Four Faces of Slavery
Part 1 Becoming a Slave

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BECOMING A SLAVE

People are born into slavery, trapped by debt, lured into bondage, sold into slavery, or abducted. Some become a slave through a combination of these avenues. A young Mexican girl, for instance, can be lured by a middleman into the US with the promise of a good job. Once smuggled into the country, she can be sold to a brothel owner - who then forces her to pay off her "transportation costs" as a prostitute.


Born into Bondage
In the West African country of Mauritania, chattel slavery has existed for centuries, and thrives today. Black African tribes have served as the inherited property of Arabo-Berber masters for generations. According to the rules of this ancient institution, even children of slaves are the master's property. As one Mauritanian slave told an investigator, "My belly belongs to my master." Another remarked: "God created me to be a slave, just as he created the camel to be a camel."


Bonded Slaves
Debt bondage is a system created by severe poverty and perpetuated by heredity. India, Pakistan, and Nepal are just some of the countries where debt bondage exists. For centuries, the destitute have pledged their own labor and that of family members as security against a loan - a loan usually taken out in a time of crisis. Tragically, the original sum is rarely paid off. Workers inevitably incur new debts for food, clothing, and shelter. Additionally, the employer/money lender often charges an exorbitant interest rate and keeps false records.

These practices almost always ensure that families will pass on their enormous debt the next generation. Such a fate befell Shivraj, an agricultural bonded slave in India interviewed by Kevin Bales for his book Disposable People: "I've always lived here, so did my father and grandfather. We've always been here and we've always worked for the same master. When my father died I had to take over his debt, that almost 30 years ago. When he died he owed the master 1,200 rupees ($36), a lot of money!"


Lured into Slavery
Centuries ago, the whip and the chain were the most common tools of the slave trader. Today, deception is more common and, given today's economic disparities, perhaps more effective. Poor Haitians are promised jobs cutting sugar cane in the Dominican Republic. Upon arriving, they do find work in the fields, but for no pay and under the watchful eye of armed guards. Desperate for jobs and a life away from the impoverished, crime-ridden favelas, Brazilian families are lured deep into the Amazon jungle. There, they are forced at gunpoint to make charcoal in dangerous, scorching-hot ovens. And, around the world, young women are offered jobs as waitresses and maids in foreign countries - only to be forced into a life of prostitution.


Sold into Slavery
Sometimes a parent believes the promises of slave traders posing as labor contractors. Sometimes that parent knows better, but he or she still - out of a desperation brought on by tremendous poverty - accepts money for the child. This practice routinely occurs in India, Benin, Nepal, Thailand, and other impoverished countries.


Abducted into Slavery
In Sudan, militias routinely raze villages as part of a government-backed jihad against the southern black African tribes. Captured men are killed, while the women and children are enslaved. As Francis Bok, an escaped slave from Sudan, testified: "In 1986, when I was seven years old, my mother sent me to the market to sell eggs and beans. At the market, militia soldiers attacked. Hundreds of Arabs on horses came into the market shouting. They shot people in the head. They cut off heads with swords. The streets were a river of blood. I was strapped to the side of a donkey and taken to the north."
 

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