There Are Now More Slaves Than at Any Point in Human History
August 28, 2012 |
Like this article?
Join our email list:
Stay up to date with the latest headlines via email.
“My very first survivor was a boy. How many of us are looking for boys?”
–Sandra Morgan, Director, Global Center for Women & Justice at Vanguard University
His legs were thin as faded whispers and dangled like twisted ropes from his wheelchair, and his walk was a drag as he pulled himself along with worn-out school erasers clutched in each hand. Nadu was born this way and despite being 13 years old, he had just received his first wheelchair the day prior to my arrival. He hadn’t needed one for the past seven years. When he was five his family bent to the weight of foresight, tradition and circumstance. They sold him.
For seven years Nadu was stored like luggage in the back of a nondescript van and was taken from community to community for the sole purpose of being raped by anybody willing to pay enough to cover the driver’s fuel and food expenses. It’s called a mobile brothel and Nadu’s story is only one of countless many. He fought back the first week, but after being beaten nearly to death on two different occasions, he learned that living meant succumbing. And so it went day after day—when days felt like years and years like thick fog. When I met him he smiled but I couldn’t tell if it was a smile of courtesy, relief or something else altogether.
Like many Americans, I once lived under the impression that large-scale slavery ended with the Emancipation Proclamation (and the Civil War) in 1863. My travels both domestic and abroad have coupled with my attendance at conferences by organizations like Not For Sale and Slavery No More to show a truer picture, one that forced me to confront my Americentric worldviews and my absolute naiveté.
There are more slaves today than at any point in human history – 27 million worldwide. The best numbers on the subject reflect that 1-1.2 million children are trafficked every year, and 100,000 human trafficking victims are currently in the United States. After drug dealing, human trafficking (both sex trafficking and trafficking for forced labor) is tied with the illegal arms industry as the second largest criminal industry in the world today, and it’s the fastest growing. 80% of trafficking victims are women and girls.
These are huge numbers, but numbers rarely arouse emotion like personal stories. Of the personal stories we hear in the news or elsewhere, I’d guess 98% of them represent the 80%. This is not a complaint but an observation – human trafficking awareness is essential regardless of where it comes from.
What might be the reason for this discrepancy? Some have posited that children are the most vulnerable people in our community and as women are the more physically vulnerable sex their stories cut deeper and therefore make better media. Some have said that our world is still entirely uncomfortable with same-sex sex, especially with men.
Another person I spoke to said it could be the result of people being ignorant, willfully or otherwise, when it involves the possibility of men raping boys. This made me think of Joe Paterno’s quote in January 2012, “I never heard of… of… rape and a man.” We’ve thought on this quote plenty as it relates to the Penn State crimes and Paterno’s personal honesty, but what of its general validity? If true, it shows a total lack of awareness. If false, it shows a climate of blindness suggesting that it’s actually a valid excuse for some people to be unaware of the possibilities of the sexual abuse of