Here is a great good news story about the media. CNN has started a year long quest to fight against slavery. On March 4 Tony Maddox, Executive Vice President and Managing Director of CNN International wrote an emotional and moving editorial on cnn.com/freedom about the status of slavery around the world. He included some shocking statistics, and said CNN is committed to contributing to bringing an end to this inhumane trade.
Currently, the number of slaves globally has been estimated by the International Labor Organization to be over 30 million. Levels of slavery and human trafficking are higher now than they’ve ever been. The UN estimates that the total market value of human trafficking is currently at US$32 billion, which about the same as Exxon’s projected earnings for this year, and is more than twice Walmart’s. In Europe alone some traffickers are making up to US$2.5 billion a year.
Why has it become so popular and profitable? Because nobody is stopping it. Traffickers operate with virtual impunity. This is a much easier business to run than arms or drugs, where the punishment may not fit the crime, but it is something to be avoided.
Not with human trafficking. 161 countries have laws to fight it, but they’re not enforced. At the moment trafficking is relatively a punishment-free zone. There’s also the fact that one commodity – a human – can be used over and over again to make profit. Unlike drugs and crime which are more or less once-off profit-making enterprises.
The inhumanity which people living in today’s world are capable of is impossible to get your head around. Some of the trafficking is forced labor, some of it of course is forced sexual labor – and some is young boys being forced into armies to fight somebody’s war.
Last night I saw a program on forced labor in Indian brick factories. Factory owners lend people a tiny amount of money, which they of course can’t pay back. Then they have to work it off. One woman had borrowed $50 and had been working – together with her children – for two years. Another man and his whole family had been working for 2 generations – to pay off a loan that was $100.
Why don’t they leave? They get beaten up. Which is how traffickers operate. They deceive, kidnap, coerce, torture. Whatever it takes. All of it is unconscionable, and operates because of monstrous greed and vile-minded and spirited people – mostly men, I’m afraid – but also because there’s not enough protection for the victims in the law. Especially not in the countries from where the slaves come.
In times gone by, slaves were bought for a reasonably high price, which meant they were an investment, so their lives were worth something, even though they were horrifically treated. Now children and young women can be bought for as little as US$50 – and because they come so cheap, their live are worthless. If they die, who cares, they don’t cost much to replace. These traffickers are inhuman.
Well, over the next year CNN, committed to using the full range of its resources, will expose as much as it can globally, going to places where victims are ensnared, and then follow the routes taken to the destination markets. It will also highlight the work being done to stop slavery by various organizations and individuals and give exposure to their courageous and inspirational work.
If you want to know more about the project, go to cnn.com/freedom. Other sites are abolishslavery.org and freetheslaves.net