Category Archives: slavery

Slavery Is All Around Us.

Lisa Kristine is a humanitarian photographer who specializes in images of remote indigenous peoples. “Kristine has collaborated with international humanitarian organizations and is often asked to present her work to inspire discussions on human rights and social change.”

She is a storyteller. This is her story from her TEDxMaui 2012 presentation designed to shed light on the world of modern day slavery. “It’s all around us,” she says. “We just don’t see it.” Her photos and story will help you see it better.

How To Combat Modern Slavery – Watch This

“If you worship in the temple of learning, do not mock the gods. Because they will take you, fill you with curiosity and desire, and drive you with a passion to change things.” – Kevin Bales, Free The Slaves

“Are you willing to live in a world with slavery? I think there is enough intellectual power in this room to end slavery.  And if we can’t use our collective intelligence power to bring about the end of slavery, are we truly free?” – Kevn Bales

I hope you worship in the temple of learning.

18 minutes long. Make the time.

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575 Child Prostitutes Saved

I believe child prostitution is the worst kind of child slavery. I know many people who don’t know that it still exists. I know people who would deny that it happens here in the United States.

But it does. Everyday.

It took five years to get 575 child prostitutes off the streets in United States. 575 children from ages 13-17.

575 children.

It took the FBI, U.S. Justice Department and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children to work together to do it. Operation “Innocence Lost” National Initiative was launched in June 2003.

This last sting operation, that ended this past weekend, took 46 girls and one boy into protective custody. The amazing thing is 10 had been reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. They were brought in from 29 different cities throughout the country. 73 pimps were arrested along with 518 adult prostitutes. To learn more about the Innocence Lost Initiative, please go to the FBI Innocence Lost website.

Sex trafficking is growing every day. The internet makes it easier for it to happen. It sickens and saddens me that this still goes on, everyday, everywhere on planet earth. You can help. You can educate yourself on the subject. You can write about it on your blogs, and if you come across it, you can REPORT IT.

Hundreds of dedicated men and women worked tirelessly to get this done. They saved 575 children. They gave 575 children their lives back.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.” – Margaret Mead

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The Day My God Died

One day you are a child.

The next day, you are a slave. Your childhood has ended.

These are people who have been taken from their homes against their will, transported to a new world in which they have no family, no friends, no one to help them. They do not even speak the language. They are at the mercy of their abductors, who frequently abuse them with severe beatings and withholding of food, to ensure their cooperation and break them. Eventually, they will all be broken.

There is a room, hidden and cramped and dirty. In this place the bidding and sale of humans is done. Those who desire slaves to live in human bondage and be forced to do their bidding, can make an offer.For an agreed amount of money, typically only a few hundred dollars, the buyer can leave with his new purchase: a human being. Too often a child.

What is this world, this place? Is it a history lesson that tells of 19th century enslavement of Africans in the New World known as the United States?

No. This is our world, today, the here and now. We live in a world where slavery is alive and well.Hundreds of thousands of people are trafficked and sold into slavery every day, all over the world – including the United States of America. Many of these are children, and most are sold into the sex trade.

This is the reality for far too many children and young adults in the world today. Human trafficking has surpassed drug trafficking to become the second biggest illegal trade in the world, only behind arms.

Last night I was invited to a screening of a documentary called “The Day My God Died.” This film, narrated by Tim Robbins, focuses on the real human suffering of a handful of young Nepalese girls who were trafficked over the border into India and sold into brothels. These girls were eventually rescued – after enduring years of a hell that included rape, beatings and being forced to have sex with up to 50 men each day, all for the profit of their captors.

As the documentary tells us, many of these survivors refer to the day they were trafficked into slavery as the day their god died. Many endure numerous abortions during their captivity, carry out pregnancies from their rapists, and contract HIV/AIDS. One teenager tells of her ordeal the first day she arrived at the brothel: being beaten when she refused to have sex, and eventually raped by numerous men until she stopped resisting. She was seven years old at the time.

Another young woman in the film, Jyoti, returns to the brothel where she was held after her rescue, in order to help find and rescue other girls. Jyoti shows the secret hiding rooms where the brothel owners keep the girls, and says, “Once the door closes behind you, no one ever knows you’re there.”

Don’t let the door close forever on these girls. Watch the documentary yourself.

For more information about the Nepalese organization that helps prevent trafficking, find these girls once they have been sold into the sex trade, and provides a home and rehabilitation after their rescue, visit:

Maiti Nepal – the organization in Nepal; or
Friends of Maiti Nepal – its supporters in the United States; or
Make a Donation Here

Thank you, and namaste.
Shelley

More information can be found in Shelley Seale’s upcoming book, The Weight of Silence: Invisible Children of India.

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Open Your Eyes To Modern Slavery (Call And Response)

“Never forget, justice is what loves looks like in public.” These are the words of Dr. Cornel West.

“The first feature rockumentary to expose the the world’s 27 million most terrifying secrets” is set to open nationally on October 10, 2008.  Click the banner below to watch a trailer for Call And Response.

I have not seen this film yet, only the preview. But I know that it’s this kind of work that can help open the eyes of the world to the painful truth that of modern slavery. The truth that in 2007, “Slave Traders made more money than Google, Nike and Starbucks combined.

Make plans to go see this movie. I know it will be painful. I know it would be easier to NOT go see this film. Do it anyway. Open your eyes to the reality of modern slavery.

100% of the profits are going to fund global projects on the front lines of the issue.

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The Price of a Child

Dr. Manjeet Pardesi listened in horror as the young woman related her story. Neela had recently come to his home for children and pregnant women in Rourkela because she had heard it was a place where unwed mothers and their babies would be taken care of without abuse or judgment. The twenty-three year old was pregnant with her landlord’s baby and didn’t know what to do. There was no one to help her.

Neela had been caring for her eight year old brother and ten year old sister in their remote village in Jharkhand state, just north of Orissa, since their parents died several years earlier. Dire financial circumstances caused the small family to owe money to the landlord, who intimidated and coerced the girl into a physical relationship while the young siblings were sent into bonded labor in a rock quarry to pay off the debt. An outreach worker brought Neela to the home for delivery.

“The physical intimacy was not done due to love but due to fear,” Dr. Pardesi wrote me in an email. “In other words, you can term this as rape.”

While this seemed obvious, it was a brave and somewhat controversial statement for Dr. Pardesi to make. Such physical and sexual violence against Dalits, once considered the “untouchables,” is widespread and rarely considered abuse or even a crime at all. In an extensive investigation of caste-based discrimination conducted in 2006, Human Rights Watch found that rape of Dalit women by landlords like what Neela endured is all too common. Dalit victims of rape face significant obstacles when attempting to report the crime to police or to bring a case before the courts. Perpetrators are rarely charged or punished, and their victims are usually the ones ostracized from the community – so much so that rape survivors are often considered unmarriageable.

“Caste is very much the root of the problem,” said Dr. Pardesi. “The government gives them certain privileges, but due to acute poverty and caste dogma these things happen. The people who are Dalits are at the receiving end of exploitation.”

He began bombarding Neela’s landlord with constant communication on behalf of her brother and sister. “Initially he was reluctant to part with the children,” reported Dr. Pardesi, “until he was informed that the matter would be turned over to the police.”

At that point the landlord finally agreed to return the children from bonded servitude in exchange for the money owed him. Dr. Pardesi arranged to collect the children from Calcutta, where they had been put into labor, and bring them back to live at the home with their sister. He paid the price of their debt: Twenty-five U.S. dollars.

Neela’s young brother and sister were freed from their life of bondage, but for most such children freedom never comes.

One out of four children reported missing in India are never found. The strong link between missing persons and slavery indicates an immediate need to find and rescue children who have been reported missing. People trafficking is the fastest growing illegal trade in the world, second only to arms. With an estimated revenue of forty-two billion dollars it is so lucrative that many drug dealers are changing their cargo to human beings.

India represents forty percent of the world’s human trafficking. In 2007 the South Asia Centre for Missing and Exploited Persons was formed precisely for this reason. “Tracing missing children and women across South Asia before they are exploited is emerging as a key focus area in the efforts to prevent human slavery,” wrote Ashley Varghese, Legal Counsel for the organization, in a letter to me.

Pratham, a nonprofit organization that aims to give every child an education by taking schools into the slums and workplaces, has been at the forefront of the fight against child labor. In an interview with me, Farida Lambay of Pratham acknowledged that sometimes children have little choice but to work due to economic reasons; in those cases, when employment is stopped, then rehabilitation and a safety net must be provided to ensure that families and children have the ability to sustain themselves.

But she contended that the financial necessity of child labor as a whole is vastly overstated. “When these children work, the economic situation of most families does not improve at all. We must look at why children are really working.” She outlined the major factors Pratham identified as perpetuating child labor: Lack of opportunity, lack of education, lack of role models and lack of family or other parental support.

“The unemployment in this country is high,” Ms. Lambay continued. “So why are we employing children? Why aren’t their parents in these jobs instead?” She paused, and then answered her own question. “Because the children, they can be hired and exploited much more cheaply. In India we must come to a place where child labor is not acceptable.”

The 2006 Human Rights Watch investigation in India concluded that caste-based discrimination is at the heart of bonded labor and is hugely intertwined with child exploitation. The caste system sustains the mechanisms by which bonded labor thrives, through the centuries-old expectations of free or vastly underpaid work, discrimination and violence against Dalits, and the extreme marginalization that prevents them from accessing resources available to other members of society.

The HRW report stated that these children were forced to dip their hands into boiling water to make the silk thread, handle dead silkworms and breathe fumes that made them ill, and worked in cramped, damp rooms. They did not attend school and were often beaten by their employers or burned with hot tongs if they fell asleep.

When I read this, I had to close the report and set it aside. I felt sick to my stomach. It seemed more than I could bear to think about; but at the same time, I couldn’t bear not to. My mind reeled at how people could do this to other people – especially defenseless children. The work of another journalist, Philip Gourevitch, popped into my mind. In his brilliant book, We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will be Killed With Our Families about the 1994 Rwanda genocide, Gourevitch wrote of his fascination with the peculiar necessity of imagining what is, in fact, real. The way that a thing, even as it was happening that very moment in the world around us, could be so horrific that we could still only imagine it, our minds refusing to accept it as reality.

I understood exactly what he meant. In a way, it was far easier to let the vastness of these atrocities slip past my mind that didn’t want to accept them as possible, that became too easily overwhelmed and despairing at the thoughts. But I knew that to do that would be, for me, an unforgivable act. I did know. Now I could only decide if I chose instead to look away. And if I did that, if everyone did that, who would be left stand up for these children?

Gourevitch similarly examined his own pain and difficulty at spending so much time steeped in the genocide. “The best reason I have come up with for looking closely into Rwanda’s stories,” he concluded, “is that ignoring them makes me even more uncomfortable about existence and my place in it.”

Excerpted from Shelley Seale’s upcoming book, The Weight of Silence: Invisible Children of India.

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A World Without Slavery: The Polaris Project

I literally stumbled on a site today I had not heard of, The Polaris Project.

Polaris Project is committed to combating human trafficking and modern-day slavery, and to strengthening the anti-trafficking movement through a comprehensive approach.

The project was started by Katherine Chon and Derek Ellerman. They were still attending Brown University when they decided to start the project. Their casual conversations with friends, family and university professors convinced them that while many were well educated about the history of slavery, they were totally unaware of how pervasiveness of modern-day slavery.

They wondered, “What could two seniors getting their undergraduate degrees really do to make a difference on this issue?”

You can read more about their quest for a world without slavery here.

Polaris Project For A World Without Slavery

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Slaves Today Have No Value

There’s a major difference between today’s modern slaves and the slaves we read about in our American history books.

disposable peopleAs I was relating to a friend that there are more slaves in the world today than at any other time in human history, it hit me… one thing about modern slavery is fundamentally different. Slavery is sinister at best, but this brand of slavery is even worse than previous brands of slavery. Slaves today have almost no value to their owners. They are cheap and disposable.

As I began to research this, it was clear, this is not a unique thought. In 1999, Paul Stickley said this:

There are “more slaves alive today than all the people stolen from Africa in the time of the transatlantic slave trade,” writes Kevin Bales. He estimates there are more than 27 million people “enslaved by violence and held against their wills for purposes of exploitation” and the number is increasing. A feature of the new slavery is that slaves become disposable once the slaveholder has used them.

In the last century in the American South a slave owner might pay the equivalent of up to $100,000 for a slave. This was an incentive to keep a slave alive. Today a slaveholder can enslave a worker for as little as a $20 debt. It is not profitable to keep them if they are not immediately useful or become ill.

The truth of this is sickening.

Read More about Slavery In The Modern Era .

Slavery Verdict A First For Thailand

Thailand’s anti-slavery law has been enforced for the first time in over 50 years.

“Despite slavery being a criminal offence punishable by up to 10 years in prison, the law has never been applied. According to reports, this is largely due to there being no legal precedent to follow and police reluctance to recognise cases where people are in slave-like conditions without being chained as slavery.” (Anti-Slavery.com)

The woman sentenced, Wipaporn Songmeesap, received 7 years for slavery and 3.5 years for inflicting sever physical harm. A 13-year-old girl was held captive by her and forced to work from 4:00 AM until Midnight, seven days a week without time off. She received no pay, was fed rice and leftovers twice daily, was not allowed to leave the house and was regularly beaten.

This is indeed a positive step forward. Perhaps this is a signal of more to come. I hope so.

Thailand for Children, Disneyland for Pedophiles?

Thailand is currently called “Disneyland for pedophiles” and has up to 600,000 AIDS cases and a huge sex-for-sale industry, driven mostly by European and American tourists who come to rent what they want. It is estimated that the number of prostitutes in Thailand ranges from 800,000 to 2 million. Among which 20% of Thailand Prostitutes are 18 or younger.(“Disneyland for Pedophiles”)
Why is this multi million dollar industry still functioning?”

As you can see, even though it is against the law in Thailand for persons to engage in sexual relations with anyone under the age of 15, it is still happening. Young women in Thailand are still being sold into sexual slavery by their parents, and Europeans and Westerners alike are all aiding the demand for this service. Read more about the violation of these young girls here.

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