The Slave Trade Thrives:
San Francisco Chronicle Editorial
The traffic in women and
as they become casualties of the global economy
Tuesday, 17 April 2001
The traffic in human cargo goes on everyday, but rarely does the entire
world focus on its victims.
Somewhere off the coast of western equatorial Africa is a ship suspected
of carrying 180 children into slavery. Most recently, officials spotted
the aging trawler off the coast of Equatorial Guinea. Authorities in
West Africa hope they will find the ship before the traffickers --
fearful of arrest -- try to remove evidence by throwing the children
Despite international attempts to stop the traffic in people, child
slavery persists in West and Central Africa -- as well as in other parts
of the world.
Typically, traffickers prey upon desperately poor parents. They offer
families $20, along with bogus promises to educate the children or
provide them with jobs abroad. Boys are sold as laborers on
cocoa-producing plantations in Gabon and the Ivory Coast where they work
up to 12 hours a day. Even more girls are sold, often as prostitutes or
to families as domestic servants.
Make no mistake; this is real slavery. According to Pino Arlacchi,
director general of the U.N. Office of Drug Control and Crime
Prevention, some 200 million people may now be in the hands of
traffickers worldwide. Nor is human slavery confined to faraway
regions. The Bay recently witnessed an alleged case of sexual slavery
when Lakireddi Bali Reddy and his sons were charged with smuggling young
women from India into Berkeley, California.
Human slavery pops up everywhere. A year ago, a CIA report verified
that every year as many as 50,000 women and children from Latin America,
Eastern Europe and Asia enter the United States under false pretenses.
Every month brings news of a young girl who is rescued from sexual or
domestic slavery in a London, Paris, or New York suburb. Within the
last decade, more than 30 million women and children have been sold
within Southeast Asia for sweatshop labor or sexual purposes. Young
women from Russia and Eastern Europe are lured by promises of marriage
or a job in a Western city.
Although the new human slavery evokes universal condemnation, the tangle
of international and domestic laws and overlapping jurisdictions makes
it almost impossible to prosecute slave-runners, even when they are
That slavery persists into the 21st century is an
international disgrace. Now that we have a global economy, we need
global coordination to end what the United Nations has called "the
biggest human rights violation in the world."
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