Modern Day Slavery/Human Trafficking 101

Feb 16, 2011

I realized I just jumped in with this blog and assumed a lot. So I thought I would back it up a bit and give some basic information.

The term Human Trafficking is being used interchangeably with the term Modern Day Slavery. From what I have read it seems that the most accurate and simple word to describe what people were discovering and coming into contact with is “slavery”. But the word “slavey” was too antiquated and most people who casually heard it being used again dismissed it as a word from the past, not something current. So “experts” begin to use different terms and these are what we have today – Human Trafficking or Modern Day Slavery.

Here are some basic questions and answers – I believe a lot of this information I pulled directly from Free the Slaves website ( and International Justice Mission’s website ( This is from some material I used at the very first “home party”of sorts I hosted where I showed IJM’s documentary End of Slavery.

The Facts:

  • The total market value of illicit human trafficking is estimated to be in excess of $32 billion (U.N.)
  • Each year, more than 2 million children are exploited in the global commercial sex trade (UNICEF)
  • 27 million men, women and children are held as slaves. (Kevin Bales, Disposable People)
  • 1 in 5 women is a victim of rape or attempted rape in her lifetime. (U. N. Development Fund for Women)
  • More than 1 million children live in detention, the vast majority awaiting trial for minor offenses. (UNICEF)

What is Slavery?
Slavery is the use of deception or violent coercion to compel someone to labor without pay or for no pay beyond the substance necessary to continue the labor.

Ambassador Mark Lagon, Executive Director of the Polaris Project explains in At the End of Slavery, “Slavery is when someone has their humanity taken away. They’re turned into a thing, a commodity for sale, for sex, or used for forced labor – sometimes by brute violence and coercion, sometimes by manipulation and fraud, but the defining characteristic is dehumanization.”

What does modern-day slavery look like?
Most simply, slavery looks like life without freedom. Victims of slavery are often deprived freedom of movement – they are not free to seek employment elsewhere and are sometimes unable to leave the facility where they are forced to work. Modern-day slaves are abused around the world in variety of industries. Modern-day slavery can take place in a rice mill on a farm; in a brothel or massage parlor; in an industrialized factory or a rudimentary workplace.

I thought slavery ended about 200 years ago. Why is it still around?
Two hundred years ago, heroic abolitionist defeated the trans-Atlantic slave trade through securing the passage of legislation that made this brutal trade illegal. Today, we fight a different battle. Slavery is nearly universally illegal – but millions are still victimized by the crime simply because the laws designed for their protection are not enforced.

For example, a recent, wide-reaching survey conducted by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime found that 40% of countries burdened by human trafficking had not registered a single conviction against perpetrators of the crime, which is crucial for deterrence. The U.N. has determined that 4 billion people live outside the protection of rule of law. In order to end slavery for good, we must ensure that public justice systems – police, courts, laws, etc – protect all people and put traffickers and slave-owners behind bars so they cannot continue to abuse vulnerable people.

How do people become enslaved?
The methods that traffickers and slave-owners employ to entrap their victims vary, but the two universal elements are violent coercion (whether violence is threatened or actually committed) and deception – girls trafficked into brothels may believe that they are accepting a job at a restaurant or hotel; people trafficked into labor slavery may believe they are accepting temporary employment which they will have the freedom to leave.

Debt bondage is a common method of deception used to entrap victims of forced labor slavery. In this illegal scheme, an employer offers a small loan (often as low as $25) to a laborer when they accept a job. The laborer is then forbidden to leave the work facility until the loan is repaid in full but the perpetrator ensures the repayment is impossible by inflating the loan through exorbitant interest rates, false charges and denying request for information on the status of the loan. The employer quickly becomes the worker’s owner – and the debt is often extended to relatives of the laborer, including children, who are forced to work off a false and ever-growing debt.