There are an estimated 30 million slaves in the world today – more than at any other point in history. Generally speaking, there are two types of slaves in the world today: sex slaves and slaves in forced labor. The common misconception I am consistently hearing is that slavery is “just a third world problem”. First off, even if it did only exist in the poorest places on earth, it would not be less detestable. However, it is a problem everywhere, in every country, in every city. From the middle class American teenager to the child living on the streets in Calcutta, slavery influences every culture and every class. Like every other form of abuse, it is not picky about ethnicity, geography, economy, age, or gender.
I first encountered the world of human trafficking (aka modern day slavery) when I was in college. I was appalled first, that I had made it 20 years into life without a clue of how enormous the human trafficking crime circuit is worldwide and second, that it was rarely being publicly addressed. How could there be 30 million people (est. 800,000 trafficked across borders each year) that the world doesn’t remember?
That was a serious turning point in my life: it wasn’t long before I was convinced that God had called me to be an abolitionist. The stories I’ve heard and read, the people I’ve met, and the statistics I’ve researched have led to much prayer and a passion to raise awareness. I will never forget one of the first stories I heard: she was a young teenager who had been chained to a wall in a brothel and consistently raped for six months. I did not sleep that night.
What does slavery look like in the world? Sometimes it’s a girl living in a room about the size of an average middle class bathroom, filled with bunk beds. It doesn’t take too much imagination to know what her job is: she “services” clients 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 10 men at a time. Sometimes it’s an isolated place where thousands of small children are kept for easy-access for pedophiles
Sometimes it’s “baby factories”, where women are forced to become pregnant as often as possible so that the newborns can be sold, either on the black market or into the sex industry. Sometimes it’s a group of shoeless little boys running through the underbrush of a huge plantation, carrying machetes and collecting cocoa beans. Sometimes it’s an entire family forced to dig for diamonds or coal. Sometimes it’s a popular nail salon with a backroom brothel.
It can look like a 10 year old boy carrying a semi-automatic weapon through the jungle. Or an 8 year old chained to a tree when she isn’t needed for housework.
Sometimes it’s a group of women in a sweaty hut, sewing the pretty underthings that you’re wearing now (and I’m just as guilty so no finger pointing there). Sometimes it’s a child making bricks or carrying concrete slabs on his head for a building project. Sometimes it’s a woman living in a luxury highrise, held there as a “maid” against her will, unable to speak the language, abused by her masters. Sometimes it’s a woman, thousands of miles from her home, being auctioned off to the highest bidder in the basement of a ritzy hotel.
And sometimes it looks like that girl you saw on the corner last night while you were riding the bus home from work late. She looked like a twenty-something woman but underneath the heavy makeup and revealing clothes is a 14 year old girl who hasn’t seen her family in two years because her pimp keeps her locked away in his third floor apartment.
Greater awareness leads to a stronger fight against injustice.