Monday, September 21, 2009

A World Without Slavery Part I

Over the past few months, the Human Trafficking Project has reported on the impact of the global economic crisis on human trafficking. Increased poverty, gender inequality, desperation, and demand for cheap labor and goods has created a deadly combination. At a recent talk on human trafficking sponsored by LexisNexis, Martina Vandenberg stated that on the balance, she believes we are currently losing the fight against human trafficking.

Despite these bleak trends, many anti-trafficking organizations state that their mission is to create a world free of slavery.
Free the Slaves suggests that slavery can be ended within 25 years; Polaris Project's "vision is for a world without slavery;" the Not For Sale Campaign states that "together we can end slavery in our lifetime."

On the other hand, when I think about what must happen to completely eradicate slavery, I can't help but recall a conversation I had back when I first became involved in the anti-trafficking movement. At the height of my naivete, when asked about ending slavery I talked about ending poverty, racism, gender-based violence, and other forms of inequalities. The person who asked me the question countered that my vision was utopian, and that if ending human trafficking means ending all these other global problems, a world without slavery is impossible.

Given these apparent contradictions, I would like to open a dialog about what it really will take to end human trafficking. Over the next few weeks (and possibly longer), I hope that many of the writers for the Human Trafficking Project can weigh in with their perspectives. I also want to invite readers to be a part of the conversation through the comments section.

Some questions to help spark thoughts: what concrete steps, short-term and long-term, would you advocate for/implement if you could? What do you think is working in the anti-trafficking movement? What isn't? What are the most pressing needs (prevention, victim/survivor services, prosecution, education, etc.)? How do we allocate scarce resource among these needs effectively?

On a more abstract level, what would a world without slavery look like? What other issues are interrelated with human trafficking - ie, is global climate change an anti-trafficking issue? - and what does that mean for the anti-trafficking movement? What roles/responsibilities do we have as people with awareness of this issue?


  1. you pose interesting questions about the issue of human trafficking. MataHari: Eye of the Day based in Boston deals with the trafficking as well as gender, violence and any type of social injustice/oppression. We are a small based group but believe that communities have to be part of the dialogue to end trafficking or any social oppression. The problem is that anti-trafficking cannot be approached without approaching all the things you mentioned such as poverty, racism etc. Everyone can and does say this in theory but very few groups actually implement this idea in their practices and instead choose the role of being the 'saviour'. This saviour ego role has to change before one can step back and really look at how all the issues interact. Ending human trafficking totally is a utopia right now but building infrastructure and understanding about how all these issues are not 'seperate' issues and taking the next step to implement strategies that really truly do treat these issues as all correlated is an important first step.

  2. Anonymous5:30 PM

    Do you know of any good books that talk about this problem?

  3. About the books:
    I haven't read all of these, but they are on my list:
    Slavery Today by Kevin Bales
    Not for Sale by David Batstone
    The Road of Lost Innocence by Somaly Mam
    A Crime so Monsterous by E. Benjamin Skinner
    and also...the book mentioned on this blog a few days ago by Siddhartha Kara

  4. Anonymous11:43 AM

    Another book - Renting Lacy by Linda Smith, founder of Shared Hope International.

  5. I think it would be pretty impossible to eradicate all human trafficking, because I believe that there will always be 'bad' people in the world. HOWEVER, I've recently "converted" to being a conscious consumer as much as possible. I am not shopping for clothes, home goods, etc unless I can purchase ones that are made with fair labor, etc. It's tough to do. I'm learning to spend more for less, in order to support the types of businesses I believe should be supported.