It is 150 years to the day since John Brown was hanged, and more Africans are being enslaved today than at the height of the infamous Atlantic slave trade.
This at least is the conclusion that can be drawn from United Nations studies in ‘human trafficking’, as the slave trade is now being called. Millions of people each year fall into the modern slave trade, according to UN officials.
“The precise number of people lured into trafficking is unknown. Between the smugglers’ efforts to avoid detection and the low priority given by most governments to monitoring and preventing trafficking, estimates vary widely, notes the UN human rights commissioner’s special rapporteur on human trafficking, Joy Ezeilo. She puts the total number of people trafficked globally last year at about 2.5 million, including more than 1 million children. It is also big business, earning the gangs upwards of $10 bn a year, reports UNICEF.”
Africa is the center of contemporary slavery; within Africa, children and others are enslaved as domestic workers. Exported slaves, most often young women, fuel the sex industries of the ‘advanced’ countries, especially in Europe.
We like to think that our world is making progress, that as humanity develops technologically and economically we are also developing morally and socially. The rise of the new slave trade challenges that easy, comfortable assumption. True, slavery is not as economically important today as it was in the nineteenth century when the slave-dependent cotton industry provided cheap raw materials for the cutting edge textile factories that led the Industrial Revolution. And it is also true that while there are more slaves today than ever before in world history, the percentage of the world’s population held in slavery seems to be in long term decline.
But slavery today is by some measures more brutal and more soul destroying than it was in the past. (more…)