27 Million

So, here is my final entry about the concept of  “free.”

I wanted to pass along some information about the crazy, sad, inexcusable reality that slavery exists in this worldnow more than even back in the 19th century.

 FreeTheSlaves.com  defines slavery , in a nuthsell,  as keeping someone against their will to work for no pay, under the threat of violence.  The estimate is there are 27 MILLION people currently being held as slaves.


Where is slavery a problem? Anywhere there are people. Check out this map for more geographic  specifics.    This is also a good map with some details about specific countries.

Some examples? There’s our last conversation about restaveks in Haiti.  There’s Sex slavery as documented by Kristof and WuDunn’s Half The Sky — I guess it’s fairly well known that  girls  and women who are forced into prostitution all over the world. This isn’t the same as a woman who says ‘I decided to do this to survive.”  (which is sad enough…) This is young women being  sent off under false pretenses or by force and kept in slavery and forced into having sex for their captor’s financial gain. Friends of One Page For also know how the chocolate industry and cocoa farmers in western Africa have been known to utilize child slave labor.

These are just three of so many examples of slavery in the modern world. Unbelieveably messed up and prevalent.


Here’s something ridiculous: in a given year thousands of slaves are working in the US.

You can read more about slavery in Pennsylvania here

And in Texas here. 

 And in various embassies inside the US  here. 

And in Florida. 

And in Los Angeles.

And how ’bout in Boston? Well, check out what was happening in some nail salons. 

I wish I were making this up.


Another point I wanted to make is just as slaves can be in America, Americans can be slaves. Specifically, in the sex industry.  Sex slaves for example aren’t always  Chinese, Latin American, Eastern European immigrants lured here by false promises.  They are also American teenaged girls who leave crap home environments and get sucked in by a pimp. Too often, society looks at these girls – who are physically, mentally, and emotionally manipulated and abused by their adult pimps – as “bad girls”  “delinquents”  or “criminals”.

 A teenaged girl who is being hired out to have sex with adult males is a sex slave. Not only is she probably unable to consent legally, but she is in a situation where real “freedom”is absent. We need to start seeing these girls for what they are. They may ot be looking for help, or they may not even know they need it.  Their care may be expensive. And they not be cute and cuddly like small children. It may not be easy to see them as victims – as slaves – but we need to. The more I think about it, the more I believe this.

I need to investigate Safe Harbor laws which relate to this.


So, the point is to now ask what we can do? Maybe the first thing is to embrace the drop in the bucket philosophy.  I say this to myself because I see a problem involving 27 million people and I think, like I do (and maybe you do…)  with any global issue, what can I really do to help? I mean, it’s such a big problem… So maybe the first thing to do is for me to get over my apprehension that “there’s nothing I can do.” I need to banish that idea from my mind.  

After that, maybe the step is to get better educated. There are several places to go for information:

This pdf  has a lot of starting point information.

Look at the US government being all involved and stuff.

The UN faq sheet on Human Trafficking.

This is just a tip of the ice berg mini-list here.

After that, I  know I at least need to really think about who’s making what I buy, and act accordingly.

This is where things get dodgy. How do I know who’s making what? How much more expensive are “ethically” made things? Where do I draw the line – between slavery and almost-slavery sweat shops? And what of the argument that sweat shop labor actually keeps women from having to work in brothels, perhaps not of their own free will? A complex issue. I need to do more research into this.

And I need to support agencies in the trenches. Here are some groups working to free and help enslaved people:

The Polaris Project  is one such group working here in the US.  I also saw this one Not For Sale.  Worth exploring.

The Somaly Mam Foundation is plugged by Half The Sky and helps get women out of slavery in Cambodia. It’s found is a former sex slave herself.   The Body Shop  (you know the soaps…) is part of a campaign to stop sex trafficking by helping Somaly Mam. There are products you can buy to support the cause . 

Apne Aap is also mentioned by Half The Sky and works to stop sex trafickking in India.

Again, this is just the tip of the ice berg. And I think it’s important to remember that poverty is at the root of this system.  People who are lured into slavery are lured into it looking for a better way of life and a way out of poverty. They are often uneducated and without other resources. They are poor so they are vulnerable. Anything you can do to elliviate poverty- education, microfinance, investment in job training – these things indirectly help fight slavery I think.

And so that ends a month about “free.” Thanks for reading-  Now play us out, Nina:


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