A Tale of Modern Day Slavery

Submitted by guest blogger, Preet Dhillon, who is a CHAI Book Club Member.

This is part three in our three part guest blog series on human trafficking.

Human trafficking is a form of modern day slavery. The different forms of enslavement that exist in the world today, include sex trafficking, forced labor, bonded labor, involuntary domestic servitude, forced child labor, child soldiers and child sex trafficking. According to State Department statistics, there are about 800,000 people that are trafficked across international borders, and this does not include the number of people trafficked within country borders. To place this in context, this is about 10 times the number of slaves that were transported at the peak of the transatlantic slave trade. By rough estimates, there are 27 million, mostly women and girls, in slavery today. Sheryl WeDunn, co-author of “Half the Sky,” at a TED Global conference in 2010, stated that the “central moral challenge of this century is gender inequity.” Sheryl WuDunn then went on to pose the question “Are there more males or more females in the world?” and the answer to this question is inextricably linked to human trafficking.

Following the discussion from the previous posts on the issue of sex trafficking and legal perspectives on protecting the victims of human trafficking, prosecuting criminals and preventing these crimes, this post provides a brief outlook on the issues of bonded labor and forced labor. Debt bondage, also referred to as bonded labor, occurs when an individual offers their labor in exchange for a loan, but then loses all control over their conditions of work and the amount they are paid. This may go on for years and other family members may also become bonded. Threats and acts of physical violence keep victims trapped in these conditions. Forced labor and involuntary domestic servitude can also be understood within this framework. The root causes for these forms of slavery can be situated in economic pressures, social, political and cultural factors.

Sheryl Wudunn is a Chinese American business executive, author, lecturer, and the first Asian American to win a Pulitzer Prize for her book, ‘Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide’.

My experience with conducting research to analyze the impact of bonded labor across entire communities within the Northern Indian states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, exemplified the broad ranging social issues that arise from these forms of exploitation and the complex physical and psychosocial traumas that victims are subjected to. There is a great deal of research evidence that confirms the causal link between social hierarchy, discrimination and bonded labor and this speaks to the vulnerability of women and children (mostly girls), hence providing a response to Sheryl WuDun’s question. Other groups that are more susceptible to being exploited in this manner, include those of lower caste status (the dalits in India), indigenous people and minority groups. This finding is also of significance within the South Asian community in the US, as this causal link leaves the more vulnerable members of community susceptible to exploitative behavior.

Educating ourselves is the first step in the process of connecting with and empowering ourselves to address this cause and to this end, provided below are a few resources that serve as good primers to this topic:

Organizations and Links of Interest:

Free the Slaves

Polaris Project

International Justice Mission (IJM)

Non-fiction books on Slavery and Human Trafficking:

Disposable People: New Slavery in the Global Economy – Kevin Bales

Gender, Trafficking, and Slavery – Edited by Rachel Masika, 2002

A Crime So Monstrous: Face-to-Face with Modern Day Slavery – E. Benjamin Skinner, 2008

3 Comments on “A Tale of Modern Day Slavery

  1. Pingback: Upcoming Book Club « CHAI

  2. Pingback: Women Hold Up Half The Sky « CHAI

  3. Pingback: Meet Preet, One of Our Newest Board Members! | CHAI

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