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."
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
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
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