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We Can End Slavery
Victims typically travel abroad in response to ads promising legitimate work
Joan Dawson (joanied40)     Print Article 
Published 2009-02-26 11:50 (KST)   
Twenty-seven million people are enslaved in the world today. So as we celebrate African American history month and America's first Black president, let us remember that a modern-day saga, which in many ways parallels the brutality of American slavery, exists today. Many of these slaves are women and children. Many experience conditions similar to that of the past. They are all over the world, and some of them are right here in the United States.

Between 600,000 and 800,000 people are transported across borders every year, not on slave ships but rather in modern transportation, like airplanes or vehicles. Many victims seek work and a chance to better their lives because their own country holds no such promise. Victims typically travel abroad in response to ads promising legitimate work as domestic workers, nannies, brides or farm labor.

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Once they arrive on foreign shores, their legal papers and passports are taken. They are beaten, locked up and, if they are women, they are often raped. In this confused state, they start working in involuntary servitude or debt bondage.

The most vulnerable victims are women and children. Seventy percent of slaves are females and are often exploited sexually. Men and boys are typically exploited physically for their labor. Generally speaking, then, females are often found at brothels, massage parlours or sex shops and males may be found at factories or on farms.

Conditions at these places resemble those that were encountered on plantations in the South. Enslaved individuals experience physical and sexual punishment for "wrong-doings" or trying to run away. They are isolated from their family. They are seen as property and treated like servants or worse. Thus, isolation, violence, humilation and even drugs are used to terrorize them into obedience to their "masters."

Some critics say not all prostitutes are enslaved and treated badly; some work voluntarily. While that may be true, some girls are forced into prostitution at a young age, 12 to 14 years old. Pimps do recruit from schoolyards. They kidnap or lure girls into the trade. After years of being forced to prostitute, some "choose" to stay in it. Certainly, economic coercion forces many females to "choose" this livelihood, too. But choice, to me, is based on whether provided with another equally lucrative option women would chose prostitution or whether they would chose this as a viable option for their daughters. That is true choice.

How would you recognize an enslaved person? Usually, there is a lot of security (bars on windows, locks, etc.) around them. Victims live on site and when they do leave, they require escorts. They are watched closely and rarely left alone. They may have telltale signs of abuse: malnourishment, poor hygiene, bruises, nervousness.

In the US, you'll find slaves right under your nose: on farms, in hotels, on Craigslist. In fact, if you live in a large city, you have probably passed them in your car. There is an estimated 50,000 slaves in the US; some foreign, others native born.

How can you help if you think somebody is being enslaved? Call the human trafficking helpline at 888-373-7888. But, even if you never come across a trafficked person, you can still help end slavery by becoming an adovate and an abolotionist.

You can help raise awareness about this important issue, urge your congress members to pass laws against trafficking and help decrease the demand for prostitution. Talk to people about the risks and dangers of prostitution. Folks from all walks of life use prostitutes: priests, police officers, coaches, even women and prominent community members all respond to ads for escorts. This demand fuels the supply of prostitution -- both voluntary and enforced.

We were taught in school that slavery was abolished two centuries ago. We watched Roots and relived the pain of those trapped in a harsh, immoral and unjust system. And now, history is repeating itself.

This is not a story about African Americans, although it includes many that are African American. This is a story about humans, some of whom are Americans -- trapped in a harsh, immoral and unjust system of slavery, which parallels the conditions of the past. Martin Luther King stated, "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." We must raise awareness and end slavery here and abroad. Our first Black president has the amazing opportunity of ending slavery. Here's hoping he can.

©2009 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Joan Dawson

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