Modern day slavery is a growing problem and tragedy. It‘s an enormous shame on the human race. Estimates of the number of slaves in the world today range from 10 to 30 million; the ILO put a minimum estimate of 12.3m in a 2005 report. Kevin Bales, a sociologist consulting for the UN estimated the number was 27m in his 1999 book Disposable People: New Slavery in the Global Economy. Siddharth Kara, a fellow on trafficking at Harvard calculated the range between 24 and 32m as of 2006. Two problems with estimating modern day slavery are that the people being counted are, by definition, hidden and that there isn’t a common definition as to what slavery is.
Nevertheless, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime estimated that human trafficking to be the third largest international crime industry as of July 2011, behind illegal drugs and arms trafficking. Modern slavery is believed to generate profits of $32billion annually, $15.5bn of that made in industrialised countries. According to the UN, in 54% of human trafficking cases, the recruiter is a stranger to the victim; in 46%, the recruiter was known to the victim. According to the US State Dept, as of 2007, between 600,000 and 800,000 people were trafficked across international borders; of that number more than 70% were female and half were children. A 2009 UN report found that around 20% of all trafficking victims are children.
The average price of a slave has declined during the past 200 year, according to Kevin Bales. In 1809 the average price of a slave was $40,000 adjusted to today’s prices. In 2009, the average price of a slave was $90.
Modern day slavery is one of the more blatant manifestations of our inner problem. It has called to mind a poem I read a few years ago by Steve Turner and an excellent interpretation of this by Steven Garber from the CS Lewis Institute:
that when all’s
we’re only machines.
her to my
for future use
and she cried.’
‘Simply believing something to be true does not make it true; that was the gist of Turner’s poem. If I believe that I am a machine, treating myself and others as a machine, then it still does not change the reality that I am in fact a human being with longings and yearnings to know and be known, to love and be loved, to touch and be touched. If I am treated like a machine, then for awhile, maybe, I will act like a machine, but eventually I will cry—because I really am a human being, after all, and I want to be treated like a human being ought to be treated.’
For further information see Tearfund, UN Gift (Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking), CNN FreedomProject and UKHTC.