Slavery Lives

The Christian Science Monitor has a bleak story on a problem that many assume is a thing of the past:

Slaves are cheap these days. Their price is the lowest it’s been in about 4,000 years. And right now the world has a glut of human slaves – 27 million by conservative estimates and more than at any time in human history. Although now banned in every country, slavery has boomed in the past 50 years as the global population has exploded. A billion people scrape by on $1 a day. That extreme poverty combined with local government corruption and a global economy that leaps national boundaries has produced a surge in the number of slaves – even though in the developed world, that word conjures up the 19th century rather than the evening news.

Which regions of the world have the worst slavery? I had incorrectly assumed that it was in Slavic countries of the former Soviet Union or in Saharan Africa, but I was wrong.

Modern-day slavery has little of the old South. Of those 27 million, the majority are bonded laborers in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Nepal – workers who have given their bodies as collateral for debts that never diminish no matter how many years, or sometimes generations, the enslaved labor on. Cooking the books is an early lesson for slaveholders.

Is this simply an overseas problem though, or should we be more attentive here at home:

between 14,000 and 17,500 people are trafficked into the United States annually, according to the US government, most forced into the sex trade, domestic servitude, or agricultural labor. At any one time, between 52,000 and 87,000 are in bondage. And much of that is in plain view, in towns and cities across the country, experts say. People simply don’t recognize it.
In June, an Indian domestic in Brookline, Mass., won a court case against an Omani couple who had barred her from leaving their apartment unescorted for more than a year, forcing her to look after their four children, cook, and clean without proper pay or meals. An alert neighbor who caught wind of her plight helped her escape.

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