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Human Trafficking: The New Slavery
Despite the fact that slavery has been outlawed in every country except North Korea and Myanmar (Burma), approximately 27 million people are presently enslaved across the globe. Put in perspective, this figure represents more than double the number of Africans taken from their homelands during the entire trans-Atlantic slave trade.
While present-day slaves are not bought and sold at public auctions and their owners cannot hold legal title to them, this technicality offers little solace to people who are just as trapped, controlled, exploited, and brutalized as the slaves described in American history books. In fact, in some ways contemporary slaves are worse off than their ante-bellum counterparts. In the 18th and 19th centuries, slaves constituted a sizeable economic investment. In 1850, a typical agricultural slave in Alabama sold for $1,000 to $1,800—an amount which equates to $50,000-$100,000 in contemporary currency.
By contrast, bonded laborers in India today are indentured with small (less than $50) usurious loans while generating enormous annual profits for slave-holders. In the words of Kevin Bales, modern slaves are “disposable people.” When they get sick, injured, or otherwise incapacitated, they are literally thrown out with the trash and replaced by a never ending supply of new captives. In contemporary terms slavery can thus be defined as the holding of people against their wills to exploit their labor. Slaves today are held captive not by the force of law, but by the raw exercise of power and violence.