In January, MSNBC.com posted a report of its four-month investigation into a slavery network emanating in Eastern Europe. Every year, it says, some 200,000 women and girls are smuggled out of impoverished former Soviet countries and sent to the Middle East, Western Europe and the United States, where they’re held captive.
In Haiti, UNICEF reported thousands of children were illegally trafficked out of the country following the devastating earthquakes two years ago. Selling orphaned children as slaves is a common problem following natural disasters, it says.
“Modern-day slavery is an even bigger problem than it was during the years of legalized slave trade from Africa to the Americas,” says Lucia Mann, the daughter of a woman who was held as a sex slave in South Africa in the 1940s. Mann, a former journalist, tells a slightly fictionalized version of her family’s story in Rise Above Hate & Anger (www.luciamann.com).
There are ways individuals can help end the suffering and reach out a hand to victims, says Mann, who created the Modern-Day Slave Reporting Centre as a tool to address the problem. Here are details about the reporting center and other resources.
• At The Modern-Day Slave Reporting Centre, www.mdsrc.org, anyone who suspects a person is being held captive, or any person who is being held their will, can file a report. The information will be reported to law enforcement officers and the person filing can request they remain a confidential source. The Web site also includes links to relevant law-enforcement agencies in Canada and the United States.
• At www.slaveryfootprint.org, people can take a short online survey that calculates the number of slaves working for you around the world based on the clothes, cars, electronic items and other consumer goods you own. The number is calculated according to what’s known about slave labor in the regions where the raw materials are produced and the goods are manufactured. (Google Chrome is required to take the survey.)
• At www.chainstorereaction.com, are email prepared letters and surveys to any of 1,566 companies asking what steps they’re taking to ensure no slave labor is used in their supply chains. Companies who complete the survey and go out of their way to describe ongoing and current efforts are tagged with a “Thank You.” Companies that complete the survey are tagged with “View Response.” As of mid-January, 70 companies ranging from Fruit of the Loom to Campbell’s Soup had earned a “Thank You.” Another 25, including Avon and Best Buy, had completed the survey. Most, though, had not responded despite numerous emails. Duracell, for instance, was sent 432 emails and Bounty was sent 221.
• In California, the Transparency in Supply Chains Act became effective Jan. 1. It requires retailers and manufacturers with gross receipts of $100 million to disclose what they’ve done – or haven’t done – to eliminate slavery in their supply chains. While there are no punitive consequences, advocates say the law will raise awareness and allow consumers to reward or punish companies with their shopping choices. Residents of other states can lobby legislators for a similar law.
“There is nowhere in the world now where slavery is legal, and yet more than 27 million people are held captive as forced laborers or sex slaves,” Mann says. “That’s more than twice the number enslaved during 400 years of trans-Atlantic trading.
Raising Americans’ awareness and concern is the first step to ending slavery, Mann says.
“If there is no money to be made from enslaving people, it will end.”
About Lucia Mann
Lucia Mann was born in British colonial South Africa in the wake of World War II and lives in British Columbia, Canada. She retired from freelance journalism in 1998 and wrote Rise Above Hate & Anger to give voice to those who suffered brutalities and captivity decades ago.