(Note: At this special time of the year when we exchange gifts and good will, we should remember those far less fortunate. This Guest Editorial by Dr. Lorin Swinehart reminds us of a group who are not only poor, but dispossessed of their very lives.)
World-Wide Slave Traffic
A common misconception might be that the Constitutional amendments following the surrender of Robert E. Lee at Appomattox spelled an end to the slavery issue. Sadly, such is not the case. Slave-like conditions endured after the demise of the Confederacy and continue to this day around the world, including inside the USA. There are estimated to be more persons living in slavery or under slave-like conditions today than at any other time in the world’s history. It is estimated that 79% of the victims are sexually exploited women and girls, while 18% are victims of forced labor. In a 2008 report, the U.S. Department of Justice stated that 30% of its cases involved children coerced into the sex industry.
Lured by false promises of good jobs, marriage, education outside their own impoverished societies, thousands of young women from the former Soviet Union, Latin America, Asia and Africa find themselves forced into lives of sexual bondage, torture and degradation at the hands of cruel, greedy dealers in human beings. Perhaps worst of all, is the sale of small children as sex objects.
Trafficking in humans is now the third most lucrative and the fastest growing international criminal enterprise, after the trade in narcotics and weapons. Kevin Bales of Free the Slaves attributes the problem to rapid population growth, poverty and government corruption, factors that serve to diminish the value placed upon human life and treat victims as mere commodities. Traffickers prey upon runaway teens, the homeless, refugees, job seekers, kidnap victims, tourists, displaced homemakers and others.
According to the International Labor Organization, up to 246,000,000 children ages 5-17 are victims, many either kidnapped or sold by their own parents in hopes that they will find a better life elsewhere. In some nations, trafficking is not illegal. Thailand and Brazil had the worst child trafficking records as recently as 2010.
The profitable global sex industry uses lies and deceit to enmesh its victims, who are then forced to have sex with countless partners on a daily basis until their “debt” is paid to the traffickers. Many others are forced to dance in strip clubs or take part in pornographic movies. Because of fear of reprisals, less than 1% of the few who do escape cooperate with authorities. Most never escape. Many do not survive. Accurate figures as to the magnitude of the problem are difficult to come by. A BBC News report estimates that there may be 27,000,000 persons existing under slave-like conditions. In 2008, the United Nations estimated that 2,500,000 were trafficked among 127 to 137 countries.
The problem is growing, according to Nvader, a Christian based, non-profit international organization that combats the sex slave trade by conducting undercover operations to free victims, bring perpetrators to justice, and combat the commercial sex trafficking industry. Prominent in the organization is New Zealand police detective Daniel Walker, author of the internationally acclaimed memoir God in a Brothel, in which he details his own clandestine operations to free victims of the sex trade around the world.
As we go about our daily lives and work, secure in our persons and possessions, millions of women and children are suffering unspeakable abuses at the hands of their tormentors. It behooves us all to combat the illegal traffic in human beings and the sexual enslavement of women and children.
Underlying all of the frenzied fluff and nonsense of the approaching Christmas season is the reality that Jesus entered the world in poverty, spent years as a refugee, and was himself a victim of injustice and unspeakable brutality. During his ministry, he once saved an unjustly accused woman from being stoned to death by an angry mob, an example that requires us all to stand fast against cruelty and injustice, to come to the aid of the oppressed, to remember that there are those who have nothing, not even control of their own bodies. “As you did it to one of the least of these, my brethren, you did it to me.”
As William Wilberforce put it centuries ago, “You may choose to look the other way, but you can never say again that you did not know.”