Culture At Large

Slavery is alive and well

Andy Rau

From the "sobering and upsetting" file: there's a new book out by investigative reporter Benjamin Skinner that lays out the horrifying prevalence of human slavery today. (In addition to the NPR story, read the excellent reaction and further commentary at On the Square.)

The book (a short excerpt of which you can read at the NPR link above) sets out to smash any lingering hope you might have that slavery is a thing of the past. Skinner didn't just compile other people's research, either; he marched right into the pit of modern-day slavery to find out how widespread the problem really is:

Southeast of Port-au-Prince, Skinner quickly finds a slave broker, and in this “banal” conversation—he told NPR it was “as if I was negotiating on the street for a used stereo”—Skinner asks for a nine- to twelve-year-old to cook and clean for him.

[He proceeds to negotiate the price down to $50.] “Here, 600 miles from the United States, and five hours from the desk of the UN Secretary-General,” summarizes Skinner, “you have successfully bargained a human being down to the price of the cab fare to JFK.” Benavil even offered fake adoption papers to transport the girl to the United States. This took place not in the remote past but in October 2005.

The On the Square post also talks at length about what Skinner learned of the state of prostitution around the world. I doubt most of you have any sort of romantic Pretty Woman ideas about prostitution, but if you do, Skinner's findings dash those as well. Surprise, prostitution in most of the world is pretty much the same thing as slavery:

A majority of the prostitutes in a 2003 study had severe post-traumatic stress disorder. Most were clinically depressed. As John Miller often pointed out, 90 percent wanted to leave prostitution. And among trafficking victims, 95 percent of whom were physically or sexually abused, the situation was even graver.

The United States is not free of the problem, as was lately shown in the case of 52 Indian workers forced to live and work at an Oklahoma factory in conditions you could reasonably call slavery.

A bit of googling turned up an extensive list of organizations that are fighting slavery, sex trafficking, and related abuses. It's good to know that there are people and organizations fighting modern-day slavery, and that Christians are actively involved in the pursuit of justice. But even so... come quickly, Lord Jesus!

Topics: Culture At Large, News & Politics, Justice