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Human Trafficking & Modern Day Slavery

Updated on March 9, 2011

The 21st Century Slave Trade

There are continuous discussions, forums, dialog, and blogs in the United States about the atrocities of the Transatlantic Slave Trade which transported Africans, against their will, to American soils - trapping them in a world of forced labor, sexual and psychological abuse for hundreds of years. Most African Americans are still suffering from its lingering effects known as racial discrimination which rears its ugly head from time to time. While we acknowledge this dark period of American history we have to also acknowledge that this overt practice ended generations ago and the most anyone can do about it now is to continue open dialog with one another to ensure that it never happens again.

However, while our focus has been on past racial injustices in the US, a new underground, and perhaps more sinister form of injustice has been growing in leaps and bounds across the globe, known today as Human Trafficking. Human trafficking is the movement of people through deception, coercion, or violence, for the purpose of forced labor, sexual or slavery purposes. The U.S. Department of State estimates that over 600,000 to 800,000 victims are trafficked across US borders each year. Among this group over 65% of the victims are sexually exploited including children as young as 8 years old. Fifteen to Eighteen thousand humans are brought into the US for slave labor. These victims have been reported seen in all 50 states in the past year. There are an estimated 200,000 victims moved around within the U.S. while 6 – 8 billion are trafficked internationally. According to The US Department of State over 1 million new victims are trafficked each year, and over half are children who are purchased for as little as ten US dollars. In terms of the Transatlantic Slave Trade, the value of a young African male agricultural worker on US soil was an equivalent of $40,000.00 in today’s US currency. The value of that same young agricultural male through human trafficking on US soil today is approximately $250.00 - humans with little value. The US state department estimates that there are more slaves today through Human Trafficking than at any other time in human history. One can argue its because of the population increase, another may argue that population increase should have no relevance. If it's wrong, it's wrong!

Human trafficking has become the second largest and fastest growing criminal industry in the world netting over $5-9 billion dollars in 2008 alone. This is more than the combined gross revenues of Starbucks, Google, and Nike during the same period in 2008. Just like the African slaves of the Transatlantic, victims of human trafficking experience a loss of freedom, civil liberties and are subject to forced labor, sexual and psychological abuse, as well as exploitation at the hands of their traffickers who buy and sell them for profit. Human trafficking is commonly known as Modern-day Slavery. The traffickers have complete control over their victims through brutal beatings, rape, starvation, lies, deception, and threats of serious harm to them or their families, and psychological abuse.

It is typical to assume that this is a problem among poor countries and certain race or nationality of people. The unfortunate reality is that anyone can become a victim of human trafficking including US citizens or foreign nationals; people of any race; male or female; child or adult of any age; rich or poor; educated or uneducated. Social standings, education, wealth, or age, has no relevance to becoming a victim of human trafficking. Statistics suggests that Traffickers often prey on people who currently experience a lack of employment opportunities and are hoping for a better life, or people who have an unstable home life, or a history of sexual abuse. These conditions are present in all corners of society regardless of race, nationality, religious beliefs, education, or social standings. Individual vulnerability increases each day as the economy worsens. Victims of Foreign national, as well as US citizen have recently been identified in cities, suburbs, and rural areas in all 50 states in the US including Washington, DC - our nations capital. They are found in legal, legitimate business environments as well as underground black markets. They can be found behind locked doors in brothels or on the floor in factories. In most cases, victims are in plain view, but we can’t identify them because of our lack of human trafficking awareness. We assume that prostitution is voluntary in the sex industry – but in most cases it’s forced and the victims started out at a very young age..

Traffickers are assumed to be bad people in hiding who only come out after sunset - preying on the unsuspected. Unfortunately they are our neighbors in suit and ties. Some are people who may attend church on a regular basis. They may include pimps, brothel owners, people who employ servants in their homes, small business owners, and criminal networks. The facilitators may consist of, but are not limited to; landlords, hotels and motels, transportation companies, advertisers, banks and financial institutions, and service organizations. It’s a difficult crime to detect and prosecute because under US laws it’s not considered smuggling or forced movement. it does not always require transportation or movement across borders. Physical abuse, force, or restraint is not always visible. Often, traffickers use psychological manipulation or closed door abuse to control their victims actions in public. Therefore, it’s difficult to detect whether a person is a victim or not because they are afraid to reveal their actual circumstances.

To date, in every city, suburb, small farm, country or continent across the globe, modern day slavery exists in one form or another. It is estimated that over 27 million people are suffering from one or more forms of slavery and the largest being sex slaves as a direct result of Human Trafficking.

This is a very large problem but what can one person do about it? Here are a few suggestions;

1. Educate yourself and recognize the signs of slavery and call the trafficking hotline if you believe you have seen or met a person who is enslaved. Hotline numbers are 1-800-655-4095 in Southern California or 1-888-3737-888 nationally.

2. Sign up at to educate yourself and others about the issue of trafficking in humans and modern slavery by receiving our awareness newsletter.

3. Make the Freedom for Everyone pledge at and encourage others to live the pledge with you.

4. Minimize opportunities for exploitation by supporting fair trade and anti-poverty programs. Support organizations like Catholic Relief Services, the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST), and Free the Slaves that are working to raise awareness, prevent human trafficking and restore survivors of slavery to freedom and the fullness of life.

Public awareness is a critical element to resolving this dehumanizing problem. Several concerned citizens who have been properly educated about slavery have helped rescue slaves by using anonymous trafficking hotlines to alert authorities about suspected problems.

So what are some of the signs to look for?

1. As much as they want they can not change employers and become very defensive or shut down when the suggestion is made by co-workers or friends.

2. They have no control over their earnings and become defensive or shut down when encouraged by co-workers to seek better pay.

3. Victims are afraid to discuss themselves including their background in the presence of others.

4. Victims live on or near the workplace, possibly under guard. They do not socialize with others and are always in a rush to get home after work. They are not seen in social gatherings and talk very little when they do.

5. They appear to be paranoid and edgy, often impatient or irritated by the end of the day, particularly around the end of their shift.

6. They may have injuries from beatings or signs of torture like cigarette burns or branding. They often suffer from from malnourishment. They wear dark clothing which may conceal their entire body.

7. They may appear as young to middle-age females (or males) on porn sites engaging in explicit sexual activity.

8. They may be small children from preschool to middle school and beyond.

It is time for the world to focus on, and acknowledge that slavery exists today regarless of race, country, nationality, religion, education, or social standings - and it will not go away until governments and individuals educate themselves and get involve and help clamp down on this camouflaged, hidden, and dehumanizing industry known as Human Trafficking or- Modern Day Slavery!


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    • jxb7076 profile image

      James Brown 6 years ago from United States of America

      Maggie - This article was written a year ago and the statistical numbers are now obsolete. Therefore, if you wannt accurate information you will need to to conduct research on the latest data. May I suggest you start with Amnesty Internation, US Department of State, Women's Allliance Group, etc. Good luck.

    • profile image

      Maggie 6 years ago

      What are your sources on these statistics?

      This would be helpful for an assignment, but I need to be sure that all of this is correct information.

    • profile image

      grace17 6 years ago

      It is shocking that something like this can exist in our world today. I think we all need to find our ways to help spread the awareness and fight to bring aid to those in slavery. If you have a spare few minutes could you please fill out this survey on modern day slavery? Thankyou.

    • Mariaam Bhatti profile image

      Mariaam Bhatti 6 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Very useful and interesting hub.I know people including myself who were coersed to come to work in Europe but when we got here the work was not exactly what we expected.

      We faced very long hours,paid way below the minimum wage and we were unaware of that,we lived with employers,had passports taken from us,we were constantly monitored and movements were controlled.

      With the help of the immigration and migrant organisations we were rescued but the country has no law against forced labour and victims have no protection.

      We have forced a group called Forced Labour Action Group and we have been lobbying the gov to bring in a law against modern day slavery for a year now,we have been speaking to the media about our experiences and the Justice minister has promised to review the trafficking law to accommodate forced labour or to bring in a new law.....

      We are holding our breaths these few weeks to come.We hope more people will come out of shadows when a law is passed as most of them are afraid since they are threatened by employers and they are likely to be undocumented,which leaves them more vulnerable to exploitation.

    • profile image

      Chevy 6 years ago

      it's a wonder how something like this can go unnoticed. But if we continue to close our eyes it will only continue. I've witnessed a lot of psychological abuse going on in places were women were most vulnreable. places like homeless shelters, prisons even classrooms (altrenative schools). These predators are like vultures. They feed on the dead carcasses of dying individuals. Though we all shake our heads to these predators there are times when we can feed into the "rapists" ideology ourselves. Whn we sit back and wacth the videos that exploit women or when we buy clothing or material that was created in "sweat shops" no on wants to take intererst about an 8 year old girl in a sewing factory that won't even pay her an 8th of what the clothes will costs americans when material is shipped abroad. No one shakes the head of the 18 year old girls crawling all over the "pimp" rapper whose displaying pimp like behavior showing not even respect for himself. How many of those girls lack educaion? How many have been raped, molested or bought and fell no pride or shame for what they do now for money? How many are doing it to support s drug habit and are being manipulated because of the addiction? Just think about it. Though there's many diverse levels of abuse..wether it level 1 or 10 doesn't make it OKAY..wether it's physically, mentally, or emotional manipulated again doesn't make it OKAY-ABUSE and MIS-USE of a human being is still a crime against humanity..thanks for posting this article guys!! Peace and Godbless

    • Mariaam Bhatti profile image

      Mariaam Bhatti 6 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Very true,I have been there and all the signs you mentioned are very familiar.I wish some people about to be trafficked or in those situations now can read this and hopefully get help.

    • jxb7076 profile image

      James Brown 7 years ago from United States of America

      cassann - sad, but true. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

    • profile image

      cassann 7 years ago

      yeah i just wish there was a way to stop it once and for all! it makes me sick how this could happen! i knew about the Genecide in Africa but i did know that things that were happening everywhere!

    • jxb7076 profile image

      James Brown 7 years ago from United States of America

      jjmyles - thanks for stopping by and commenting. I wish world governments would get more involved.

    • jjmyles profile image

      jjmyles 7 years ago from Pacific Northwest

      Excellent hub on an important topic. Keep shining the light on this dark evil that is taking place all over the world.

    • jxb7076 profile image

      James Brown 7 years ago from United States of America

      cassann - unfortunately the government does not view this as a federal problem so they allocate limited resources to resolve the problem. Sometimes helping the victim does more to hurt them than free them.

    • profile image

      cassann 7 years ago

      this is so wrong. i can't believe this is happening and the government isn't doing very much to stop it from happening.

    • jxb7076 profile image

      James Brown 7 years ago from United States of America

      garynew - Under the first admendment right to free speech these people can say whatever they want however, if I had my way there would be a stiff fine imposed on such verbage and their music would never hit the airwaves. On the other hand - in my opinion, it will never stop as long as women support this garbage via participating in the music videos and buying the music - and until women themselves take a stand.

    • garynew profile image

      garynew 7 years ago from Dallas, TX and Sampran, Thailand

      What do you think of (some very popular) songs that glorify 'pimping' and that call women hos and worse?

    • jxb7076 profile image

      James Brown 7 years ago from United States of America

      Tania D - Thanks for stopping by, and for the tip on the helpful agency.

    • profile image

      Tania D. 7 years ago

      Theres also an amazing agency called IJM that helps out victims, and actually work until the criminals are in jail.

    • jxb7076 profile image

      James Brown 7 years ago from United States of America

      rescueachild - thanks for stopping by and sharing your story. That must have been a dark and difficult time in your life. I thank God that you survived it and is willing to share your experience with others so they are aware of this human atrocity.

    • rescueachild profile image

      rescueachild 7 years ago from San Jose, Ca

      I am a survivor of child sex trafficking and the US is the #1 place to buy a child for sex. Too many people in law enforcement and the criminal justice system aren't doing their jobs or this problem wouldn't be such a problem here.

    • jxb7076 profile image

      James Brown 8 years ago from United States of America

      Sundy Goodnight - I am still surprised that governments around the world does not have this as a top priority. Perhaps they're benefitting as well!

    • Sundy Goodnight profile image

      Sundy Goodnight 8 years ago from New York

      Thank you for drawing attention and informing others about this horrible situation that is going on. The average person has no idea about these statistics and the more people that can be enlightened about human trafficking the better we can fight it.

    • jxb7076 profile image

      James Brown 8 years ago from United States of America

      valeriebelew - thanks for stopping by and commenting. Yes, this is horrible and unfortunately because of the global economic problems its getting worst. Add the recent climate changes across the globe, earth quakes in poor countries, wars and exploitation of peope and resources and you have a human clamity of unimagineable magnitude.

    • valeriebelew profile image

      valeriebelew 8 years ago from Metro Atlanta, GA, USA

      This is horrible. I had no idea until I started seeing these articles tonight while hub hopping. I knew that discrimination against the poor is common, but slavery???? I had no idea. Where have I been? Very upsetting article, but informative, and very well done.

    • jxb7076 profile image

      James Brown 8 years ago from United States of America

      SXP - my apology for the late response. This problem is so prevalent and sickens me as well especially when governments are involved. The same governments who swore to protect the innocent. It happens even in the US - the so called land of democracy and freedom, right under the government's nose.

    • SXP profile image

      SXP 8 years ago from South Africa

      This is still happening all over the world and even in South Africa, the so-called jewel of Africa, this happens. It makes me sik to the stomach that we still face this thing in this modern age.

    • profile image

      jxb7076 8 years ago

      meg999 - Morality classes are always interesting. I hope the article was both useful and relevant.

    • profile image

      meg999 8 years ago

      We just watched videos about Human Trafficking in my morality class. Thanks for the article!

    • jxb7076 profile image

      James Brown 8 years ago from United States of America

      cleo77725 - thanks for stopping by and commenting. I am humbled that you enjoyed the hub.

    • cleo77725 profile image

      cleo77725 8 years ago

      Well done! and God bless you!

    • profile image

      olivia 8 years ago


    • jxb7076 profile image

      James Brown 8 years ago from United States of America

      Thanks for the feedback RA - this is a serious problem which deserves more media attention than who Madona is sleeping with or whether Oprah believes in God or not.

    • Research Analyst profile image

      Research Analyst 8 years ago

      I saw a show about this, it was re-enacted on one of the crime scene investigation shows, it is something that as you mentioned with over 1 million new victims are trafficked each year, and with continued public awareness this issue can be addressed further with looking to finding solutions for a better tomorrow.

    • jxb7076 profile image

      James Brown 9 years ago from United States of America

      Lgali: Thanks for the feedback!

    • Lgali profile image

      Lgali 9 years ago

      nice article very good info

    • jxb7076 profile image

      James Brown 9 years ago from United States of America

      Teresa: Thanks for the comment.  This hub was inspired by an assosiate who was onced a victim.  The number of victims are increasing and the average citizen, like myself - have no idea of the magnitude of the problem. I discovered that everyone who comes to the US for work does not come voluntarily. A vast number of illegal immigrants don't really want to be here.

      Rose Ella: Thanks for the feedback.  In America, our knowledge of slavery is based on what happened to African Americans.  There is hidden society of slaves right beneath our noses even in 2009.  Sad, but true!

    • Rose Ella Morton profile image

      Rose Ella Morton 9 years ago from Beverly Hills, Michigan

      So true, so true.

    • Teresa McGurk profile image

      Sheila 9 years ago from The Other Bangor

      Ouch -- those figures are appalling. Thanks for writing about this topic -- you've really motivated me to learn more about it.


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