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Hawaii_Jake's avatar

Are you as blind to human slavery in the 21st century as I have been?

Asked by Hawaii_Jake (25562 points ) September 26th, 2012

On Tuesday, 25 September 2012, at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York City, President Obama gave an alarming speech that has gone widely unreported in our domestic news service.

Here’s part of what he said:

I’m talking about the injustice, the outrage, of human trafficking, which must be called by its true name—modern slavery.

Now, I do not use that word, “slavery” lightly. It evokes obviously one of the most painful chapters in our nation’s history. But around the world, there’s no denying the awful reality. When a man, desperate for work, finds himself in a factory or on a fishing boat or in a field, working, toiling, for little or no pay, and beaten if he tries to escape—that is slavery. When a woman is locked in a sweatshop, or trapped in a home as a domestic servant, alone and abused and incapable of leaving—that’s slavery.

When a little boy is kidnapped, turned into a child soldier, forced to kill or be killed—that’s slavery. When a little girl is sold by her impoverished family—girls my daughters’ age—runs away from home, or is lured by the false promises of a better life, and then imprisoned in a brothel and tortured if she resists—that’s slavery. It is barbaric, and it is evil, and it has no place in a civilized world.

(Full text here)

In the New York Times, Nicholas Kristof wrote about some of the people who have first hand knowledge of human trafficking. (article) A woman who escaped in Cambodia and young women here in the US are part of the story.

I have lived in a sheltered bubble even though I’ve been to some parts of the world where human trafficking is practiced. I haven’t been exposed to it.

I’m lucky.

Are you lucky like me? How much are you aware that slavery still exists in the 21st century?

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23 Answers

ragingloli's avatar

Very much aware. And quite inevitable. The western world and its economy, its inhabitants’ craving for more and cheap products, requires cheap slave labour. The Western economies and standard of living would not be possible without it.

JLeslie's avatar

Very aware. In fact the soon to be son-in-law of a friend of mine is building a career in the pursuit of going after human trafficking in the US. Although, he first became aware of it in a foreign country while he was on some sort of missionary trip, I can’t remember what country. He has a law degree, and will be working in the political arena I think to try and affect some change.

I’ve seen many movies, documentaries, and reporting on human trafficking and slavery around the world and in the US. I would guess generally men would be more oblivious to it than women, because many of the shows are on “girl channels” but I am pretty sure I have seen reports on shows like 60 Minutes or similar also. Even hour drama TV shows have story lines in this realm.

I once saw a show where the girls were sold by their families! Can’t remember the country. The parents are told lies.

In some ways young teenage girls who are prostituting are many times enslaved to their pimps. And, in China there were reports years ago, I don’t know if it still goes on, of workers being locked in where they work. People come from other countries to America and basically live as slaves to pay off their passage.

Hell, we even pay illegal immigrants a low wage here in America, and they are in a rather desperate situation, they live in bad conditions. They are not slaves, but they are often taken advantage of. I would go as far to say that even our citizens during this time of high unemployment, more and more people are treated poorly at work, overworked, paid crappy, because they are supposed to be happy about having a job. Our medical system enslaves us also. Unable to leave a job because we won’t be insured (hopefully that will be different soon). But, in theory the examples in this last paragraph the people can leave, but there are many circumstances they people can’t.

YARNLADY's avatar

This is not news to me.

_Whitetigress's avatar

Extremely aware. Our busses have had the ads of anti human trafficking along with contact numbers for some time. Being next to Mexico I learned about the term trafficking about 3 years ago. I didn’t know how big of a problem it was until I think NBC or CBS did an investigative story exposing San Francisco’s underground trafficking scene (You know, the happy ending “massage parlors”). It blew my mind. But it seemed like those ladies involved seemed to know what they were getting into. However there was another episode about trafficking in Mexico and how little girls were stolen and forced into the scene. One got away as a young adult and lived to tell the tale.

augustlan's avatar

I remember a big news story from many years ago (I may have still been a teenager?) about a wealthy Washington, DC couple who had been keeping their maid (from another country) prisoner. When the story broke, it was a huge shock to me… realizing that kind of thing still happened, and so close to home! Since then, I’ve become more aware of human trafficking around the world, especially as it pertains to the sex industry in some countries and to indentured servitude here in America (to pay off human-smuggling scum). It’s heartbreaking.

LostInParadise's avatar

The movie Slumdog Millionaire depicted child slavery in India. I am surprised that there has not been much of a reaction to that part of the film. One of the lasting images I have of the film is the smile on the face of the slimeball in charge when he lured the children with free bottles of Coke.

bookish1's avatar

If you eat store-bought tomatoes in the winter in the U.S., chances are they are grown by slaves in Florida

I was glad to see that a new group of undergrads at my university is working to promote awareness about slavery and trafficking in the state.

elbanditoroso's avatar

In this world, there are some things that I can control (and affect) and many more that I cannot control and affect.

Slavery is one of the second category. I am aware of it, primarily in Asia and Africa, but I am so removed from it in the sense of any ability to change anything, that I don’t really put it in the list of the top 30 things I think about each week. Yes, it’s bad in an absolute sense, but there is little leverage that I have to put the type of economic pressure on countries (or companies) to stop it from happening.

My view is that all the consciousness raising and protesting does, basically, nothing. It may make the protesters feel good, and it gives the NGOs a reason to do fund raising, but I do not see that it helps the plight of the workers one little bit. So flagellate away – but I don’t think it accomplishes much.

I’ll be criticized here for being cold hearted and politically incorrect, but that’s life. I worry about things that I can do something about. I don’t worry about things where I am powerless.

wundayatta's avatar

Sorry. I haven’t been blind to this for many years. There have been movies about this. Reports on the radio. I’ve heard activists talk about it. It is common in feminist circles. The information is and has been all around for a long time.

I’m glad you are paying attention now. That shows that it is worth having the President use the bully pulpit to bring things to our attention. Perhaps it will help if more people pay attention, and try to do something about it.

Coloma's avatar

Not at all. Infact, my daughter went to school with a girl that went missing some months ago from the capital city an hour away from me and she was finally found recently, a victim of being held in a sex trade cartel. Another young womans body was also found a few weeks ago that the authorities think may have been linked to the same situation. There is plenty of this sort of thing right here at home in the states.

I feel fortunate that as a younger woman traveling I never encountered any shady dealings, I was a prime candidate, a petite, bubbley and cute blue eyed blonde.
Thank god I am too old to be seen as a potential sexual commodity these days. It is tragic, to say the least and I have always held strong views on this subject, especially involving poverty stricken children in east asian countries. Thailand leads the world in evil sex trafficking with international ” customers” sampling all the depraved options on the menu of exploitation in that country.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

Coincidentally, this article came out yesterday in The Atlantic.

Pandora's avatar

I’m very aware. And its not just abroad. People have indentured slaves here in the US as well. Companies that import workers from other countries with specialties and get them for a fraction of the price they would have to pay Americans for the same job. They get them green cards to work here and then pay them very little. Just enough to survive but not enough to leave. And if they choose to leave they get their green card revoked. So many stay because they left a place that was worse. I would call it indentured slavery but indentured slaves work off their debts and can work somewhere else at the end of their contract.

linguaphile's avatar

I have a petite, trusting, talkative, bubbly, blue eyed blonde daughter with long legs. She also came very close to being kidnapped at 1 year of age. I am very, very, VERY painfully aware of the sex-slave trade—it’s a horrible fear.

My brother worked in Cambodia rescuing sex-trade victims and I have donated to The Rapha House before.

I don’t even remember when I became aware of the sex-slave trade and sweatshop slavery—I’ve known for at least 20 years but can’t remember how I learned about it.

Pazza's avatar

I was, until bout 2004, when I realised that the only reason we get cheap clothes in the shops is because we keep other countries in poverty.

Coloma's avatar

@linguaphile That’s heartbreaking, good for your bro.!!!
My god, you have a mini-me. I am very trusting, I need to develop more suspicion but it’s just not my nature. I have become more discriminating though but can still be gullible. I’d be the ” sure you can come in and use my phone just leave the axe on the porch okay? ” type.. haha

filmfann's avatar

@Hawaii_Jake Thanks for this question.

I am well aware of all the circumstances Obama described, but I try not to think about them, which is wrong. This should be constantly in our focus. It isn’t a happy thought, and I am guilty of shutting it out.

rooeytoo's avatar

It is appalling but it is one of the things that drives me nuts because what can I personally do about it. I buy only australian made products when possible, but let’s face it, there are no mobile phones made here, the cars made here use parts made somewhere else. With clothes it is a crap shoot, buying expensive doesn’t mean local, just means it has the correct insignia on the chest or label. And suppose everyone in the western world lowered their standard of living and didn’t buy any products outsourced, then would the plight of these people improve? It is easy to see what is wrong but what can “I”, me, do about it??? Great question Jake, thought provoking but heart wrenching.

linguaphile's avatar

A petite, blonde, blue eyed 10 year old is missing from a neighborhood 15 minutes away from me. My first thought was, “I hope she isn’t….” [kidnapped for sex] Purely terrifying.

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linguaphile's avatar

I learned something new last week—there’s a lot of inside-the-US sex trafficking going on near our oil fields in Alaska, North Dakota, Texas. Young girls are sold to oil workers for whatever sex they want, and because they’re in extremely remote locations, not many are going to snitch or help the girls.

Overseas? Nope, right in our own backyard.

rooeytoo's avatar

Another difficulty associated with the oil field situations is how much more difficult it becomes for the female oil workers. On one hand you have these poor slaves who trade sex for money and on the other hand you have real women working for a living and trying to be taken seriously. When is society going to stop looking upon this as a “boys will be boys” thing and call it what it is, treating human beings as a couple of anatomical parts devised for their enjoyment. Theoretically the brain differentiates humans from animals, one would assume this pertains to control of the supposed male imperative to spread ones’ seed.

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