A paper written for my studies at Fuller Theological Seminary
It is 4th of March 2009. I am in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, for just 48 hours, being taken by my host to Svay Pak:- a village 40 minutes north in a rickety old Tuk Tuk. On arrival I am ushered into a large room filled with happy playing children. It is now a Christian run children’s outreach. It was a brothel that specialised in very young children and in the production of child pornography. One little room has been preserved. It would be 8’ x 8’. A five year old Vietnamese girl, sold by her parents for $300USD was kept in this room, fed horse tranquilizers to keep her compliant and raped repeatedly by mostly western men on sex tours. This is the spot where I was ruined: where my heart broke and wept: and I pledged to be part of the answer to human trafficking and in particular the sex slave trade. Three and half years later, the organisation I lead, is involved in anti poverty or anti trafficking initiatives in Nepal, Cambodia, Vietnam, Uganda and China. The deeply disturbing statement that is the DNA of this paper:- is that there are more slaves now than at any other time in human history. The two primary questions that are birthed out of the previous statement and which the answers will form the basis of this paper are:- What role has globalisation played in causing this explosion of human slavery and secondly, what solutions to this most heinous practice are to be found in this newly globalised world?
The Vatican recently declared that human trafficking in our time is a greater scourge than the transatlantic slave trade of the 15th century (Healey 2012:7). As American President George W Bush came toward the end of his speech to the United Nations General Assembly in September 2003 where he had spoke on Iraq, “he shifted his attention to another humanitarian crisis of Global proportions. Each year he said, 800,000 to 900,000 human beings are bought, sold or forced across the world’s borders. The trade in human beings for any purpose must not be allowed to thrive in our time” (Tran 2007:3). Right now estimates as to how many slaves there are in the world vary from 27 million (Tran 2007:11) to 36 million (Kara 2011:66). At best the numbers of people trafficked and in slavery around the world are an estimate. “It is extremely difficult to accurately calculate the number of people trafficked worldwide because:
· Trafficking happens underground or behind closed doors
· Victims are afraid of coming forward to report the crime
· Law enforcement has difficulties correctly identifying victims
· It is hard to apply a consistent definition of trafficking (Healy 2012:P7).”
To define precisely what this paper sees as slavery: The book Modern Slavery says “Slaves have lost their free will, are under violent control, are economically exploited and are paid nothing. They may be kidnapped or captured, tricked, or born into slavery and the contextual explanation of why they end up in a state of violent control, may be political, racial, religious, mythological, gender based, ethnic or a combination of these. The essence of slavery is controlling people through violence and using them to make money (Bales et al 2009:30).” Kevin Bales in Disposable People, identifies the three types of slavery in existence today. The first is Chattel Slavery and is most closely related to slavery of 150 years ago, where a person is captured, born or sold into slavery. The second is Debt Bondage or Serfdom, which Bales says is the most common form of slavery today:- A person pledges him or herself against a loan of money, usually related to travel expenses to get to the destination of “work”. This is form of slavery is strongly related to globalisation as people, even impoverished people, see opportunities in a smaller world. The third type of slavery is Contract Slavery and is used to control, manipulate and enslave people particularly in sweatshops. (1999:19-20)
In the decades leading up to the 1863 signing by Abraham Lincoln of the Emancipation Proclamation giving slaves their freedom, the predominant role that slaves played was that of manual labour. Today, slavery is predominately of a sexually exploitive nature, although there are a range of other purposes: These include: Labour, Child Soldiers, Child sacrifice, Adoption, Organs, To be involved in criminal activity, Suicide Bombers, Forced Marriages, Commercial Enterprises likes Begging, Human egg trade (McGovern 2009:3-4)
Section 1 – The forces of Globalisation that have caused or shaped Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery
The focus of this paper is first and foremost related to the role that Globalisation has played, if indeed any, in the rapid expansion of the slave trade since the days of abolitionists, William Wilberforce in Britain and Abraham Lincoln in America. Axel Dreher, Noel Gaston and Prim Martens in the book Measuring Globalisation say that “there is no unanimously –agreed upon definition of globalisation (2008:7).” It means different things to different people, depending on the researcher or commentator Thomas Friedman said it can mean “growing interaction of markets and nation states and the spread of Technological advancements (1999:1)”; Mignolo Walters defined it as “receding geographical constraints on social and cultural arrangements (Walters, 1995:3)”; To Martin Albrow, Globalisation is “the increased dissemination of ideas and technologies (1996:1)”; Ulrich Beck said it is “the threat to national sovereignty by transnational actors (2000:11)”; or finally to James Mittleman, Globalisation is “the transformation of the economic, political and cultural foundations of societies (2000:6).”
For the purposes of this paper, I would suggest an all encompassing definition that Globalisation involves the processes through which the world becomes smaller, or the processes by which we become a global village. The core of Globalisation is a seismic shift in the forms of human contact. Within Globalisation there are a number of currents or influences that are directing the flow of the globalisation processes and these are known as globalisms: Christianity, Terrorism, Environmentalism, Neo Liberal Capitalism, Feminism, to name a few. Whilst Globalisation often gets bad press:- violent protests outside of meetings of the World Trade Organisation, Occupy Wall Street protests etc, there are some significant benefits to a smaller world. For example:- greater travel options, greater choices of products and services, increased markets, a greater collective effort in the areas of AID and broader access to knowledge. But the question that must be answered is:- What role has a globalizing world played in the rapid increase of the human slavery atrocity?
Supply and Demand
Dehumanisingly reducing slavery down to an economic concept, slavery is about supply and demand and globalisation has fostered an explosion in both. The world’s rapid population increase since 1945, see Fig 1, has meant a corresponding increase in vulnerable people at the same time as there was an increase in demand, particularly for sex slaves, as economies grew, people’s net wealth increased and air travel became available and then more affordable. (The secularisation of the West and the decline of Christendom, reducing the globalism of Christianity’s moral influence could also be argued as a contributor to the increase in the demand for sex slaves.) Kevin Bales in Disposable People, observes that the greatest growth in population has been in countries where slavery is now most prevalent. (2009:12). The 2008 blockbuster French action movie Taken featuring Liam Neeson, was based on the concept of Human Trafficking and the demand for certain types of girls at high end slave auctions driving the industry. The demand for slaves was also the subject of the 2009 hit by Lady GaGa, Bad Romance, where she is auctioned to the highest bidder:- the room of bidders are a collection of rich western men.
Fig 1 Source: Mihai Andreoiu
Cost and Return on Investment
A second causal link to the increase in population is the significant drop in the price it costs to purchase a person for slavery purposes. This drop in price means the return on investment is dramatically increased which attracts a greater number of corrupt capitalists. Bales, Trood and Williamson in Modern Slavery provide anecdotal evidence of this: “The price of a slave in 1856, in 2001 dollar terms, would be $40,000, while in 2001, in Ivory Coast, workers are sold for $40 each. Or in Thailand, where rapid economic change has led to a new poverty and desperation, a girl aged 12 – 15 can be purchased for $800 to $2000. (2009:52).” So the rate of return on a trafficker’s investment is very significant, world wide annual profits are $32billion, (2009:43) and marrying this with the low risk in terms of “relatively anemic prison sentences and little or no economic penalties, (Kara 2011:66)” means you have ripe conditions for the growth of the exploitative trade in people.
Unfortunately “a fall in price has altered not only the profitability of slavery, but also the relationship between slave and master. The expensive slave of the past was a protected investment; today’s slave is a cheap and disposable input to a low level production” (Bales et al 2009:29) The organisation I lead, Nowra City Church is involved in an anti-slavery rehabilitation house for ex Nepalese teenage prostitutes who have been trafficked into the tourist areas of India. I have personally heard the stories of prostitutes around the age of 30, reaching beyond their physical beauty prime, and therefore their peak profitability, being killed and buried under concrete within the brothel compound: a young lady treated as a disposable commodity that has lived only to service the sexual pleasures of men too ugly (in so many ways) to have a loving wife who meets their sexual needs in the confines of a godly marriage.
Linked in with the rise in population, has been an increase in Poverty. Bales et al observe that “One factor pushing these growing millions toward slavery was the very economic growth that was supposed to make their lives better. The economic transformations of first modernization and then globalisation have driven many people in the developing world both into the shanty towns surrounding the major urban centres and into serious social and economic vulnerability. These dislocated and impoverished people are a bumper crop of potential slaves” (2009:55). But it is not just poverty as we in the West understand it. It is not relative poverty. It is absolute poverty. UN Economist and Author Jeff Sachs describes this type of poverty by saying that households in absolute poverty cannot meet basic needs for survival. “They are chronically hungry, unable to access health care, safe drinking water, sanitation, adequate shelter and adequate clothing (2005:20).” It is raw and utter desperation beyond my cognitive ability and western worldview to grasp:- it is in this situation that according to author of The Bottom Billion, Paul Collier over 1 billion people find themselves living in.
Individual poverty is not only the only poverty that causes slavery. As the world economy has grown, it has had a profound impact on countries in the global south and the small scale farming that support their economies. (Bales et al 2009:56). Additionally trade policies by larger countries in a smaller globalised market place, at times produces poverty leading to national debt. “The US Government for example pays $19 billion a year to subsidize American farmers. It gives $4 billion to cotton farmers to grow a crop that is valued at $3billion. The cotton farmers in India, Benin, Mali, Burkina Faso and Togo (all countries with high levels of slavery) and high levels of national debt, cannot compete with this subsidy. (Bales et al 2009:57).”
As the processes of globalisation have opened up world markets, they have also opened up opportunities for transnational conglomerates to locate production sites into more economically viable and perhaps environmentally less restrictive countries. An example of this is the American Volta Aluminium Company. According to the Wkipedia Website, they loaned money to the Government of Ghana for the construction of the Akosombo Dam which was a hydroelectricity dam used to power an Aluminium smelter. 700 villages had to be relocated. The dam slowed the vigorous flow of water that had produced one of the greatest fishing lakes in the world and destroyed the local finishing industry – which also use to export fish. “Facing a newly impoverished environment, some fisherman began to enslave children rather than pay adult wages. Parents are promised the equivalent of $28 for their children and often the money never gets paid. Boys as young as six are forced to dive to disentangle nets caught on the tree stumps below the surface of this man made lake. The fisherman tie weight to the children to help them descend more quickly. When the water is too cold or the children get caught in the nets below, it is not uncommon to find bodies washed up on the shores (Bales et al 2009:23).”
One of the four poverty traps that author Paul Collier identifies, is that of conflict (2009:17). Conflict often causes mass displacement of impoverished people. Bales et al in Modern Slavery observes: ”Most vulnerable are displaced individuals. Poor, exposed to health risks and in unfamiliar circumstances, have little capacity to secure work and are therefore more likely to accept a traffickers false promise of employment.” (2009:108). A current example of this is the Syrian Civil War. Amnesty International on their Website say that 1.5 million Syrians have fled into Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq. These displace people are currently in crowded makeshift camps – fodder for human traffickers.
Globalisation has certainly led to the rise in Global organisations like the United Nations and Military alliances like NATO. When it comes to issues like the demand for sex slavery, it has been documented that the presence of international troops in various conflicts around the world has led to a significant increase in the demand for prostitutes.
“This was the case in Kosovo in the late 1990’s and one study argues that sex trafficking was also rare in Sierra Leone, Somalia and Cambodia until the arrival of international troops spurred a demand for trafficking victims. (Bales et al 2009:109)
In a Journal Article titled Slavery in History, the origins of slavery was traced back to Mesopotamia 6800BC. “With the ownership of land and the beginnings of technology came warfare in which enemies were captured and forced into slavery. (Healey 2012:22). One of the processes of Globalisation is technology and as “technology shrinks the world, reducing the conceptions of happiness to material prosperity and creating, along with actually poverty, relative destitution: the perception of poverty experienced when images of decadent wealth gets broadcast all over the world. (Tran 2007:1).” Now this is not to blame Kim Kardashian for slavery, but this relative destitution provides further incentive for parents to sell their children, or for young teen girls to pursue promised false jobs in the city.
No paper examining the link between Globalisation and Human slavery would be complete without an examination of the failure of the globalised world to address the issue. Certainly there has been an attempt to address poverty, which is a leading cause of slavery. William Easterly in The White Man’s Burden points out that globally, anti poverty aid has totalled $2.3 trillion dollars over the last 50 years (2006:4). Whilst there is some significant inroads being made in terms of reducing absolute poverty, it seems to be the economic basket cases that are left and unfortunately, as author Paul Collier observes, that’s about one billion people. If top down aid is not working in these economies then the globalised world needs to look for other solutions:- like a broadening of the issues that are being addressed which is what Collier prescribes, or the bottom up aid solution of William Easterly. Reality is that todate; the world has failed the bottom billion and failed the 27 million people in slavery.
Fareed Zakaria in his book A Post American World, speaks not of the decline of America but of a rise of the rest and for the purpose of the book, the rest seems to be China and India. With a population of over 1 billion, China’s human rights record has not been “globalised” to world standards. Population explosions and rural poverty as China becomes the world’s manufacturing plant, again form an unholy alliance in a nation where human life carries little weight. An article in the UK Daily Telegraph dated 5th August 2012 reports “A major trafficking ring has been dismantled by Chinese Police with 137 people arrested, including 18 doctors who performed illegal operations on their impoverished victims.” This article is followed by another written by Dena Kram about the illegally harvested organs of executed prisoners in China.
As the processes of Globalisation have rendered the world a much smaller place, news of tragedy travels almost instantly around the world and aid organisation can be mobilized quickly to render the assistance needed. The 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami and the 2010 Haitian Earthquake are prime examples of that. Unfortunately with the same speed that aid organisations respond, human trafficking networks respond as well. With each disaster claiming around 300,000 lives, orphans are left vulnerable. In a Time Magazine article, on the Time.com website titled Human Predators Stalk Haiti’s Vulnerable Kids, dated 27 January 2010, Tim Padgett tells the following story”
Mia Pean’s heart sank last week when she saw the Toyota pickup truck cruising the debris-cluttered streets of Léogâne, ground zero for the earthquake that has devastated Haiti. Each time the driver saw a child — especially a young teen — he would stick his head out of the window and shout, “Manje, manje,” Creole for “eat.” Pean says she watched the hungry kids, four or five at a time, hop into the back of the pickup, which then disappeared. “I saw the same man again a few days later in Carrefour,” a poor suburb of Port-au-Prince, says Pean. “I asked him, ‘What are you doing with all those children?’ He said, ‘Don’t worry, we’re going to put them in safe homes.’ Then he drove off.”
Nowra City Church was active post 2004 Tsunami in Sri Lanka and similar reports were being received by the organization that Nowra City Church was partnering with. Unfortunately the ensuing and inevitable chaos that follows a massive natural disaster provides adequate cover for the exploitative and opportunistic human traffickers.
Section 2 – Globalised Solutions to the Human Slave Trade
Slavery must be stopped. Kevin Bales et al claims “slavery is ripe for extinction. (2009:154)” One of the great globalisms of the world is that of Christianity, a faith the author of this paper subscribes passionately too. One of many imploring Social Justice verses from the Christian Holy Book is located in Psalms Chapter 82 and verse 4 and simply says: “Rescue the poor and helpless from the grasp of evil men (NKJ).” If, as has already been proven, Globalisation has caused the rapid increase in slavery, what solutions then are to found within Globalisation?
Globalised Successes so far
Many of the great obstacles faced by abolitionists in the past have already been dealt with by the forces of Globalisation. “First the moral argument has been won, with slavery illegal in every country in the world and no ethnic majority or powerful religious group arguing that slavery is desirable or acceptable. Secondly, there is no economic argument to be won. The monetary value of slavery in the world economy is very small and slave based revenues flow to support not national economies, or transnational industries, but small scale criminal networks. The end of slavery threatens no countries livelihood. The third advantage is there is no legal argument to be won. For the most part, the necessary national and international laws are already on the books (Bales et al 2009:146).” These three factors alone are significant milestones and the fact that they have been dealt with is a crucial part of the complex set of steps that will need to be undertaken if slavery is to be eradicated in my lifetime.
Impacting Supply and Demand
As I have discussed the causes of slavery in the first section of this paper, the primary issue identified is an increase in the supply and a corresponding increase in demand for slaves. So to eliminate slavery, any approach must hit at the core of either supply or demand. Obviously then, effective poverty eradication programs would have to be at the heart of any slavery solution movement. Solutions to world poverty are many and varied. For example: There is the top down Aid solution that Jeffery Sach’s espouses in his book, The End of Poverty, a bottom up solution that William Easterly preaches through his book The White Man’s Burden, where the focus for the solution comes more from the empowerment of the end user and finally Paul Collier’s multi pronged approach in The Bottom Billion, using the tools of Aid, Military Intervention, Laws and Charters and Trade Policies. Time does not permit for me to discuss and unpack in detail the merits of each of these solutions nor the positions of each author on how they define the causes of the poverty traps that the bottom billion face. I personally subscribe to Colliers multi pronged approach with the addition of using Easterly’s bottom up methodology. I would add though that the concept of Appreciative Inquiry be used to connect whatever Aid is going to flow to the end user. According to my fellow Fuller Seminary student Lily Dunn in a Week 8 forum post, “Appreciative inquiry is where development workers will enter a community and not just ask them to define their needs, but ask them to identify the things they do well as a community and the resources they do have. Then, the development worker works alongside the community to enhance and expand what is already working”. It seems that a tapestry of poverty solutions most be woven together, using Collier’s ideas, Easterly’s empowering of the end user with Dunn’s concept of Appreciative Inquiry. There is no silver bullet to poverty eradication. As write this paper, the United Nations have released their largest humanitarian aid appeal ever, calling for $5.2 billion in Aid to help the people who are victims of the Syrian conflict, many of whom are now in makeshift refugee camps. A search through the United Nation’s Website and multiple News Sites failed to turn up any strategy attached to the appeal. Unfortunately therefore I am not able to comment on how this $5.2 billion will be used nor am I able to predict its impact on reducing vulnerabilities to slave traders.
To reduce the demand for slavery, there are a number of national and international initiatives that have been or are currently being undertaken. First of these is raising awareness. There are a significant number of anti slavery campaigns and organizations that amongst others things are harnessing the power of the Internet and Social Media to bring an awareness of the slavery issue to the main stream population of the West. Songs have been released like Matt Redman’s 27 Million – speaking directly of the number of slaves: Already mentioned has been Lady GaGa with her song Bad Romance. As reported on the Compassion First Website, US President Barrack Obama declared January 2012, National Awareness Month for Human Trafficking and Slavery culminating in National Freedom Day on February 1. Awareness harnesses the people power that now exists through Globalisation and one of the key channels of how this produces change is by exerting pressure on democratically elected governments to do more. At the launch of a Report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNOCD) titled Global Report on Trafficking in Persons, in New York, the Executive Director of UNODC, as reported on the UNODC website, Antonio Maria Costa said that “many governments are still in denial. There is even neglect when it comes to either reporting on, or prosecuting cases of human trafficking”. He pointed to the fact that while the number of convictions for human trafficking is increasing, two out of every five countries covered by the UNODC Report had not recorded a single conviction.” This is where people power through greater awareness can pressure governments into greater crack downs on criminals trafficking in people. We need an Arab Spring against slavery.
Awareness is one thing; changing people’s purchasing habits is much more powerful in terms of reducing the demand for the products that are produced by slavery. The Ivory Coast is the world’s biggest producer of cocoa. There are 600,000 cocoa farms in the nation and children are trafficked from the neighboring countries of Mali and Burkina Faso to work the farms. “In April 2001, Humphrey Hawksley produced a report for the BBC, exposing the problem of human trafficking to the Ivory Coast. He found children imprisoned on farms, beaten if they tried to escape and some were not even 11. The going rate for these children were $27.” (Chalke 2009:99). As cocoa is the main ingredient in chocolate, the chocolate companies around the world are complicit in child slavery and anyone who buys chocolate keeps the demand for these slaves in place. Through globalisation the world is the now the market place of these companies and the world’s consumers can now put pressure on these companies to change their practices. One such successful example of this is Nike, who after its shoes were shown to be being made in child labour sweat shops in Cambodia, China, Indonesia and Vietnam, on the front page of the November 8th 1997 New York Times, changed their policies and now ensure they don’t use child labor. This also followed an aggressive campaign outing Nike.
Reducing Profits/Increasing Risks
In terms of impacting the demand for the biggest area of human slavery, the sex industry: Siddharth Kara, a former investment banker, uses theoretical economics to propose measures that could eradicate sex trafficking in his book Sex Trafficking: Inside the Business of Modern Slavery:
There could be no sex-slave industry without male demand for commercial sex. While there are many initiatives intended to elevate the sensitivity and morality of male commercial sex consumers, I believe a more efficient attack on demand can be deployed against the economic drivers of demand for sex trafficking. It should be no surprise that sex services are highly elastic. As prices increase, demand drops considerably, especially when low-end consumers such as tuk-tuk drivers and day laborers are priced out of the market, as they largely were a decade ago.
From a policy standpoint, this drop in demand suggests that the most effective measure to eradicate the global sex-trafficking industry is to increase the slave owners’ costs, forcing them to drive up retail price or to accept a less profitable, hence less desirable, criminal business. The most effective way to attack profitability is to elevate real risk: Here are seven tactics that I believe will accomplish this goal:
1. Create an international slavery and trafficking inspection force, modeled on United Nations weapons inspections and charged with searching for establishments that exploit slaves, freeing the victims, and detaining the criminals.
2. Create trained and paid community vigilance committees, consisting of members of the community, taxi/tuk-tuk drivers, and other specially trained individuals, to seek out establishments holding slaves and report their findings to the inspection force.
3. Initiate proactive law enforcement raids against establishments for which there is a strong suspicion of slave-like exploitation, with protections in place to minimize adverse effects on the individuals living in those establishments.
4. Increase salaries for anti-trafficking police, prosecutors, and judges.
5. Create fast-track courts to prosecute trafficking crimes, with international observers and judicial review to minimize corruption.
6. Fund witness protection programs and provide living income support for slaves and their families for the duration of a trial and up to twelve months afterward.
These 7 proposals aimed at reducing the profits and increasing the risks for the slave trader, if implemented in concert would certainly have the impact of interrupting the supply side of the slave market. Harnessing the power of a global organisation like the United Nations and giving it some legislative teeth even to cross sovereign state’s rights, would be a brave but potentially powerful force for freedom. The danger would be that something like this could spark an even stronger rise in Nationalism in defence of a country’s sovereignty. Some of the other initiatives put forth by Kara, could potentially be implemented through the World Social Forum. The WSF, according to Wikipedia, sees itself as a permanent space and process to build alternatives to neoliberalism and has the slogan “Another World is Possible”. Working with advocacy groups, community vigilantes (positive vigilantes) Non Government Organisations and International Witness Protection Programs could be undertaken as part of the WSF’s anti slavery push.
I conclude this paper with a photo. This paper has addressed the causes within Globalisation of human exploitation of the worst kind:- forced slavery of 27 million people. The processes that have been the driving force of Globalisation unfortunately and unintentionally have also created a fertile soil for wicked and evil capitalists to make dirty money from the buying and selling of humanity. This is made all the worst because the humanity being traded is the most vulnerable of all, our children, our women, our poor. This is the dark side of Globalisation. But to talk about the slavery issue as 27 million people can cause us to miss the fact that these 27 million are individual people. People like you and I with hopes, dreams, loved ones, and a desire to live a happy and fulfilled life. The picture below, is of me with 6 teenage Nepalese girls that are housed in the house Nowra City Church finances.
(Photo has been edited to protect the identity of the girls)
These girls were forced into prostitution in India’s tourist area when they were just 14 and 15. They were raped up 40 times a night. This is the face of my paper. There are solutions within globalisation that will interrupt the supply and demand for slavery: empowerment, poverty eradication, awareness, pressure on governments, stronger borders and a commitment from global organisations to be more focussed on solving the issues that cause slavery. The World Social Forum’s motto is Another World is Possible. Globalisation has already produced “another world” to what it was 100 years ago. Within Globalisation are the forces to now change that world for the 27 million human slaves. Globalisation can be the Wilberforce and Lincolns of my era: “the end of slavery is ripe for extinction (2009:154).”
You may also be interested in reading
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