An impassioned exposé of a thriving slave economy in the world’s poorest regions.
With the appearance of Kevin Bales’s shocking book Disposable People (1999), in which the author claimed there were 27 million slaves in the world—defined as “human beings forced to work, under threat of violence, for no pay”—Bill Clinton became the first U.S. leader to make modern-day slavery a national issue by signing the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. Subsequently, President Bush, at the behest of his Evangelical supporters, has spoken out vociferously against it, empowering a former congressman from Seattle, John Miller, to hunt down slavery rings across the globe and rescue victims, especially women and children. Journalist Skinner went underground to investigate pockets of this slave economy and the plight of its victims. In Haiti, he negotiated with a courtier (a broker) to buy a restavèk (a “stay-with”) for $50, a child taken from a family in the country on the promise of being educated and typically treated as chattel and concubine with impunity. In civil-war-torn Sudan, the author explored the history of Arab raids on southern Dinka villages to seize slaves, a practice sanctioned by the northern (Arab) government as a weapon of war. In Bucharest, he infiltrated a Romani slave market and discovered Moldovan villages drained of women by slave traders. In northern India, he was “overwhelmed” by the scale of bondage. Skinner tracks the crusading efforts of Miller and other faith-based abolitionists and the government’s wrangling over the definition of slavery as a form of genocide (a crime against humanity) versus the euphemistic word “trafficking” (not a crime). The individual slave stories are so numerous and ghastly that readers may feel bludgeoned by the horror.
An important, consciousness-raising book.