A Forgotten Evil
"There are over 300 international treaties banning slavery. Yet, there are more slaves in the world today than at any point in human history." Slavery is alive and still with us today. Amnesty International estimates that there are 27 million slaves around the world, 14 to 17,000 people taken by force to the US annually, 600-800,000 internationally.
An event to raise awareness was held at the Museum Of Contemporary Art in Downtown L.A. on Sept. 16 by The Zocalo Public Square Lecture Series. The Zocalo Series, called by its founder Gregory Rodriguez "a non partisan multiethnic space" featured New York journalist Benjamin Skinner who had just had spent four years researching his new book "A Crime So Monstrous: Face-To-Face With Modern-Day Slavery".
Skinner said: "An update of what slavery means is needed. Slaves are those forced to work by fraud or deception, and under threat of violence or by force." His description approximates how The Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking Los Angeles, a group which Skinner describes as "the most mature organization fighting modern slavery" defines in their website:
Trafficking is the recruitment and transportation of persons within or across boundaries by force, fraud, or deception for the purpose of exploiting them economically. Trafficked people most commonly work in sweatshops, restaurants, on farms, in manufacturing, prostitution and as private domestic workers.
Slavery is the labor or services that are performed or provided by another person and are obtained or maintained through an actor by cause and/or use of threats, physical threats and/or restraints, abuse of the law an/or legal process, withholding of documents, use of blackmail, and/or use of financial control over any person.
"Modern slavery is usually someone paying a debt, mostly hereditary, passed from grandfather to father to son" During his investigation, Skinner met an Indian man whose hereditary debt "was for a mere .62 cents." But nothing shocked the audience more than his visit to Port-au-Prince in Haiti -where it's reported there are about 200,000 slaves- where he interviewed a child trafficker. In times like these, he had to approach criminals, but "in some cases it wasn't that hard." He didn't have trouble interviewing a trafficker who kept saying he was "Placing them". Skinner found out that people could choose the age and what chores the child would be required to do. Choosing a child "To cook and clean," it was "$100 US but I talked him down to $50." Skinner then compared that an African slave back in the 1816 would have cost $40,000.
Skinner said, before the audience asked, that he didn't want to get involved in trying to rescue a child by buying them not only "to maintain journalistic integrity.", but also since he didn't want to repeat the mistake that American journalist and two-time Pulitzer winner Nick Kristof did. Kristof who had bought a child when doing a similar report, found out a month after helping a girl she was back into prostitution.
Skinner went to interview these poor families "To look into the conditions to which a mother would do this, to either watch her die in her hands or give her an opportunity." To get to these villages known to be used by traffickers to get their prey, Skinner had to take a boat, then a bus, the walk for a few miles to meet with these families who get tricked into thinking their giving their children by selling them to a trafficker. "At least one child was sold to a trafficker from each of the families living in this town."
But he did break his rule when he helped a mother reunite with her daughter, and he paid for a tuition in a private school. He received a letter during the holidays from the girl, who was thankful he saved her. The cost of this was only $84 (US), "It takes $400 to rehabilitate a slave. It would take $10,000,000 to free every slave in the world"
CAST LA is mostly known for helping pass the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000, which is about to expire in October 28. "All of us need to act now," said Executive Director Kay Buck, "Volunteer, get involved. Write your representatives" The Bill offers protection for victims in the form of immigration relief, social services and shelter, as well as prosecution working closely with the police and prevention to raise awareness for global cases.
To find out more information on how to help contact http://www.castla.org/