Ending slavery: the first step

Aaron Cohen is a slave hunter. He travels abroad, pretends to be a sex tourist, and rescues women as young as eight from bondage and forced prostitution.  – Aaron Cohen, 21st Century Emancipator.

That slavery goes on today shocks and offends me, and I’ve wondered what I can do. But my attention has been elsewhere, and apart from fruitlessly trying to contact an Indonesian NGO some years ago after seeing a documentary, I’ve done nothing.

So – what can I do? The first step is always to become informed.

Cohen and Buckley take the reader on a dangerous, emotionally-draining trip to Cambodia, where we are introduced to his work… he meets three young sisters, all of whom claim to be 18, but whom Cohen knows are younger (the youngest one, he thinks, is eight or nine). He chooses the youngest girl and takes her to a room. He says he just wants to talk and gets some pictures, a process the girl looks accustomed to. At the end of his investigation, he asks for a massage, to convince her that nothing is wrong. She looks relieved.

That very young girls are forced and tricked into prostitution (with or without their parents knowledge) is well known. The rarer, encouraging part of this story is when the police are involved, raids carried out on multiple brothels, and slaves freed.

The destructive effects of trafficking have an impact on all of us. Trafficking weakens legitimate economies, breaks up families, fuels violence, threatens public health and safety, and shreds the social fabric that is necessary for progress. It undermines our long-term efforts to promote peace and prosperity worldwide. And it is an affront to our values and our commitment to human rights.

I was a little surprised by the arguments of economics, violence and social fabric. Slavery is so offensive, so disgusting, that any other reason seem superfluous. And yet clearly, this is not enough. So yes, let’s spell out every reason to end slavery – so that the awareness of this horror spreads into our economic and development discussions, and we don’t (as I have done) let it slip to the back of our mind.

Slavery occurs in every country, including developed countries like United States, Australia, and European countries. There may be slaves closer to you than you would ever have imagined.

What next? Beyond becoming informed (which I’m only beginning to do) I honestly don’t know – I can’t tell you where you should volunteer, or the best people to donate to. So let’s all get informed, and share our insights. As you learn, please leave comments here.

All quotes above are via Aaron Cohen, 21st Century Emancipator.