Slaves are in your street, your town…

Free them, plead cam­paign­ers

Daily News - - WORLD -

FROM up­mar­ket Bri­tish and US neigh­bour­hoods to slums in In­dia, peo­ple are trapped in slav­ery in every coun­try with greater ef­forts needed to free them, cam­paign­ers said be­fore a con­fer­ence to­day.

An es­ti­mated 40 mil­lion peo­ple were en­slaved glob­ally last year, with mod­ern slav­ery be­com­ing a catch-all term to de­scribe hu­man traf­fick­ing, forced labour, debt bondage, sex traf­fick­ing and forced mar­riage.

But with the UN’s lat­est global goals call­ing for the end of forced labour, mod­ern slav­ery and hu­man traf­fick­ing by 2030, cam­paign­ers said it was time ev­ery­one stepped up to end this es­ca­lat­ing crime.

Jes­sica Gra­ham, vic­tim ser­vices di­rec­tor at US-based non-profit Sur­vivor’s Ink – that helps women branded by sex traf­fick­ers get dec­o­ra­tive tat­toos to cover their marks – said peo­ple too of­ten chose not to see what was be­fore them.

“There is this com­mon mis­con­cep­tion that this is only hap­pen­ing in poor coun­tries and poor neigh­bour­hoods,” said Gra­ham be­fore the Thom- son Reuters Foun­da­tion’s an­nual Trust Con­fer­ence where one day fo­cuses on slav­ery.

“But many of th­ese girls come from wealthy back­grounds… This is hap­pen­ing ev­ery­where, but peo­ple keep it quiet and choose not to see it.”

Up to 60 000 peo­ple are be­lieved to be liv­ing as slaves in the US, ac­cord­ing to the 2016 Global Slav­ery In­dex.

Gra­ham said four years ago she dis­cov­ered her es­tranged hus­band traf­ficked women for sex – and then found out her great-grand­mother sold her grand­mother for sex.

Her hus­band, whom she left 12 years ago tak­ing their two chil­dren af­ter he turned abu­sive, sold his next girl­friend – with whom he also had a child – for sex.

Six months ago that girl­friend, Jen­nifer Kemp­ton, who founded Sur­vivor’s Ink af­ter six years in sex slav­ery in Ohio, died of an ac­ci­den­tal drug over­dose.

“Sadly, I’ve seen too many sur­vivors un­able to have a nor­mal life be­cause they have a past that haunts them every day. They need help,” said Gra­ham, call­ing for more as­sist- ance for vic­tims to find jobs, hous­ing and re­build their lives.

The Bri­tish gov­ern­ment es­ti­mates there are 13 000 vic­tims of slav­ery in the coun­try, but po­lice say the num­ber is much higher.

“(The) gen­eral pub­lic has re­ally in­creased its aware­ness of mod­ern slav­ery and traf­fick­ing,” said Kevin Bales, pro­fes­sor of con­tem­po­rary slav­ery at Bri­tain’s Univer­sity of Not­ting­ham.

In­dia is home to the great­est num­ber of slaves in the world with es­ti­mates vary­ing from 14 mil­lion to 18 mil­lion.

Ajeet Singh founded the In­dian non-profit Guria in 1993, to fight child pros­ti­tu­tion and sex traf­fick­ing, and has res­cued more than 2 500 peo­ple so far.

Singh said In­dian au­thor­i­ties wanted to crack down on slav­ery, but were ham­pered by cor­rup­tion and weak im­ple­men­ta­tion of laws.

“The at­ti­tude when I started was so dif­fer­ent, but now, from the United States to Bri­tain to In­dia, ev­ery­one is talk­ing about hu­man traf­fick­ing and sex traf­fick­ing,” he said. – Thom­son Reuters Foun­da­tion

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