The estimated number of contemporary slaves is 27 million. During the entire three hundred year history of the transatlantic slave trade, 12.5 million Africans were brought in chains to the new world. This means that there are approximately twice as many slaves today as there were Africans transported across the Atlantic.
The rise in population, combined with harsh poverty, social discrimination, and lack of legal protection lead to the continual exploitation and abuse of modern day slavery. Although slavery is illegal in countries worldwide, the practice of human enslavement endures clandestinely.
This Passover, when you read the Haggadah, tell the story of modern day slaves. You can find three modern day slave narratives in the following three post series.
Modern Day Slavery: Sex Slavery in the Philippines
Human trafficking is the fastest growing criminal enterprise in the world. At least 20.9 million adults and children are bought and sold worldwide into commercial sexual servitude, forced labor and bonded labor. About 2 million children are exploited every year in the global commercial sex trade. Almost 6 in 10 identified trafficking survivors were trafficked for sexual exploitation. Women and girls make up 98% of sex trafficking victims.
The commercial sex industry includes prostitution, pornography, strip clubs, or other forms of sexual entertainment where money or other items of value are exchanged for a sex act. Sex trafficking – whether within a country or across national borders – violates basic human rights, including the rights to bodily integrity, equality, dignity, health, security, and freedom from violence and torture.
Alma tells her slave narrative:
During the 1980’s, Olongapo City was a thriving U.S. military base. I was a single-mother of two young children struggling to support my family. The clubs were always busy when the military ships came in.
As a child I dreamed of becoming an accountant. When my brother promised to help pay my tuition, I left Manila for Olongapo City where he lived. Once I arrived though, he admitted that he had no intention of helping me attend college. Instead, he hoped I would “strike it lucky” and marry an American serviceman so I could support our family. After a few months there, I grew frustrated by the lack of jobs and finally agreed to waitress near the U.S. Naval Base at Subic Bay. My brother tried to force me to accompany the servicemen when they requested my company, but I refused.
One day, a serviceman offered the manager a “bar-fine” for me. I refused, saying that I was just a waitress. The manager told me that if I didn’t go, I would lose my job. He threatened to withhold my transfer documents, papers releasing me from his employment and allowing me to work elsewhere. I was scared that my children and I would end up homeless and hungry, so I reluctantly agreed. The American wanted to rent a hotel room, but I told him to give me the money he would spend on a room and accompany me home instead.
I sent my children to my parents because I did not want them to see what their mother was doing to make a living. I tried to avoid doing this again, but my daughter fell ill and I needed money for her medical expenses. During my four years at the club, I had about 30 American “boyfriends.”
In the early 1980s, there were no health programs and nobody knew how to use contraceptives. The Amer-Asian child population boomed. I gave birth to my third child knowing he would never meet his father. Around that time, we started hearing about AIDS. The American guys would line up for condoms before disembarking their ships. However, some of them would just blow the condoms into balloons and toss them around. We couldn’t require a customer to use a condom because he would say, “I paid good money” and get his way.
In my country, women are not given equal opportunities for employment or education, their options are limited and they grow desperate. Because women are often viewed as powerless sex objects they are constantly driven into the sex industry. At times, I too believed that I only existed for men’s pleasure.
Alma was released from sex slavery and co-founded Buklod ng Kababaihan in 1987. The organization is dedicated to raising awareness against prostitution, empowering women and children who were victims of prostitution and trafficking. Buklod is a Filipino word meaning a bond which brings people together.
Alma’s Story was taken from Equality Now
Image by Lisa Kristine
Lisa Kristine photographed the women in Kathmandu, Nepal. They work in “cabin restaurants,” euphemism for forced prostitution. Sexual slaves – women, along with young girls and boys, some as young as seven years old – are forced to provide clients with sexual entertainment, while encouraging them to buy more food and alcohol.
Lisa Kristine TED Talk: Bearing Witness to Modern Slavery