Foreign Policy Blogs

Human Slavery Today Versus Yesterday Continued…

slaves_in_chains_grayscale.pngPeople are often driven into slavery by sever poverty, sometimes this is based on a general belief that the child sold will bring money back into the family, or that they will have an honest attempt to escape the poverty of the family and community. Other times people are driven into slavery by economic or social necessity, and they themselves may even be the one who approached the idea of working outside the community. Many times a victim of slavery will even pay a large sum for their travel, and what they believe is their visa and placement fee’s. Unbeknownst to them they are paying money to enslaves themselves. These so called fee’s are just another way the traffickers and slave owners exploited the victims. If a victim or their family has not put up a sum of money the traffickers, and slave owners use the travel expenses as the beginning of their reign over their victims. Ledgers are kept to show the slave has a debt to work off, they often included the travel and visa expenses the owner has incurred to get the slave, and the actual cost they paid for the slave. These ledgers continually mount up the expenses, as housing and food is added to the list, and these so called ledgers are almost always falsified in the favor of the slave owner. A victim realizes quickly that there is little they can do to pay off the debt they owe, for they supposedly incur more fees than they will ever make. If a victim of slavery does manage to find a way to pay off her debt the slave owner will more than likely find a way to add additional costs, threaten the victim or their families, or simply re-enslave them.

Victims of slavery and trafficking are often re-enslaved, and I know you are asking yourself, “how is this possible”? The sad reality is that many victims know that their slave owners, or one of their traffickers, have, and will make threats on their families. These treats are very personal and real to the victim, as the traffickers often know where the families live, and what is the victims weaknesses, thus they can make them sub come again. You must remember these are people who have now been both physically and mentally abused on a daily basis. Often the victims return to their homes and are turned away by their families, and are now seen as outcastes by the community. Many victims have been drugged heavily while in captivity and are now facing serious addictions and withdrawals, which may lead them back into the world of human slavery. When, and if they do return home they again face poverty and hardship, and some are then willing to return to their captors, as they feel they are already so victimized and dead inside that if they can endure this hardship, maybe this time they can go into the sex trade with little to no debts and bring money in for their families.

It is easy to see how this is possible when one looks at various cases of Stockholm Syndrome, where victims of abuse, rape, hostages, etc., become sympathetic, or feel a close bond with their attackers or captors. Many victims of human slavery have been victimized, or enslaved, since an early age, some even since infancy. Therefore it is easy to see how one can be customized to the only life they have known, even if it is that of a slave. The world is a scary place all on its own, so if a child of 10 runs away from years of slavery, one can clearly see how their past traumas will effect them and could easily lead them to be enslaved by another or return to their original owner.

There is not a country out there that is free from slavery, it effects our entire global economy. As individual consumers we are all affected by the slavery of our fellow man, as it is helping to shape our global economy. It is difficult to remember, but when you get something at an unbelievable cost, there is someone out there who is paying that cost for you. According to Jolene Smith, Executive Director of Free the Slaves, our growing economy is what has promoted a large revival of slavery, for as the market increases many people flock to cities around the world in search of better opportunities, and thus creating millions of vulnerable people.

Products which are often made by the hands of child slave labor include; cotton, tea, silk, coca, sugar, steal, carpets, diamonds, etc Products like coca/chocolate have been known to be produced with the efforts of child slaves, many who have been trafficked in Western Africa, and can only be guaranteed slave free if they are fair trade. In the report, Combating Child Labor in Cocoa Growing, conducted by the ILO (International Labor Organization), they estimate 200,000 children work on cocoa farms in the Ivory Coast. The Ivory Coast is the worst offender in the coca and slave trade today. Coffee has had a heavy past using slave labor, however it has seen a turn around with the ever growing, and conscious public buying fair trade coffee products. This said it In the article, Is There Slavery in Your Chocolate?, Gary Goldstein of the National Coffee Association Said:

“This industry isn’t responsible for what happens in a foreign country,”

Companies like M&M Mars and Heresy’s, both who claim there is little they can do to change the labor practices of the farms they purchase from, both companies use slave grown coca. Chocolate is now receiving a lot of the same public hype and now campaigns are increasing to see that consumers by slave free chocolate. And while buying fair trade helps immensely it alone is not a solution to the problem, and lets face it most consumers will continue to buy the mass produced, name brands. The main reason we really by slave products, is that as consumers we are unaware. For is price really an option when it comes to the freedom of another human!

Which countries are big in the use of slave labor? Well the list I am afraid it too long to go into in depth in this posting, but the largest contributing country for slave labor is India. African nations have a large number of slaves, slaves can be found in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, China, Nepal, and so many more, including the United States.

Companies with a slave labor history of producing or purchasing, raw materials or end products include; M&M Mars, Heresy, Folgers, Wal-Mart, Nike, Tommy Hilfiger USA, Gap (including Old Navy and Banana Republic), Calvin Klein and Liz Claiborne, are just some of the companies that have in some what benefited from the use of slave labor.

Now you are probably asking yourself; “How do you stay slave free as a consumer?”, “Who do you avoid and what don’t you buy?”, “How do you know something is slave free?”, “Which countries do you watch products from?”. And the truth is, regardless of how much you try to avoid it you cannot escape slavery. I am sure if I go through my things there is something that is slave made or was in part produced by the slave trade. All out boycotts don’t work, as they only exacerbate the situation most of the time, they carry too much risk as they can cause current slaves in the boycotted industry to become enslaved again in a new industry. However as I mentioned, being aware and being a conscious as a consumer and a citizen is the right start.

The only true way to end slavery is education and alternative solutions, both socially and economically. Knowledge and education are key, we must be aware and make sure everyone is aware of the risks, the true nature of the struggle, and face reality that this is a huge issue. We have to stop slavery at its root, slavery continues to thrive in the modern world because its high level of profitability! And unfortunately for many traffickers and slave owners the risks are low, and as long as there is low risk and high profitability, combined with economic necessity, then the trafficking and slavery of other human beings will continue!

We can end human slavery and suffering world wide and we must. The first step is admitting that the issues is a major one that is facing every corner of the globe. Pay attention you never know when you may witness a victim of human slavery.


2006 TIP Report
Human Trafficking
Millions Live in Modern-Day Slavery
New Internationalist; Slavery in the 21st Century
Foreign Affairs: The New Global Slave Trade
I Abolish
Stop Child Poverty
International Labor Rights Fund
National Geographic Map – Slavery by Country with Facts

Fading Hope
Stop Child Slavery

Unfortunately this story will not end anytime soon, so please stay tuned for more on human slavery and other related topics.



Cassandra Clifford

Cassandra Clifford is the Founder and Executive Director of Bridge to Freedom Foundation, which works to enhance and improve the services and opportunities available to survivors of modern slavery. She holds an M.A., International Relations from Dublin City University in Ireland, as well as a B.A., Marketing and A.S., Fashion Merchandise/Marketing from Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island.

Cassandra has previously worked in both the corporate and charity sector for various industries and causes, including; Child Trafficking, Learning Disabilities, Publishing, Marketing, Public Relations and Fashion. Currently Cassandra is conducting independent research on the use of rape as a weapon of war, as well as America’s Pimp Culture and its Impact on Modern Slavery. In addition to her many purists Cassandra is also working to develop a series of children’s books.

Cassandra currently resides in the Washington, D.C. metro area, where she also writes for the Examiner, as the DC Human Rights Examiner, and serves as an active leadership member of DC Stop Modern Slavery.

Areas of Focus:
Children's Rights; Human Rights; Conflict