatshops? Do you want to use your money to vote for something you actually support — a hopeful future for former slaves? Then check out’s weekly Red Light Special. Once a week, I’ll be bringing you a product that heals rather than hurts, because the proceeds go to help victims of human trafficking. Shop Red Light Specials to be part of the solution, instead of part of the useless crap problem.

This Week’s Red Light Special … Slavery Sucks Postcards

Sometimes, the simplest message is the best one. In the case of modern-day slavery, that message is pretty clear: slavery sucks. This set of twelve postcards lets you send that message loud and clear to everyone you know. They’re a great way to start a conversation about human trafficking and modern slavery or to simply send a note to a fellow abolitionist. Plus, your purchase goes to support Free the Slaves’ work fighting slavery around the world. Now that’s a message you want to send in every way you can.

You can buy this item here.

Let’s face it, you don’t need any more stuff in your life, but human trafficking survivors sure need a future. And you can give it to them with just a click of the mouse and a swipe of the credit card. So what are you waiting for?

If you know of an organization or business which you’d like to see financially rewarded for helping trafficking victims, let me know!

Photo credit: Free the Slaves


Iraqi Child Sex Slave? Welcome to Prison!

Iraqi prisons are filled with young girls. Some of them were jailed for having relatives with ties to terrorist groups. Others have been charged with crimes ranging from petty to serious. But among the population of Iraqi girls in prison are victims of child sex trafficking, sold into prostitution against their will. In Iraq, imprisoning victims too often passes for justice.

One of those girls is 15-year-old Zenia. Two years ago, her father took her to Syria to visit her grandfather. But when they arrived, Zenia learned that this was no average family trip. Her family had brought her to Syria to sell her to a sex trafficker, who took her from Syria to the United Arab Emirates. There, Zenia was forced into prostitution.

Distraught and desperately looking for a way to escape, Zenia fled her captors and contacted the police in the UAE. Sure, prostitution is illegal in both the UAE and Iraq, but Zenia was just a child forced into it against her will. Surely the police would understand?

They didn’t. Zenia was unceremoniously deported to Baghdad. And when she arrived, her reward for summoning the courage to escape slavery, to protect herself from abuse, and notify the police about criminal activity, was rewarded with a two year prison sentence. Apparently, in Iraq, this passes for justice.


The Role of the United States in Combating Human Trafficking

Thank you Ken. Good morning everyone. I’m delighted to be here at the Center for American Progress. I do have to put in a quick rebuttal on behalf of Holly, which is that both of us went to Iowa State for undergrad as well. This is definitely old-home week. I’m wondering if Neha and I went to high school together.

It’s great to be here at CAP. This institution is truly an academic hub whose top-rate thinkers provide cutting-edge ideas. We’re going to be hearing from some top-rate thinkers today: David, Holly, Neha, and John. I think that for me it’s not just being able to be on a panel with them. It’s also to be able to be here in the room and also online with so many of the folks who are making things work in the movement to fight slavery in the modern era.

We’re talking about human trafficking today. It is, as Ken said, a human rights abuse. It’s a byproduct of conflict. A threat to national security, public health and democracy. It’s a labor; a migration issue.

We’re told that it is a fast-growing phenomenon. While it certainly is a modern phenomenon that affects communities across the globe, this is rooted in a very antiquated practice — involuntary servitude.

The United States’ mandate in combating trafficking is a long one but it is a simple one: we must deploy every tool at our disposal in a strategic and coordinated fashion. We must tackle every form of this crime – whether it has been labeled peonage, involuntary servitude, sex trafficking, or debt bondage.

We cannot focus on one form of trafficking over another if we truly want to end this crime. And, we ought to broaden our efforts to ensure that every man, woman, and child is able to pursue, and achieve, his or her God-given potential.

Translating the fight against modern slavery into 21st Century foreign policy is essential. It cross-cuts and impacts so many policy concerns; it is a fluid phenomenon that responds to market demands, vulnerabilities in laws, weak penalties, natural disasters, economic and environmental instability.

What we’re really talking about are the shadows: traffickers operate in the shadows and they take advantage of zones of impunity no matter why those zones exist. So, our global response must has to not just be to catch and punish those that we can find; we have to destroy their safe havens by fighting for rule of law, security, and economic empowerment.

It has been a decade since the world embraced the global standards of the UN Trafficking in Persons Protocol and Congress passed the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. We have seen innovative approaches: innovative approaches from the Clinton Administration, the Bush Administration, and the Obama Administration alike. This is clearly an issue that cuts across partisan lines. So I’m proud to build on the work of my predecessors, Nancy Ely-LaRafael, John Miller, and Mark Lagon, and I see that Mark is able to join us today.

There has been a lot of progress made, but there is a lot to do – 10 years is really just a blip in any movement much less in our modern abolitionist effort.

One of the key tools that the United States uses is the annual Trafficking in Persons Report, which Secretary of State Clinton will release in June. The report is a diagnostic tool. It’s based on the minimum standards to combat trafficking that Congress articulated in the Trafficking Victims Protection Act – the TVPA. Countries are assessed, and sorted into clusters or Tiers as we call them.

Based on in-country reporting from our embassies, NGOs, and other partners, we strive for a fair and transparent glimpse into the on-the-ground efforts against trafficking in persons through the “three P” paradigm of Prosecution, Protection, and Prevention.

The Report is not a rebuke or reprimand to our fellow countries; it’s a real assessment on how countries are doing – or frankly, sometimes not doing – in the fight against modern slavery. It’s a smart power tool that leads to greater bilateral and multilateral partnerships. The Report might lead to tough discussions, but it has driven action worldwide.

Because of the Report, countries have implemented legislation, trained law enforcement, raised public awareness, implemented protective mechanisms for victims, and in the end, what’s important: freed people from slavery.

As the Secretary said last summer, we are encouraging countries to be full partners in tackling our shared global agenda; countries such as Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Russia, Turkey. We need such emerging leaders to be stronger partners in this effort, the effort against global trafficking.

So the report is not a rebuke; but a roadmap – a roadmap for engagement and cooperation. For it to be that, the United States has return to the role we have always carried throughout history: to lead by example.

So this year, in addition to the 175 other countries that are going to be assessed in the Report, we will rank and analyze the United States based on the same minimum standards that we do other countries. This is an essential move to implement smart-power diplomacy. IT’s a vehicle for cooperation, a tool for principled engagement with our skeptics, a guidepost for shared development projects. It will not only help us at home, but leverage what we do, what we feel is a key source of American power – the power of example.

Because we know that human trafficking exists in the United States and it has from the beginning. Women and children being held by pimps; people being forced to harvest crops; immigrants held in domestic servitude. This is happening today, and it has happened for a very long time. For decades, we called our efforts against this the “Peonage Program.” Then, to lessen confusion over whether a debt needed to be proven in court, the effort was renamed as the “Involuntary Servitude and Slavery Program.” And, in the late 1990s, it was again recast, as “Human Trafficking.” But whatever we may it, we have to take a “whole of government” approach to enforce this constitutional guarantee.

Human trafficking is not an issue in which we can implement policies of American “exceptionalism.” We must not only enforce the 13th Amendment and meet our international obligations — we also have to assess our efforts as we would assess others.

Now, another important tool of self-assessment is the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review – the QDDR – which the State Department is undertaking for the first time. This review, which is slated to be released this September, will provide the short-, medium-, and long-term blueprints for our diplomatic and development efforts on all issues, not just trafficking.
Our goal is to use this process to guide us; to guide us to agile, responsive, and effective institutions of diplomacy and development, including the difficult one: how to transition from an approach no longer commensurate with current challenges. It will offer guidance on how we develop policies; how we allocate resources; how we deploy staff; and how we exercise our authorities.

As traffickers continue to use even more modern technology and methods, the U.S. Government has to be equipped and able to deal with the fluid nature of this shadowy crime. In the Palermo Protocol and the TVPA, we have the tools that we need.

In the coming weeks, we’ll be working with partners such as the OSCE, the UN Human Rights Council, the OAS, and of course, the Office of Drugs and Crime at the UN to ensure that the Palermo Protocol is used to its fullest against all forms of trafficking.

While continuing to stress the need to liberate and compassionately restore victims of sex trafficking, we will work to ensure an intensified global effort to punish forced labor offenders with criminal penalties, not just administrative remedies, as is called for in the international protocol.

And to do that, we have to address debt bondage. Debt has long been identified as part of traffickers’ coercive power to enslave. In late 2009, the United Nations’ Development Programme, the UNDP, gave a special focus in their report on the high costs of labor migration and how this often leads to instances of forced labor.

When migrants are coerced or deceived into assuming debts that are several times the per capita GDP in their country, they easily become modern slaves once abroad. They travel with the slavery already attached.

Just this weekend, we saw media reports that the suicide rate among guestworkers in the Gulf States is off-the-charts. Just yesterday, an article came out about a Thai guestworker in the United States who ran away from his abuser but continues to be afraid. He risks losing everything at home from the recruiters who helped to traffic him and are still free.

Research around the world, including some funded by my office, shows that workers are often trapped in a web of deceit and debt bondage by unscrupulous recruiters, labor brokers, and employers. And too often, these debts are legal, or are dealt with only as administrative violations.

A better system for ensuring that guestworkers are not enslaved is clearly needed in labor markets around the world – in the Gulf region, in Africa, in Southeast Asia – and here in the United States as well.

Perhaps most vulnerable among that group are the domestic workers. From Indonesian girls and women exploited in the Gulf to Malagasy women in Lebanon, to African children here in the United States, domestic workers are uniquely vulnerable.

Usually working outside the protections of prevailing labor laws – and sadly, that’s the case in the United States today – and socially isolated in their workplace, domestic workers too easily fall into modern slavery.

So too, we have seen reports of cases where women who traveled to work as a maid or a waitress have been enslaved as prostitutes, not simply forced to work behind closed doors. We need to break that zone of impunity, to get behind those closed doors, to confront and eliminate the conditions in which domestic servants are so often abused.

While we use the Trafficking in Persons Report to highlight these trends and jumpstart multilateral and bilateral action, our office also supports anti-slavery programs around the world, and I’m going to tell you a little bit about those.

In essence, our work after the Report release does not end; it just starts. Based on the Report rankings, we fund about 20 million dollars in programs around the world, strategically placed, largely in countries that are largely on Tier Two Watch List and Tier Three – the lowest rankings in our Report. We fund law enforcement training efforts, prevention – things such as public awareness campaigns, and shelters to protect the victims from their captors.

This year, we received more than 400 applicants for anti-trafficking efforts; almost a half of billion dollars worth of requests and sadly, we are only going to fund about $20 million worth. Budget constraints are leaving many worthy programs unfunded around the world. We look forward to strengthening our partnerships through these programs, and responding to the needs of victims in real time.
Speaking of responding in real time. I would be remiss if I didn’t address Haiti. Our work on relief and redevelopment in Haiti necessarily includes human trafficking and slavery issues. When instability shakes governments, communities, and societies as a whole, there is an increased likelihood of exploitation.

Especially in Haiti. Haiti was ranked as a special case in past Reports. This means that the government efforts could not be ranked because of the on-the-ground circumstances. And things have gotten worse since the earthquake. Before the earthquake, we were working with local partners; and in its wake, we continued to work, especially with regards to the enslavement of children or the restaveks.

Under the restavek system, poor, mostly rural families send their children to cities to live with wealthier families whom they think will provide the children with food, shelter and an education, in exchange for a little bit of domestic help.

While some restaveks are cared for and sent to school, most of them are subjected to involuntary domestic servitude. Sixty-five percent of the victims are girls between the ages of six and fourteen. They work excessive hours, receive no schooling or payment and are often physically and sexually abused. Haitian labor laws require employers to pay domestic workers over the age of 15, so not surprisingly, many host families dismiss the restaveks just before that kicks in.

As a result, dismissed and runaway restaveks make up a significant proportion of the large population of street children in Haiti. They are easy prey for gangs who trap them in prostitution or petty crime.

As the world looks to help Haiti build back better, we’re undertaking strategic efforts to ensure that future generations of Haitians are allowed to live freely. Just a few weeks ago, one of our NGO partners who we rushed money to in the wake of the earthquake reported this, and I’ll quote an email that they sent:

“At the Ouanaminthe border crossing in the countryside of Northeast Haiti, our teams have worked hard with very limited support and infrastructure to identify children at risk of being trafficked.

“On March 10, our team of Child Protection Officers found a five year-old girl walking alone on the street. Despite efforts by our team to softly ask her questions, she was too nervous to speak. She only responded that her name was Bébé. Concerned for the young girl’s safety, our Child Protection Officers got her to the closest interim care facility provided by Catholic Relief Services, and announced a description of her on the local radio. Fortunately, not long after the call, her mother and father found her at the center. Our teams were ecstatic that they were able to reunify Bébé with her family, and are very motivated to continue their work.”

This is truly a success story: an unaccompanied child, reunited with her family, not taken by traffickers. But there are still so many Haitians, of all ages throughout the countryside and within the temporary camps who continue to be at risk of trafficking and exploitation.

There are more success stories yet to be realized and we stand ready to support our NGO partners, to work with the Government of Haiti as it puts forth legal safeguards in place through a new anti-trafficking law in Parliament, and enacting new structures that are needed to guarantee its citizens’ rights. We stand with them because partnerships are how we can achieve this goal. We cannot do this alone.

The promise of freedom that we seek to fulfill will be bolstered by what has been termed now as the Fourth “P” in our paradigm – of partnerships. We have to strive toward better coordination. Coordination through “whole of government” approach, but also with partners from unlikely or untapped sources. We are fortunate that non-governmental organizations have historically been strong partners in the anti-trafficking movement. Today, we are also working to build on our historic relationships by cultivating new partnerships with the private sector.

We’ll work with private business and corporations to leverage their resources, expertise, and talents against trafficking. Partnering with the private sector is essential to reduce the demand for commercial sex and cheap labor that traffickers rush to meet through violence. It means scrubbing modern slavery out of the supply chains that create our every-day products–food, clothes, and cell phones to name a few.

It’s also an opportunity to go back to the victim-centered approach in a new way. Why not partner with businesses across the United States and around the world to provide victims the best kind of rehabilitation: jobs.

As you know, much of international human rights work of the past decades has been largely about identifying a problem, naming, and shaming.” But as Secretary Clinton recently said:

“Calling for accountability doesn’t start or stop, however, at naming offenders. Our goal is to encourage – even demand – that governments must also take responsibility by putting human rights into law and embedding them in the government institutions; by building strong independent courts; competent and disciplined law enforcement. And once rights are established, governments should be expected to resist the temptation to restrict freedom.”

Freedom. It’s the greatest human right; slavery is its antithesis. In speeches and proclamations, President Obama has called for us to fight for democracy, freedom, and opportunity by taking on modern slavery.
Because freedom alone does not deliver itself. Freedom cannot be guaranteed by naming and shaming, or by development programs, or better schools or the alleviation of poverty although all of these are necessary. At some point, the State has to guarantee this most basic of rights.

Those who violate it must be punished; for those who lose it, it must be restored and protected. Because those who restrict freedom aren’t just violating a norm, they’re committing a crime.

As we turn from a movement in its infancy to one that has matured, we have to look to strategic and dynamic effects, how can we combat this modern form of slavery?

As much as we discuss the policies of protection or prevention or prosecution, tor the concepts of freedom or democracy, this work is about people. It is for them that we have to be hopeful, audacious, and urgent. It is for them that we should together dare to pledge that every single person alive today can succeed – will succeed – in a world without slavery.

Thank you.


Luis CdeBaca
Ambassador-at-Large, Office To Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons
Center for American Progress
Washington, DC

Virginia Attorney General Proposes Re-Legalizing Slavery to Save on Healthcare Costs

In a stunning political move, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cucinelli, leading a coalition of Republican lawmakers and politicians, has proposed the long-awaited GOP health care option: making slavery legal in the U.S. once again. The plan was designed with the goal of saving money in the coming years of “socialized Third Reich Obamacare.” Cucinelli pointed out that if part of the U.S. population only counted as three-fifths of a person like in 1850, they would only need a portion of the medical care provided by a government bloated on the tax dollars of real Americans. Thus, “Slavery 2010: Part Deux” as the proposal is affectionately called, would save American taxpayers billions.

When asked if he would suggest legally enslaving all African-Americans as per historical practice, Cucinelli affirmed that African-American people were very important to the Republican party and would certainly not be enslaved under his new plan. He instead suggested enslaving those who have proved themselves most detrimental to the health of America. This would include, of course, gays, undocumented immigrants, professors at liberal arts colleges in the Northeast, all women who ever visited a Planned Parenthood clinic, and anyone who has ever criticized Sarah Palin on their personal blog. Under Slavery 2010, he explained from his Richmond mansion, your candidacy for enslavement won’t be based on the color of your skin, but on how well you’ve demonstrated your love for America. Colin Powell, for example, will remain free. But Barbra Streisand, Michael Moore, and anyone who bought arugula in the past two years will be sold at auction to the highest bidder. Unlike historical slavery, this version would be a meritocracy, where merit can be purchased via campaign contributions to the GOP.

As the Slavery 2010 proposal gains ground support, more and more Republican members of Congress are beginning to see it as a viable economic solution to issues other than just health care. Slave children don’t get to go to school, creating smaller class sizes for the few free children who won’t be home schooled. Re-instituting slavery would also be a big job creator, as millions of out-of-work “real Americans” could be hired to weigh, price, and process the likes of Rahm Emanuel and Barney Frank. Slavery would even solve America’s problems abroad, providing cheap, front line soldiers for Iraq and Afghanistan who aren’t entitled to any of those pesky “veterans benefits.”


Published in: on May 12, 2010 at 9:55 am  Comments (1)  
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Freedom for the Weekend: Anti-Slavery International

This Week’s Profile: Anti-Slavery International

The Bottom Line: Anti-Slavery International works at local, national and international levels to eliminate all forms of slavery around the world.

What They Do: Anti-Slavery International conducts program and advocacy work on a number of issues related to modern-day slavery, including human trafficking, child labor, bonded labor, and domestic servitude.  They also conduct public outreach and educational programs. They have a huge Internet presence and lots of online campaigns.

What Can I Do?: You can sign up to participate in one of their many online campaigns, or invite some friends over and host an event about human trafficking at home. You can also donate to support their work online.

Why They Rock: They have a a number of fantastic resources available on their website, which makes learning about and getting involved in anti-trafficking easy. And you can take action from anywhere in the world.

So now that you’ve got some basic information on Anti-Slavery International, visit their website this weekend and get involved.  And on Monday morning when everyone else is talking about sleeping in and watching tv over the weekend, you can say, “What did I do this weekend?  Oh, just the usual- abolition of slavery.”

Do you have a favorite nonprofit you’d like to see featured here?  If so, let me know!

Photo credit: frozenchipmunk


I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced

I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced : the title of the book says it all. The book is the autobiography of Nujood Ali, a Yemeni third grader, divorcee, international human rights activist, and winner of Glamour Magazine’s Woman of the Year award. That’s a pretty impressive resume for someone who is still years away from a driver’s license. But if there is one thing Nujood has proved in her life, it’s that she’s not your average kid.

When Nujood was merely 10 years old, well before the age of puberty, her family forced her to marry a man in his 30s. At her wedding, Nujood sobbed in the corner, terrified of what would happen to her and miserable at the thought of leaving her family to live with a stranger. The wedding night was even worse. Despite a promise that Nujood’s husband made to her father not to have sex with her until she started menstruating, he forced himself on her the very first night they were married. After that, he forced her to drop out of school. He also began physically and emotionally abusing her regularly, and it wasn’t too long before Nujood had had enough.

She had heard about divorce, and had heard that judges were the ones with the ability to grant a divorce. So with little idea of where she was going, she snuck away from her husband, jumped into the back of a taxi, and asked to be driven to the nearest courthouse. Once there, she demanded to speak to a judge — any judge. When one finally emerged, imagine his surprise to see a tiny, determined child standing before him firmly stating, “I want a divorce!”


Child Trafficking Are Children Property?

Kids are great. They’re miniature versions of us, with smaller bodies, less-developed minds, and a whole lot less emotional baggage than we grown-ups have. But we decided a long time ago that kids don’t have all the fully autonomous rights that adults do until they reach a certain age.

So what are children before they are adults? Are they people? Are they the property of their parents? Are they something in between, that we don’t have a clear legal category for? While the idea of children as the property of their parents stretches back to the beginning of human history, it’s causing some very modern problems with children being sold into slavery.

The idea of children as property of the family is an old one, and not necessarily nefarious. In agricultural communities, children are an asset to the family farm, able to work it when the family can’t afford hired labor. In large families, older children will take care of the younger ones. And parents have controlled their children’s movements, speech, and general outlook on life for centuries. In fact, one of the major criticisms of modern parenting is that parents don’t treat their children enough like property; when everything is the child’s choice, that can lead to spoiled, self-centered grownups. So how can the idea of children as property be harmful?

As technology and globalization shrink the world, people are increasingly pushing the idea of children as property outside of the family and into the world. Children are being forced into marriage by their families, a concept which only exists if you first think of the child as the property of the parents, able to be controlled and compelled by them. Children are also sold by their families into forced labor, forced prostitution, and domestic servitude. How can you sell what you don’t already own? And the idea of children as property extends beyond families who treat them that way. The trafficker who buys a child from his mother now treats that child as property. And the man who buys sex from a child in a brothel or on the street treats her as an object of his pleasure, not as a human being.