As many as 27 million people are enslaved today — most of them women and girls. Many are domestic servants, factory laborers, child soldiers or sex workers (a more accurate characterization would be “domestic, factory, military and sex slaves,” but to outsiders, modern-day slaves are often indistinguishable from paid workers). Many are victims of trafficking. And yet too many of these women are victimized by the very people who should be able to help them — inadequately trained police forces, officers who target prostitutes instead of johns and traffickers, and immigration officials who have to abide by restrictive and punitive regulations.
As many as 17,500 people are trafficked across United States borders every year. Another 30,000 are trafficked through the United States to some other country. 800,000-900,000 human beings are victims of trafficking every year. And this modern-day slave trade is, at minimum, a $9.5 billion industry — some estimate it to be as much as $32 billion annually.
Sex tourism in places like Thailand depends sexual slavery, and is funded by a whole lot of wealthy, Western men. Sex work is one of those sticky feminist issues that there’s nowhere near a consensus on, but I think it’s safe to say that an honest assessment of it must recognize the fact that most women world-wide who are sex workers don’t make the choice voluntarily, and are often forced into slave labor. And modern-day slaves may be as close as the kitchen of your favorite restaurant. Not even the people who are supposed to be the “good guys” are immune.
UPDATE: Ms. Jared has dispatches from a human trafficking conference.
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