Sunday, December 21, 2008

There are more slaves now than any time in history

"There are now more slaves on the planet than at any time in human history. True abolition will elude us until we admit the massive scope of the problem, attack it in all its forms, and empower slaves to help free themselves."

From Article by E. Benjamin Skinnerm the author of A Crime So Monstrous: Face-to-Face with Modern-Day Slavery (New York: Free Press, 2008). Thanks to Pikon via reddit.


1. In Haiti, 600 miles from the United States, and five hours from Manhattan, Skinner successfully arranged to buy a human being for 50 bucks.

2. For every one woman or child enslaved in commercial sex, there are at least 15 men, women, and children enslaved in other fields, such as domestic work or agricultural labor.

3. Slavery scholar Kevin Bales estimates that a slave in the 19th-century American South had to work 20 years to recoup his or her purchase price. Gonoo (a slave in Uttar Pradesh in India) and the other slaves earn a profit for Garg (Gonoo's "owner" and one of the wealthiest men in town) in two years.

4. The seed of Gonoo’s slavery was a loan of 62 cents. In 1958, his grandfather borrowed that amount from the owner of a farm where he worked. Three generations and three slavemasters later, Gonoo’s family remains in bondage. The debts are illegal, a fiction that Garg constructs through fraud and maintains through violence.

5. The United Nations, whose founding principles call for it to fight bondage in all its forms, has done almost nothing to combat modern slavery. There is little to suggest the United Nations will be an effective tool in defeating the broader phenomenon.

6. What has helped are grassroots organisations such as:

(i) Uddar Pradesh, India: Pragati Gramodyog Sansthan (Progressive Institute for Village Enterprises, or PGS) which has helped the Kol form microcredit unions and won leases to quarries so that they could keep the proceeds of their labor.

(ii) India: MSEMVS (Society for Human Development and Women’s Empowerment). In 1996, MSEMVS launched free transitional schools, where children who had been enslaved learned skills and acquired enough literacy to move on to formal schooling. The group also targeted mothers, providing them with training and start-up materials for microenterprises.

(iii) Thailand: the Labour Rights Promotion Network which works to keep desperately poor Burmese immigrants from the clutches of traffickers by, among other things, setting up schools and health programs.

(iv) In the remote highlands in the southern Haiti: Limy√® Lavi (“Light of Life”) whose activists reach otherwise wholly isolated rural communities to warn them of the dangers of traffickers and to help them organize informal schools to keep children near home.

And in Cambodia, there is Riverkids Project which works through education and skills training and Afesip which rescues trafficked sex workers through brothel raids and then rehabilitate the women.

1 comment:

Diana Saw said...

Kevin Bales, whom I quoted in this post tried to post a comment but could not, so I am posting it on his behalf:

Thanks for a great posting. I understand how coming to grips with the size of modern slavery can leave people feeling overwhelmed. But there's an interesting paradox about the 27 million slaves in the world - yes, it is a huge number, the largest ever in human history, but it is also the smallest fraction of the human population to ever be in slavery. Likewise, the amount of money slaves pump into the world economy is big, around $50 billion a year, but it is also the smallest fraction of the global economy to ever be represented by slave labor.

The truth is that slavery has been pushed to the edge of its own extinction and working together we can tip it over the brink. I hope you'll visit and share our website -, and maybe look at my book on how we can bring slavery to an end in 25 years, it is called: Ending Slavery: How We Free Today's Slaves.

All best wishes,
Kevin Bales
(President, Free the Slaves)


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