Slavery Is Still With Us


J.J. Gould reports on the contemporary trade:

The leading demographic accounts of contemporary slavery project a global slave population of between 20 million and 30 million people. Most of these people are in sedentary forms of slavery, such as hereditary collateral-debt bondage. But about 20 percent have been unwittingly trafficked though the promise of opportunity by predators through varying combinations of deception and coercion, very mobile, very dynamic, leveraging communications and logistics in the same basic way modern businesses do generally.

After the earthquake of 2010 devastated Haiti, Hispaniola was quickly overrun with opportunistic traffickers targeting children to sell into domestic slavery or brothels. Others are children literally sold by parents or relatives in order to pay off debt or to lessen their economic burden. The highest ratios of slaves worldwide are from South and Southeast Asia, along with China, Russia, Albania, Belarus, and Romania. There is a significant slave presence across North Africa and the Middle East, including Lebanon. There is also a major slave trade in Africa. Descent-based slavery persists in Mauritania, where children of slaves are passed on to their slave-holders' children. And the North Korean gulag system, which holds 200,000 people, is essentially a constellation of slave-labor camps.

(Photo: In 2009, Prom Vannak, pictured in a Washington, D.C., hotel June 17, 2012, jumped from a Thai fishing boat on which he was a slave and swam for freedom in Borneo. In Washington on June 19, he was recognized as one of the world's heroes in the fight against human trafficking. By Cliff Owen/MCT via Getty Images)