There are more slaves today than were seized from Africa in four centuries of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Human trafficking is occurring in every nation on earth—including the U.S.:
The 373-page “Trafficking in Persons Report 2010″ says some 12.3 million adults and children are in forced labor, bonded labor, and forced prostitution around the world. Only 4,166 trafficking prosecutions were successful last year, according to the report.
The United States listed itself in the report’s top tier of compliance with minimum standards set forth by the U.S. Trafficking Victims Protection Act in 2000, but it is nonetheless “a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor, debt bondage, and forced prostitution,” according to the report. Twenty-seven other countries also were listed in the Tier 1 category for compliance.
At the State Department on Monday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton talked about human trafficking cases found in American communities.
“In some cases, foreign workers, drawn by the hope of a better life in America, are trapped by abusive employers,” she said. “And there are Americans, unfortunately, who are held in sexual slavery. Some find themselves trapped through debt to work against their will in conditions of modern-day bondage.”
Over the past fifty years there has been a population explosion within third world nations. With millions of economically and socially vulnerable people around the world, the “supply” of potential slaves today makes them cheaper than theyve ever been in the history of the world. An average slave in the American South in 1850 cost the equivalent of $40,000 in today’s money; today a slave costs an average of $90. Because they can be had so cheaply, they are of little value to the traffickers. If slaves get sick or injured or merely outlive their usefulness they are often dumped or killed.
What can be done to end this global tragedy? Ken Bales, a sociologist and expert on modern-day slavery, believes that human trafficking could be eliminated within a generation if three things were to happen:
1. Public awareness has to grow, and there has to be public agreement that it is time to end slavery once and for all. This public commitment must be communicated to politicians.
2. Money needs to be spent to eradicate slavery, but not nearly as much as you might think. For the price of a bomber or a battleship, the amount of slavery in the world could be dramatically reduced.
3. Governments must enforce their own anti-slavery laws. To make this happen every country has to understand that they must take action or face serious pressure. We all know about the United Nations weapons inspectors, who enforce the Conventions against Weapons of Mass Destruction, but where are the United Nations Slavery Inspectors? When the same effort is put behind searching out and ending slavery, there will be rapid change.
In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, British and American Christians were the leaders of the abolition movement. It’s time that modern-day Christians once again take our place in the struggle against slavery. In order to do that, however, we must become better informed. We must act. We must do our duty to help our neighbor. Our God has set us free. It’s time we do the same for his children.