Take a five-hour flight from New York to Haiti, and you can buy a slave for just $50. That’s the price E. Benjamin Skinner was able to negotiate when he made the trip on Oct. 6, 2005. Skinner, an author, journalist and activist, recounts the details in A World Enslaved, an article published earlier this year in Foreign Policy. (via kottke):
Benavil leans in close. “This is a rather delicate question. Is this someone you want as just a worker? Or also someone who will be a ‘partner’? You understand what I mean?”
You don’t blink at being asked if you want the child for sex. “I mean, is it possible to have someone that could be both?”
“Oui!” Benavil responds enthusiastically.
If you’re interested in taking your purchase back to the United States, Benavil tells you that he can “arrange” the proper papers to make it look as though you’ve adopted the child.
Child slavery is hardly unique to Haiti. Skinner points out that there are more slaves in the world now than at any other point in history—and he’s not simply referring to sweatshop labor or low-paid work. “A slave is a human being forced to work through fraud or threat of violence for no pay beyond subsistence,” Skinner writes, then goes on to show how slavery persists in Africa, Asia, and Europe.
How can we go about attacking this vast problem? While Skinner names some great organizations that are hard at work to help people escape and rehabilitate from slavery, he also points out the huge challenges ahead. For one, many governments around the world have yet to take decisive action against slavery. The U.S., which has yet to formally criticize India’s failure to enforce laws that abolished debt bondage, is one of the countries at fault. According to Skinner, while small organizations can help a few thousand people, millions are enslaved:
Until governments define slavery in appropriately concise terms, prosecute the crime aggressively in all its forms, and encourage groups that empower slaves to free themselves, millions more will remain in bondage. And our collective promise of abolition will continue to mean nothing at all.
Feel depressed and helpless about this world problem? On his own website, Skinner does give us some steps we can take. For one, we can educate ourselves about this pressing issue—Skinner’s handily written a book, A Crime So Monstrous: Face-to-Face with Modern-Day Slavery, to help you with that. Then, spread the word to others—a crucial step, since many people are either unaware or in denial about the widespread existence of slavery today—including your elected officials.
Lastly, Skinner endorses the work of Free The Slaves and Anti-Slavery International, two organizations that “use locally-based strategies through global partners to rehabilitate slaves and eradicate bondage.” You can donate money or find other ways to get involved with the organization.