Modern Slavery


Modern Slavery

An age-old problem rears up again—and closer to home than you may realize.
From the July 2002 Trumpet Print Edition

Startling, horrifying, new facts have been revealed: Trafficking in humans is once again a very real problem all over the world, including the United States!

Is that difficult to believe? Haven’t civil rights leaders built upon the Abolition of Slavery Act to liberate the free world from the festering moral scab of trading in human beings?

Lamentably, the problem has slipped into reverse gear and is back again in a serious way worldwide! The facts are shocking, but undeniable.

The modern slave trade, today called human trafficking, includes those children and young adults involved in forced sexual exploitation, as well as those enslaved as laborers in virtually non-paying, often illegal, enterprises.

According to statistics recently revealed by Interpol (International Criminal Police Organization), profits from the slave trade top $19 billion annually. The United Nations puts the number of persons trafficked worldwide at 4 million annually.

Laura Lederer of Protection Project, a program affiliated with John Hopkins University, says the number of women and children trafficked for sexual exploitation in the past decade already is on a par with estimates of the number of Africans who were enslaved for sale in the United States during the 16th and 17th centuries. “The minimum number of African slaves transported here was between 5 million and 6 million,” she says. “There is no doubt that world trafficking [in sex slaves] now is around that number” (Insight on the News, Nov. 27, 2000).

On June 5, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell presented the Department of State’s Second Annual Trafficking in Persons Report. While introducing the report, Powell said, “Trafficking leaves no land untouched, including our own. Approximately 50,000 people are trafficked into the United States every year. Here and abroad, the victims of trafficking toil under inhuman conditions—in brothels, sweatshops, fields and even in private homes.”

It is quite plausible that the real unseen tide of human trafficking may be somewhat larger even than official estimates. The international pressure group Free the Slaves, the North American sister organization of Anti-Slavery International, asserts that there are 27 million people in the grip of the slave trade in the world today. Twenty-seven million is only slightly less than the population of Canada!

While the April 2002 issue of Scientific American points out the impossibility of gauging this murky, nightmarish underworld with an exact estimate, an article by Kevin Bales titled “Modern Slavery” maps out known human-trafficking activity in most countries of the world (see map, next page). Sadly, widespread evidence is now mounting everywhere to prove that, in the last 10 to 15 years, human trafficking has turned into an organized international criminal enterprise, corrupting whole countries and yielding billions in annual profits to its seedy masters.

Society can no longer turn a blind eye: According to the UN, human trafficking is on a sharp rise worldwide!

The UN calculates that, in the past 30 years, 30 million women and children are believed to have become human trafficking victims in Asia alone (Japan Policy and Politics, Jan. 24, 2000).

Human trafficking is the third-highest illegal-income source in America today behind drug- and gunrunning,” notes Kansas Republican Sen. Sam Brownback. “The dark side of human trafficking is that, unlike drugs, [sexually enslaved] human beings can be resold and reused, thus making them a more profitable commodity” (Insight on the News, op. cit.).

The Land of the Free

Up until the last decade, human trafficking was thought to be a problem mainly in Southeast Asia—certainly not in “the land of the free.” But Minnesota Democratic Sen. Paul Wellstone and many others have since set the record straight.

“Trafficking in human beings is not just some problem over there—it’s a problem over here,” said Wellstone, who, like Senator Brownback, is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “This gross human rights abuse—and we must acknowledge trafficking in persons as the horrific abuse that it is—is a worldwide problem that must be confronted here in our country even as we continue to fight it on the international front” (Christian Century, April 19, 2000).

Evidence is piling up in the U.S. against men like Rogelio Cadena of Florida. A jail term of 15 years was given to Cadena in April 1999 for smuggling mainly impoverished women as young as 14 from Mexico to work as prostitutes, on the false promise of being placed in good jobs as nannies or housekeepers. In another case, “[F]ederal agents captured two Koreans identified as smugglers plus a group of Korean aliens, including five women ages 20 to 30 … destined to work as sex slaves in New York or Chicago” (Insight on the News, Aug. 2, 1999). The Global Survival Network, a non-profit organization based in Washington, “exposed the operations of the Russian Mafia and smaller smuggling cartels that traffic in women from former Soviet republics” (ibid.).

The problem has become alarming in Europe as well. In early June this year, 10 gangster rings facilitating human trafficking were uncovered in Europe.

Over the last few years, the European Union and the U.S. government have made efforts to introduce legislation aimed at curbing the boom in human trafficking. Yet according to Senator Brownback, who has been responsible for instigating a great part of this new legislation in the U.S., “The biggest problem we face is to convince people that this is actually taking place.” He comments, “International sex trafficking is the new slavery. … It includes the classic and awful elements associated with historic slavery, such as abduction from family and home, use of false promises, transport to a strange country, loss of freedom and personal dignity, extreme abuse and deprivation” (Insight on the News, Aug. 13, 2001).

“The issue of ‘sex trafficking’ is one of the most horrific human-rights issues of our time,” states Sweden’s Ambassador Anita Gradin, former EU commissioner. She describes the phenomenon as a real “slave trade” going on in Europe and elsewhere in the world.

Today, temptation to traffic humans is heightened for gangsters and pimps—given the vulnerability of the very poor in areas experiencing population booms and particularly because of the fact that modern transport and communications make a quick turnover possible.

Coincidently, it has never been cheaper to own a slave. In the 1850s, slaves were a valuable commodity, worth, on average, about $50,000 per head in today’s money. So masters used to look after slaves through infancy to old age, although they made relatively small profit margins on that investment (about 5 percent annually). But today, slaves in some areas can be purchased for as little as $15, sold and re-sold, then discarded like useless rags when they are no longer profitable.

What a transparent contradiction, that in an age of record salaries and a booming economy, many human lives have never been less valuable!

Today, given the high consumer demand for cheap goods, coupled with the all-consuming demand of an ever more perverse society for pornography and sexual tourism, human trafficking has fast been transformed into a multi-billion dollar money spinner on a par with arms dealing and the drug trade!

Kevin Bales wrote, “Slaves tend to be used in simple, non-technological and traditional work. Most work in agriculture. But they are also found in brick-making, mining and quarrying, textiles, leather-working, prostitution, gem-working and jewelry-making, cloth and carpet-making. Or they may work as domestic servants, clear forests, make charcoal or work in shops. …

“Studies have documented the slave origins of several international products such as carpets, sugar and jewelry. We may be using slave-made goods or investing in slavery without knowing it. Slave-produced cocoa, for example, goes into the chocolate we buy. Rugs made by slave children in India, Pakistan and Nepal are mainly exported to Europe and the U.S.” (New Internationalist, August 2001).

Clearly, the market value of global slavery is immense!


The sordid significance behind the word sweatshop was brought into sharp relief for many television viewers with the 1993 fire at the Bangkok Kader Toy Co. in Thailand, when 188 people died—mostly female, some as young as 13 and others pregnant—because managers had blocked the exits to keep them in! Many, in desperation, jumped to their death from third- and fourth-story windows.

Numerous sweatshops have been uncovered in many parts of the world, including the U.S. The Los Angeles Business Journal of May 21, 2001, cites the Los Angeles garment industry as being a particular offender, with widespread conditions of unpaid overtime, low wages and unsafe working environments.

Some of the individuals sold into sweatshops are lucky to earn pennies. Many, after working inhuman hours, are given nothing but the sustenance they need to be kept alive. Margo McCall, a newspaper editor in Denver, Colo., made these penetrating comments in her article, “Is it World Trade or Slave Trade?”—“Global capitalism is powerful and all-encompassing. The other day I checked the tags on my clothes. My skirt was made in India, my T-shirt in Mexico and one of my undergarments in Macau. I drink coffee from Colombia with sugar from who knows where. I’m typing on a computer probably manufactured offshore by women who earn pennies an hour.”

As consumers in developed countries, we benefit from all sorts of special offers and bargain prices. But what makes them so cheap to produce? If we knew all the ins and outs, we would find some of the answers deeply disturbing.

Sex Slaves

Yet, most modern slaves are not sweatshop victims. They are victims of the sex industry. They are targets of Sodom and Gomorrah societies’ insatiable lust for pornography and promiscuous sex.

Generally, the victims of this type of racket are shamelessly deceived, lured by promises of legitimate work, or they are coerced. They are then stripped of the last vestiges of dignity and often raped and brutalized.

This is how journalist Catherine Edwards describes the typical scenario: “Smuggled into brothels in the United States with fake visas or hidden in packing cases, they often have been kidnapped, bought or lured by false employment opportunities. Beaten and raped, some do not survive even the initial brutality. Removed from even the hope of protection by family and friends, locked in airless, dark rooms, starved and beaten, they often are forced to engage in unspeakable sex acts with people whose language they don’t understand” (Insight on the News, Nov. 27, 2000).

“Once in the United States, the women are trapped—they are undocumented aliens and, as the pimps warn, they could be arrested and imprisoned, a potent threat for women born in countries where prisons truly are inhumane. Beyond that, women are told their families will be harmed if they try to flee. And women from some communities cannot return home because their communities will not accept a raped woman. It’s common in many countries for the women to be considered guilty for the crimes committed against them. Their lives are ruined” (ibid., Aug. 2, 1999).

The Civil Rights Journal (Fall 2000) claims the fbi is even investigating cases of women being sold as sex slaves via Internet auctions!

There can be no doubt: Slavery is once again an American rights issue!

Appalling Beyond Words

Ernie Allen, president of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, reveals that children are increasingly being used for sexual activity and trafficking because of the fear of hiv/aids. “[W]e have seen kids exploited and in the stream of child trafficking as young as 3 and 4 years old. This is not just a by-product of pedophilia …. Part of this is that because of the aids epidemic there is a demand for younger and younger kids because of the thought that they would be less likely to be hiv-positive” (Insight on the News, Nov. 27, 2000). Allen compares the enormity of the sex-trafficking industry to the Holocaust, with the exception that the problem is worldwide.

Women and children shipped in from abroad, however, are not the only ones put at risk by this evil world of vice. “An estimated 400,000 children are victims of prostitution and other forms of commercial sex in the United States. The vast majority of them are Americans” (Economist, June 1).

What a nightmare for hundreds and thousands of innocent children, in the cradle of a country whose forefathers once stood up for God and Constitution!

The Bible says there is no limit to the extent of evil in a man’s mind (Jer. 17:9). How mankind can devalue the human life given to us by a loving God!

Revelation 18:11-13 talks about the soon-coming Tribulation and how the merchants will have become enriched by buying and selling “slaves, and souls of men.” When the nations of Britain, the United States and other English-speaking countries are captured in the prophesied soon-coming Great Tribulation (Matt. 24:21), there will suddenly be a flood of human beings on the market. The price and the value of human beings will drop radically.

Today’s burgeoning slave trade is but a grisly foreshadowing of this almost unbelievable prophesied future—a reminder of the depths to which humanity, in rebellion against its loving Creator, can go in pursuing what is right in its own eyes.

Thank God that this present scenario is but a forerunner to the imposition of the perfect system of justice, of economy and of society that will be imposed on mankind at the soon-coming return of Jesus Christ to this Earth. “Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this” (Isa. 9:7).