“A trafficker recruited Nina, a 19-year-old from South Eastern
Europe, to work as a waitress, but then raped, beat and drugged
her, forcing her into prostitution” and ultimately a life of
slavery. This is just one account of many detailed in the U.S.
Government’s Trafficking Victims Report.
The idea that slavery can still be taking place in the 21st
century seems shocking, and at first one might assume that this is
a minor problem isolated to some remote part of the world. This,
however, is not the case. The U.S. government puts estimates of
those currently internationally trafficked annually at 4 million
people. National Geographic estimates that the worldwide total
could be close to 27 million. According to most estimates by the
United Nations and the United States, the majority are women and
most are the same age as many of us here at CSU.
How do so many of our peers worldwide end up in these horrible
conditions? The story of Marsha, a trafficking survivor, as
accounted in a State Department report, is a typical story of how
many end up in the hands of traffickers. Marsha says that a “woman
suggested that she could help me get work somewhere abroad. She
told me she had an acquaintance in Germany… for whom I could be a
housemaid. Upon arrival… she said I owed her that money by
providing sexual services to men. I was shocked.” Tales like
Marsha’s can be found in the testimony of many trafficking
survivors. Many of these women, according to Preston Mendonhall of
MSNBC, are from economically depressed former Soviet or Eastern
Europe countries and were lured by the promise of a well-paid job
that would help provide a future for both them and their families.
Half of these women were tricked into slavery, says Mendonhall, by
friends, relatives or acquaintances they trusted.
The trafficking of women in particular is a lucrative business
for the slave traders. Overall, trafficking in human life is
estimated by the United Nations to earn $7 to $10 billion annually
for the slave holders. Most of these traffickers are associated
with criminal syndicates and use this money to buy weapons and
Currently, there is not nearly enough being done to stop this
huge and horrific problem. The United States has the Trafficking
Victims Protection Act, and the United Nations has enacted policies
to attempt to stop the slave trade internationally, but neither has
made a dent. In many of the countries where slave trading is the
worst (such as economically devastated Moldova where an estimated
10 percent of the female population is currently enslaved,
according to MSNBC) the local officials work with the slave
traders. Laws are not severe, and in many cases it ends up being
the women who are punished and jailed, says the State
Colin Powell said, “It is appalling that in the 21st century
hundreds of women, children and men made vulnerable by conflict,
dire economic circumstances, natural disaster or just their own
desire for a better life are trafficked and exploited for the
purposes of sex and forced labor.”
This is appalling, and we should not tolerate our peers
worldwide being forced to face beatings, prostitution and even
death at the hands of slave traders. Signing petitions such as the
first step, and lobbying our government to be a voice in human
rights and working multilaterally with other nations and
conventions to do so is another tactic.
No longer should we hear stories, such as those from Andrew
Cockburn of National Geographic who related cases of “young
girls… enslaved in areas like San Jose’s Gringo Gulch, where a
lot of American sex tourists go for a ‘good time.'” We must be
informed and take a stand against this horrific practice of modern
day slavery and abuse.
Meg is a graduate student at CSU studying Anthropology. She has
traveled to India, Bhutan and Asia to do research on international
culture. The Collegian runs her column every Wednesday.