Quotes from Disposable People, by Kevin Bales


- ‘Slavery is not a horror safely consigned to the past; it continues to exist throughout the world, even in developed countries like France and the United States. Across the world slaves work and sweat and build and suffer. Slaves in Pakistan may have made the shoes you are wearing and the carpet you stand on. Slaves in the Caribbean may have put sugar in your kitchen and toys in the hands of your children. In India they may have sewn the shirt on your back and polished the ring on your finger. They are paid nothing.’ (3-4)
- ‘Slaves keep your costs low and returns on your investments high. Slavery is a booming business and the number of slaves is increasing. People get rich by using slaves. And when they’ve finished with their slaves, they just throw these people away. This is the new slavery, which focuses on big profits and cheap lives. It is not about owning people in the traditional sense of the old slavery, but about controlling them completely. People become completely disposable tools for making money.’ (4)
- ‘While the developed world bemoans the destruction of the rain forests, few people realize that slave labor is used to destroy them. Men are lured to the region by promises of riches in gold dust, and girls as young as eleven are offered jobs in the offices and restaurants that serve the mines. When they arrive in the remote mining areas, the men are locked up and forced to work in the mines; the girls are beaten, raped, and put to work as prostitutes. Their “recruitment agents” are paid a small amount for each body, perhaps $150. The “recruits” have become slaves – not through legal ownership, but through the final authority of violence. The local police act as enforcers to control the slaves.’ (4-5)
- ‘The brothels are incredibly lucrative. The girl who “cost” $150 can be sold for sex up to ten times a night and bring in $10,000 per month. The only expenses are payments to the police and a pittance for food.’ (5)
- ‘Slavery has not, as most of us have been led to believe, ended. To be sure, the word slavery continues to be used to mean all sorts of things, and all too often it has been applied as an easy metaphor. Having just enough money to get by, receiving wages that barely keep you alive, may be called wage slavery, but it is not slavery. Sharecroppers have a hard life, but they are not slaves. Child labor is terrible, but it is not necessarily slavery. We might think slavery is a matter of ownership, but that depends on what we mean by ownership. In the past, slavery entailed one person legally owning another person, but modern slavery is different. Today slavery is illegal everywhere, and there is no more legal ownership of human beings. When people buy slaves today they don’t ask for a receipt or ownership papers, but they do gain control – and they use violence to maintain this control. Slaveholders have all of the benefits of ownership without the legalities. Indeed, for the slaveholders, not having legal ownership is an improvement because they get total control without any responsibility for what they own. For that reason I tend to use the term slaveholder instead of slaveowner.’ (5)
- ‘I was perplexed that this most fundamental human right was still not assured – and that no one seemed to know or care about it. Millions of people were actively working against the nuclear threat, against apartheid in South Africa, against famine in Ethiopia, yet slavery wasn’t even on the map. The more this realization dug into me, the more I knew I had to do something. Slavery is an obscenity. It is not just stealing someone’s labor; it is the theft of an entire life. It is more closely related to the concentration camp than to question of bad working conditions. There seems nothing to debate about slavery: it must stop. My question became: What can I do to bring an end to slavery? I decided to use my skills as a social researcher, and I embarked on the project that led to this book.’ (7-8)
- ‘My best estimate of the number of slaves in the world today is 27 million. This number is much smaller than the estimates put forward by some activists, who give a range as high as 200 million, but it is the number I feel I can trust; it is also the number that fits my strict definition of slavery. The biggest part of that 27 million, perhaps 15 to 20 million, is represented by bonded labor in IndiaPakistanBangladesh, and Nepal. Bonded labor or debt bondage happens when people give themselves into slavery as security against a loan or when they inherit a debt from a relative (we’ll look at this more closely later). Otherwise slavery tends to be concentrated in Southeast Asia, northern and western Africa, and parts of South America (but there are some slaves in almost every country in the world, including the United StatesJapan, and many European countries). There are more slaves alive today than all the people stolen from Africa in the time of the transatlantic slave trade.’ (8-9)
- ‘These slaves tend to be used in simple, nontechnological, and traditional work. The largest group work in agriculture. But slaves are used in many other kinds of labor: brickmaking, mining or quarrying, prostitution, gem working and jewelry making, cloth and carpet making, and domestic service; they clear forests, make charcoal, and work in shops.’ (9)
- ‘In addition, large international corporations, acting through subsidiaries in the developing world, take advantage of slave labor to improve their bottom line and increase the dividends to their shareholders.’ (9)
- ‘No paid workers, no matter how efficient, can compete economically with unpaid workers – slaves. In the new slavery race means little. In the past, ethnic and racial differences were used to explain and excuse slavery…Today the morality of money overrides other concerns. Most slaveholders feel no need to explain or defend their chosen method of labor recruitment and management. Slavery is a very profitable business, and a good bottom line is justification enough.’ (10)
- ‘The question [now] isn’t “Are they the right color to be slaves?” but “Are they vulnerable enough to be enslaved?” ’ (11)
- ‘Only in one country, Mauritania, does the racism of the old slavery persist – there black slaves are held by Arab slaveholders, and race is a key division.’ (11)
- ‘Buying a slave is no longer a major investment, like buying a car or a house (as it was in the old slavery); it is more like buying an inexpensive bicycle or a cheap computer. Slaveholders get all the work they can out of their slaves, and then throw them away.’ (14)
- ‘When old-style slavery is still practiced, bondage lasts forever. A Mauritanian woman born into slavery has a good chance of remaining so for the rest of her life. Her children, if she has any, will also be slaves, and so on down the generations. But today most slaves are temporary; some are enslaved for only a few months. It is simply not profitable to keep them when they are not immediately useful. Under these circumstances, there is no reason to invest heavily in their upkeep and indeed little reason to ensure that they survive their enslavement.’ (15)
- ‘In comparison, consider the agricultural slaves in debt bondage in India now. There land rather than labor is at a premium today. India’s population has boomed, currently totaling three times that of the United States is a country with one-third the space. The glut of potential workers means that free labor must regularly compete with slave, and the resulting pressure on agricultural wages pushes free laborers toward bondage. When free farmers run out of money, when a crop fails or a member of the family becomes ill and needs medicine, they have few choices. Faced with a crisis, they borrow enough money from a local landowner to meet the crisis, but having no other possessions, they must use their own lives as collateral.’ (16)
- ‘The girls might be sold by their parents to a broker, or tricked by an agent; once away from their homes they are brutalized and enslaved, then sold to a brothel owner. The brothel owners place the girls in debt bondage and tell them they must pay back their purchase price, plus interest, through prostitution.’ (18)
- ‘This form of contract debt bondage is extremely profitable. A girl between twelve and fifteen years old can be purchased for $800 to $2,000, and the costs of running a brothel and feeding the girls are relatively low. The profit is often as high as 800 percent a year. This kind of return can be made on a girl for five to ten years. After that, especially if she becomes ill or HIV-positive, the girl is dumped.’ (18-19)
- ‘Chattel slavery is the form closest to the old slavery. A person is captured, born, or sold into permanent servitude, and ownership is often asserted. The slave’s children are normally treated as property as well and can be sold by the slaveholder. Occasionally, these slaves are kept as items of conspicuous consumption. This form is most often found in northern and western Africa and some Arab countries, but it represents a very small proportion of slaves in the modern world.’ (19)
- ‘Debt bondage is the most common form of slavery in the world. A person pledges him- or herself against a loan of money, but the length and nature of the service are not defined and the labor does not reduce the original debt. The debt can be passed won to subsequent generations, thus enslaving offspring; moreover, “defaulting” can be punished by seizing or selling children into further debt bonds. Ownership is not normally asserted, but there is complete physical control of the bonded laborer. Debt bondage is most common on the Indian subcontinent.’ (19-20)
- ‘Contract slavery shows how modern labor relations are used to hide the new slavery. Contracts are offered that guarantee employment, perhaps in a workshop or factory, but when the workers are taken to their place of work they find themselves enslaved. The contract is used as an enticement to trick an individual into slavery, as well as a way of making the slavery look legitimate. If legal questions are raised, the contract can be produced, but the reality is that the “contract worker” is a slave, threatened by violence, lacking any freedom of movement, and paid nothing. The most rapidly growing form of slavery, this is the second-largest form today. Contract slavery is most often found in Southeast AsiaBrazil, some Arab states, and some parts of the Indian subcontinent.’ (20)
- ‘In Burma today, there is widespread capture and enslavement of civilians by the government and the army. Tens of thousands of men, women, and children are used as laborers or bearers in military campaigns against indigenous peoples or on government construction projects. The Burmese military dictatorship doesn’t suggest that it owns the people it has enslaved – in fact, it denies enslaving anyone – but the U.S. State Department and human rights organizations confirm that violence is used to hold a large number of people in bondage. Once again, the motive is economic gain: not to generate profits but to save transportation or production costs in the war effort, or labor costs in construction projects. One major project is the natural gas pipeline that Burma is building in partnership with the U.S. oil company Unocal, the French oil company Total, and the Thai company PTT Exploration and Production. These three companies are often featured in international and global mutual investment funds.’ (21)
- ‘Several thousand girls and young women are given by their families as slaves to local fetish priests in southeastern GhanaTogoBenin, and southwestern Nigeria. In a custom very alien to Western sensibilities the girls are enslaved in order to atone for sins committed by members of their families, often rape. The girls may, in fact, by the products of rape, and their slavery is seen as a way of appeasing the gods for that or other crimes committed by their male relatives. A girl, who must be a virgin, is given to the local priest as a slave when she is about ten years old. The girl then stays with the priest – cooking, cleaning, farming, and serving him sexually – until he frees her, usually after she has borne several children. At that point the slave’s family must provide another young girl to replace her.’ (21-22)
- ‘A recent investigation in Great Britain found young girls held in slavery and forced to be prostitutes in Birmingham and Manchester. Enslaved domestic workers have been found and freed inLondon and Paris. In the United States farmworkers have been found locked inside barracks and working under armed guards as field slaves. Enslaved Thai and Philippine women have been freed from brothels in New YorkSeattle, and Los Angeles. This list could go on and on. Almost all of the countries where slavery “cannot” exist have slaves inside their borders – but, it must be said, in very small numbers compared to the Indian subcontinent and the Far East. The important is that slaves constitute a vast workforce supporting the global economy we all depend upon.’ (22)
- ‘Bringing down criminals by investigating their finances and enforcing economic sanctions has been shown to be effective, yet these techniques are rarely applied to the crime of slavery. The power of a great range of organizations – the World Bank, national regulatory agencies, trade organizations, regional customs and excise units, individual companies, consumer groups – could be harnessed to break the profits of slavers.’ (24)
- ‘Brazilian coffee farms in the 1800s shows that the productivity of slaves was linked to their age. Children did not bring in more than they cost until the age of ten or twelve, though they were put to work as early as possible. Productivity and profits to be made from a slave peaked at about age thirty and fell off sharply when a slave was fifty or more. Slavery was profitable, but the profitability was diminished by the cost of keeping infants, small children, and unproductive old people. The new slavery avoids this extra cost and so increases its profits.’ (24-25)
- ‘Since slavery is illegal in all countries, it must be concealed. Even in places where the police work hand in hand with the slaveholders and share in their profits, no one wants to advertise the fact that he or she is a slaveholder. It may be that local custom and culture support slavery and that most of the population knows of its existence, but admitting it is something else again.’ (26-27)
- ‘In Europe and North America the police fight organized crime; in Thailand the police are organized crime. The same holds true for many parts of Africa and Asia.’ (29)
- ‘When Siri wakes it is about noon. In the instant of waking she knows exactly who and what she has become. As she explained to me, the soreness in her genitals reminds her of the fifteen men she had sex with the night before. Siri is fifteen years old. Sold by her parents a year ago, her resistance and her desire to escape the brothel are breaking down and acceptance and resignation are taking their place.’ (34)
- ‘Because she looks like a child she can be sold as a “new” girl at a higher price, about $15, which is more than twice that charged for the other girls. Siri is very frightened that she will get AIDS. Long before she understood prostitution she knew about HIV, as many girls from her village returned home to die from AIDS after being sold into the brothels. Every day she prays to Buddha, trying to earn the merit that will preserve her from the disease. She also tries to insist that her clients use condoms, and in most cases she is successful as the pimp backs her up. But when policemen use her, or the pimp himself, they will do as they please; if she tries to insist, she will be beaten and raped. She also fears pregnancy, and like the other girls she receives injections of the contraceptive drug Depo-Provera. Once a month she has an HIV test, and so far it has been negative. She knows that if she tests positive she will be thrown out of the brothel to starve.’ (36)
- ‘For hundreds of years many people in the north, struggling for life, have been forced to view their own children as commodities. A failed harvest, the death of a key breadwinner, or any serious debt incurred by a family might lead to the sale of a daughter (never a son) as a slave or servant.’ (38)
- ‘Religion helped provide two important justifications for such sales of daughters. Within the type of Buddhism followed in Thailand, women are regarded as distinctly inferior to men. A woman cannot, for example, attain enlightenment, which is the ultimate goal of the devout. On the ladder of existence women are well below men, and only if she is especially careful might a woman hope to be reborn as a man in her next life.’ (38)
- ‘Most girls are purchased from parents as Siri was, but for others the enslavement is much more direct. Throughout Thailand agents travel to villages offering work in factories or as domestics. Sometimes they bribe local officials to vouch for them or they befriend the monks at the local temple to gain introductions. Lured by the promise of good jobs and the money that the daughters will send back to the village, the deceived families send their girls with the agent, often paying for the privilege. Once they arrive in a city, the girls are sold to brothels where they are raped, beaten, and locked in. Still other girls are simply kidnapped. This is especially true of women and children who have come to visit relatives in Thailand from Burma or Laos. At bus and train stations gangs watch for women and children that can be snatched or drugged for shipment to brothels.’ (42)
- ‘Recent research found that young girls know that their sisters and neighbors have become prostitutes, but when asked what it means to be a prostitute their most common answer was “wearing Western clothes in a restaurant.” Drawn by this glamorous life, they put up little opposition to being sent away with the brokers to swell an already booming sex industry.’ (43)
- ‘By my own conservative estimate there are perhaps 35,000 girls like Siri enslaved in Thailand.’ (43)
- ‘Enslaved girls service the lowest end of the market: the laborers, students, and workers who can afford only the 100 baht per half hour rate. It is low-cost sex in volume, and the demand is always there. For Thai men, buying a woman is much like buying a round of drinks.’ (44)
- ‘Several recent studies show that between 80 and 87 percent of Thai men have had sex with a prostitute. Up to 90 percent report that their first sexual experience was with a prostitute. Somewhere between 10 and 40 percent of married men paid for commercial sex within the past twelve months, as have up to 50 percent of single men.’ (45)
- ‘Commercial sex is a social event, part of a good night out with friends.’ (45)
- ‘Most Thais, men and women feel that commercial sex is an acceptable part of an ordinary outing for single men, and about two-thirds of men and one-third of women feel the same about married men.’ (46)
- ‘Who are these modern slaveholders? The answer is anyone and everyone: anyone, that is, with a little capital to invest. The people that appear to own the enslaved prostitutes – the pimps, madams, and brothel keepers – are in fact usually just employees. As hired muscle, pimps and their helpers provide the brutality that controls women and makes possible their commercial exploitation.’ (48)
- ‘The real slaveowners tend to be middle-aged businessmen. They fit seamlessly into the community, and they suffer no social discrimination for what they do. If anything, they are admired as successful, diversified capitalists. Brothel ownership is normally only one of many business interests for the slaveholder.’ (50)
- ‘Looking to the developed countries they see investors putting their money into stock-market mutual funds on the basis of returns above all else – and that the portfolio might include firms making land mines or instruments of torture need not concern anyone.’ (51)
- ‘Forced prostitution is a great business. The overheads are low, the turnover high, and the profits immense.’ (53)
- ‘Bribes are not exorbitant or unpredictable; in most brothels a policeman stops by once a day to pick up 200 to 400 baht ($8 to $16), a monthly expenditure of about 6,000 baht ($240) that is topped off by giving the policeman a girl for an hour if he seems interested.’ (54)
- ‘To deflower a virgin these men pay between 5,000 and 50,000 baht ($200 to $2,000). Deflowering often takes place away from the brothel in a hotel room rented for the occasion. The pimp or his assistant will often attend as well, since it is usually necessary to beat the girl into submission.’ (56)
- ‘The girl does whatever it takes to reduce the pain, to adjust mentally to a life that means being used by fifteen men a day. The reaction to this abuse takes many forms: lethargy, aggression, self-loathing, and suicide attempts, confusion, self-abuse, depression, full-blown psychoses, and hallucinations. Girls who have been freed and taken in to shelters are found to have all these. Rehabilitation workers report that the girls suffer emotional instability; they are unable to trust or form relationships, to readjust to the world outside the brothel, or to learn and develop normally. Unfortunately, psychological counseling is virtually unknown in Thailand, as there is a strong cultural pressure to keep any mental problems hidden, and little therapeutic work is done with girls freed from brothels. The long-term impact of this experience is unknown.’ (59)
- ‘Their reactions mirror the words of the psychologist R. D. Laing, who declared that some kinds of mental illness were strategies “invented in order to live in an unlivable situation.” Within the brothels perhaps half of the sex slaves escape into a state of trauma and withdrawal; the other half find a more active adaptation, which may include close identification with the pimp or slaveholder.’ (61)
- ‘Criminal gangs, usually Chinese or Vietnamese, also controls brothels in the United States that enslave Thai women. Police raids in New YorkSeattleSan Diego, and Los Angeles have freed over a hundred girls and women. In New York City thirty Thai women were locked into the upper floors of a building used as a brothel. Iron bars sealed the windows and a series of buzzer-operated armored gates blocked exit to the street. During police raids the women were herded into a secret basement room. At her trail the brothel owner testified that she bought the women outright, paying between $6,000 and $15,000 each. The women were charged $300 per week for room and board; they worked from 11 A.M. till 4 A.M. and were sold by the hour to clients.’ (70)
- ‘In 1980 the vice premier [of Thailand] encouraged the provincial governors to create more sex establishments to bring tourism to the provinces: “Within the next two years we need money. Therefore, I ask all governors to consider the natural scenery in your provinces, together with some forms of entertainment that some of you might thin of as disgusting and shameful, because we have to consider the jobs that will be created.” Thailand’s economic boom included a sharp increase in sex tourism tacitly backed by government.’ (75)
- ‘It is important to understand that the direct link between sex tourism and slavery is small. With the exception of children sold to pedophiles, most commercial sex workers serving the tourist boom are not slaves. There is no question that the women and girls working with sex tourists suffer extreme exploitation and degradation, but most are not enslaved through the debt bondage that captures girls into brothels used almost exclusively through the debt bondage that captures girls into brothels used almost exclusively by poor and working-class Thai men. However, the indirect connection is crucial: sex tourism has created a new business climate conducive to sexual slavery.’ (76)
- ‘For the [third of the population] who had been legally freed in 1980, life did not change at all. True, the government abolished slavery, but no one bothered to tell the slaves about it. Some have never learned of their legal freedom, some did so years later, and for most legal freedom was never translated into actual freedom. In Mauritania today there is no slavery, and yet everywhere you look, on every street corner and shop, in every field and pasture, you see slaves. Slaves are sweeping and cleaning, they are cooking and caring for children, they are building houses and tending sheep, and they are hauling water and bricks – they are doing every job that is hard, onerous, and dirty. Mauritania’s economy rests squarely on their backs, and the pleasant lives of their masters, and even the lives of those who keep no slaves, are supported by their never-ending toil.’ (81)
- ‘It is illegal to take pictures on the street – carrying a video camera means instant detention, and the police are everywhere. A policeman stands on practically every corner in the capital, and to drive anywhere means constant stops at police roadblocks where your papers and passport are checked again and again.’ (82)
- ‘Mauritania is a police state hiding the dirty secret of slavery. What I found was a kind of slavery practiced hundreds of years ago, and now existing nowhere else in the world.’ (83)
- ‘Today we think of the slavery of the nineteenth century as exemplifying “old” slavery. But to understand Mauritanian slavery we must go back even further, to the slavery of Old Testament times. It both treats the slaves more humanely and leaves them more helpless, a slavery that is less a political reality than a permanent part of the culture. It places a greater value on the bodies and lives of slaves, especially female slaves, than do other forms of slavery. It is so deeply ingrained in the minds of both slave and master that little violence is needed to keep it going. The lack of overt violence has also allowed many outside observers, like the French and American governments, to deny that this slavery even exists.’ (83)
- ‘In 1980, probably as a condition of financial aid from Saudi ArabiaMauritania implemented the Sharia, the extreme religious law of Islamic countries.’ (85)
- ‘Though they are infrequently sold [in Mauritania], a young male slave might go for $500 to $700, a mature female for $700 to $1,000, and a young and healthy female for even more.’ (86)
- ‘The Mauritanian government, though admitting that hundreds of thousands of “ex-slaves” do unpaid work in exchange for food and clothing, insists this is not slavery.’ (88)
- ‘To understand this slavery that is not slavery, we must remember the Mauritanian context.’ (88)
- ‘Mauritania is another one of the African nations created artificially by European colonists. The country is vast and empty. It is about the same size as Columbia, or the American states ofCalifornia and Texas combined, yet it holds only a little more than 2 million people, giving it the lowest population density on earth. Mauritania is practically all desert: it is really just the western end of the great Sahara. Over one-third of the country, the eastern region that borders Mali, is know as the “empty zone.” Here, in an area the size of Great Britain, there are no towns, no roads, and virtually no people.’ (91)
- ‘Mauritania is an economic basket case. The country carries a staggering foreign debt of over $2.5 billion – more than five times its total annual export earnings. Per capita income has been falling steadily and is now about $480 per year, making its population one of the poorest on earth.’ (94-95)
- ‘Average life expectancy for a male Mauritanian is only forty-one years, and somewhat less for slaves. One finds that withered, ancient-looking slave women are in their thirties; and slave children are bony and stunted, often showing cuts and wounds that are slow to heal on their malnourished bodies. Children are everywhere: nearly half of the population is under the age of fourteen. This doesn’t lessen productivity, however, since slave children receive no schooling and go to work at the age of five or six. In the town of Boutilimit, behind the large White Moor houses with courtyards, I found lean-tos and shacks that I first took to be crude shelters for goats. From these emerged very dirty slave children dressed in rags. At the same moment White Moor children in bright boubous passed up the street carrying books and satchels, on their way to school.’ (97)
- ‘Slaves like Bilal get a portion of rice each day and whatever scraps are left over from the meal prepared for the master. The slave’s meal is often rice mixed with the water in which the master’s meat has been boiled. If the master has vegetables or potatoes with his meat, Bilal may get the peels and edible scraps.’ (104)
- ‘Slaves are taught that only if they obey their masters will they go to heaven.’ (106)
- ‘Deeply believing that God wants and expects them to be loyal to their masters, they reject freedom as wrong, even traitorous. To struggle for liberty, in their view, is to upset God’s natural order and put one’s very soul at risk.’ (108)
- ‘Most claims raised by slaves and ex-slaves are never heard by the courts. Since there are no laws on the books concerning the rights of slaves or setting punishments for enslavement, the Hakem (provincial officials) and the Wali (regional governors) simply refuse to hear complaints from slaves or to register their claims.’ (110)
- ‘By moving the children around other households, lending or selling them to friends or relatives, slaveholders tie down slave women, effectively holding their children hostage.’ (111)
- ‘Whenever abolition has been discussed the reaction has been immediate: masters step up their brutality, ship their slaves into the isolated countryside, and separate children from parents to serve as hostages. If the government were to pass and enforce laws to bring slavery to an end, chances are good that it would be the government, not slavery, that failed to survive. Second, even the successful abolition of slavery could be sowing the seeds of the government’s destruction. Slaves are effectively non-citizens, systematically denied all political rights. If slaves become functioning members of society, White Moor control of the country would be under threat.’ (112-113)
- ‘The United States and France, two key supporters of the Mauritanian regime, need the country as a buffer against the Islamic fundamentalists of Algeria and Libya…To prop up the Mauritanian government, the United States and France provide the regime with both large shipments of material aid and great bundles of political excuses. The French, as we have seen, praise the government as democratic and fund large development projects, studiously ignoring questions of slavery. The Americans deflect any suggestions of widespread enslavement in the country.’ (116-117)
- ‘The space between the old forests and “civilization” is a battle zone where the old rules are dead and the new rules are yet to come into force. As the native ecosystem and peoples are uprooted, displaced workers, even the urban unemployed, become vulnerable to enslavement.’ (121-122)
- ‘We tend to picture environmental destruction as huge bulldozers gouging their way through pristine forests, crushing life under their steel tracks, scraping away nature in order to cover the land with concrete. In fact the process is more insidious. In this case, the people who live in the forest and rely on it are usually the ones forced to destroy it. Tree by tree, the hands of slave wrench the life out of their own land and prepare it for a new kind of exploitation. The slavery of Brazil is a temporary slavery because environmental destruction is temporary: a forest can only be ruined once, and it doesn’t take that long.’ (122)
- ‘From the beginning of colonization until late in the nineteenth century slaves were transported from Africa to Brazil in huge numbers. As many as ten times more Africans were shipped toBrazil than to the United States: something on the order of 10 million people.’ (123)
- ‘Whole families in the eastern cities teeter on the edge of starvation: some live in the public rubbish dumps gleaning scraps of metal to sell, others beg, and some turn to selling drugs. These families are trapped and are willing to do anything to bring in food for their children. When recruiters arrive in the cities of Minas Gerais promising good work at good pay, they leap at the chance.’ (126)
- ‘For the workers who have to climb inside the still-burning ovens to empty charcoal the heat is unimaginable. When I got inside an oven with a man shoveling the charcoal, the pressure of the heat had my head swimming in minutes, sweat drenched my clothes, and the floor of hot coals burned my feet through my heavy boots. The pointed roof concentrated the heat and in a few moments I was addled, panicky, and limp. The workers hover on the edge of heatstroke and dehydration. Sometimes in their conversation they were confused as if their brains had been baked. The workers who empty the ovens stay almost naked, but this exposes their skin to burns. Sometimes standing on the piles of charcoal they will stumble or the charcoal will give way and they will fall into red-hot coals. All of the charcoal workers I met had hands, arms, and legs crisscrossed with ugly burn scars, some still swollen and festering.’ (131)
- ‘If central government inspectors or human rights activists find and publicize the use of slaves, the companies can express horror, dump (temporarily) the guilty [recruiters], tighten up security to prevent further inspections, and go on as before.’ (143)
- ‘The demonstration project is window dressing. Using money from foreign charities, the government has set up an island of good treatment in an ocean of exploitation. It wasn’t easy to separate the charcoal workers from the ever-watchful government officials, but when we did we learned a great deal. Through they were extremely happy with their living conditions, the workers explained that their relations with the landowner…were unchanged. While not enslaved, they continue to work for a pittance, in the same dangerous conditions, and without any say in the work they do. From what they understood, the landowner was laughing all the way to the bank: he had his workers making charcoal at the usual high profit; the government was paying him rent and building roads, houses, and barns on his land; and the foreign charities were providing food and medical care for his workers.’ (146)
- ‘For all the hypocrisy evident in the swift end to child labor in the charcoal camps and the setting up of the demonstration project, there are important lessons to be noted in what happened. The sudden reversals and changes in government policy after years of inaction suggest tactics and strategies that can be brought to bear on slavery. The first key point is the very real power of the media. The combination of a BBC documentary and a New York Times front-page article alerted those who had the power to influence Brazilian officials. The second key point is more important: it was economic pressure that brought about the rapid and demonstrable improvements in the charcoal camps. If we are looking for ways to bring people out of bondage, we have to recognize that money shouts where pleas for human rights go unheard.’ (146-147)
- ‘Purely political or economic attempts to end slavery in the developing world rarely work. When human rights compete with profit, profit wins. If North American and European governments are going to make a dent in slavery, they must work through tight controls on the businesses that are involved, even indirectly, in the use of slave labor.’ (147)
- ‘The slavery in the charcoal camps…is just one example of many, many kinds of bondage in the country. Slaves cut down the Amazon rain forests and harvest the sugarcane. They mine gold and precious stones or work as prostitutes. The rubber industry relies on slavery, as does cattle and timber.’ (147)
- ‘If not thwarted by rain, the family might earn 700 to 800 rupees ($14 to $16) in a good week. But the costs of the minimum essentials needed to keep a family alive are exactly this amount. On weekly earnings of 700 rupees, a family of four of vie can have a bare diet of wheat roti (flat, unleavened bread), vegetable oil, lentils, onions, and sometimes a few other vegetables.’ (156)
- ‘By telling the kiln owners that we were economists interested in overheard rates, fuel costs, transportation charges, and taxation we learned a great deal about the nature of the brick business. Sooner or later the subject of the workers and the system…of advance payment and debt bondage would come up, since labor costs made up part of the kiln’s budget.’ (161)
- ‘The result is a debt that can never be paid off, no matter how hard the family works. This is what the United Nations focused on in defining debt bondage in the Supplemental Convention on the Abolition of Slavery (1956). According to this document, debt bondage occurs when someone is working or providing services against a debt but “the value of those services as reasonably assessed is not applied towards the liquidation of the debt or the length and nature of those services are not respectively limited and defined.” In other words, the family is trapped by dishonest accounting.’ (167-168)
- ‘This historical point is important to help us understand the context of debt bondage: in Pakistan feudalism is alive and well.’ (171)
- ‘The United Nations special reporter, Nigel Rodley, stated that “torture of persons in the custody of the police and paramilitary is endemic, widespread, and systemic in Pakistan. Torture is inflicted to obtain information, to punish, humiliate, or intimidate, to take revenge or to extract money from detainees or their families.” He then went on to number a horrific list of specific tortures, which included rape, electric shocks to genitalia, and use of an electric drill to bore holes into parts of the body. When the police become criminals, slavery can take root. The violent enforcement of debt bondage is a key element of the new slavery.’ (179)
- ‘What’s it like being an Indian farm laborer in debt bondage? You can get a sense of their daily life by trying the following experiment at home. In the kitchen find a bag of rice, or even better some plain, unground wheat. Fill up a coffee mug four times with the rice or wheat. Now feed a family of five for one day with the grain you have measured out. For every meal you’ll need to give each person only one-third of a coffee mug of grain so that it will last all day. If you are having wheat, you’ll need to grind it into flour and mix it with water to make soft unleavened bread. If it’s rice you can just boil it as usually. Repeat this recipe every day for the rest of your life.’ (195)
- ‘Children also form a large part of the bonded workforce in India. A particularly well-known group are the children that produce fireworks and matches…Some 45,000 children work in these factories, making this perhaps the largest concentration of child laborers in the world. Between 3 A.M. and 5 A.M. every morning, buses from the factories visit the villages in the surrounding countryside. Local agents have enlisted the children, whose ages range from three and a half to fifteen, paying an advance to their parents and creating the debt bond.’ (200)
- ‘Their debts tend to arise from one of two problems: either an urgent crisis – illness, injury, or famine – or the need to pay for death rites or marriage celebrations.’ (202)
- ‘Corruption often touches the programs that aim to free bonded workers. The schemes originating in the capital commonly are enforced at the local level by officials who work hand in glove with the local landlords. As we’ll see later, several studies have shown that rehabilitation programs can be a curse as well as a blessing. But sometimes they do succeed.’ (215)
- ‘The landlord’s sons usually receive higher education and take jobs in local government or business in the city.’ (221)
- ‘Some activists organize public meetings where the freed laborers are told about their rights and what they can expect in rehabilitation. This knowledge, once acquired, is like a vaccination against bondage. And given sufficient and appropriate resources for independence, most laborers are capable of holding their own. They are used to hard work and squeezing a living out of little.’ (226-227)
- ‘All across India tens of thousands of “ghost” bonded laborers have appeared, concocted by district officials in league with landlords who have collected millions of rupees for their “rehabilitation.” ’ (227)
- ‘Virtually no landlord has ever been prosecuted for abusing bonded laborers. The law allows masters to be charged and punished, but it simply doesn’t happen. The reformers had assumed that it was not necessary to fine every landlord who had bonded laborers so long as there was no interference with rehabilitation, but the almost total lack of judicial backup has meant that some landlords feel free to threaten and coerce laborers back into bondage.’ (228)
- ‘Freed laborers should have a say in the type of rehabilitation they receive.
Rehabilitation should be organized so that freedom is immediately followed by training and support.
The land given to freed laborers should be capable of producing food, and the laborer should be given a clear and ironclad deed to the property.
There should be some funds set aside for low-interest loans and emergency grants in the first few years of freedom.
The follow-up support should include helping laborers to set up small credit unions.
Some low-level government jobs should be set aside for freed laborers.
More education should be available to the children of freed laborers.
More control the rehabilitation process should pass to the central government.
Small grants should be made available to pay for funeral and wedding expenses, since these are often what force laborers to borrow from landlords.’ Indian National Academy of Administration report (229)
- ‘Bondage can be compared to living in a prison or a mental institution; those who get out have to learn about living in the “real world.” Like some ex-convicts, some ex-slaves may never manage it, but their chances are increased with every bit of help they receive in the crucial first days of freedom.’ (229)
- ‘Three key factors helped create the new slavery and change the old slavery. The first is the population explosion that flooded the world’s labor markets with millions of poor and vulnerable people. The second is the revolution of economic globalization and modernized agriculture, which has dispossessed poor farmers and made them vulnerable to enslavement…The third factor is the chaos of greed, violence, and corruption created by this economic change in many developing countries, change that is destroying the social rules and traditional bonds of responsibility that might have protected potential slaves.’ (232)
- ‘The best contraceptives in the world – education and social protection against poverty in old age and illness – are also the best guard against enslavement. When families have a sudden need for cash, perhaps to buy medicine, they become vulnerable to enslavement. Lacking education they are prey to bogus contracts and dishonest accounting. In the long term, wiping out slavery requires helping the world’s poor to gain greater control over their lives.’ (234-235)
- ‘In the nineteenth century the booming British cloth industry was forced to acknowledge that slave labor supplied most of its raw material – cotton. Some British textile workers tried to resist working with slave cotton, yet many felt they had no choice but to work with whatever materials the boss provided. Other workers felt the whole question was none of their business. There was no moral leadership from the owners; they said they had to buy the cheapest cotton the market to compete. And the government of the time, while benefiting from the tax on the industry, followed a strict hands-off policy, arguing that “the market” made the best decisions.’ (235)
- ‘The late 1990s controversy in the United States over child labor in sweatshops making clothes and shoes for household names like Nike and the Gap has helped change this attitude dramatically. When an educated public brings pressure to bear, businesspeople can learn to worry about local problems. In India, for example, there are between 65 and 100 million children ages fourteen and younger who work more than eight hours a day. They fill the sweatshops and do many other kinds of work. Worse, about 15 million of these children are not child laborers but child slaves.’ (236-237)
- ‘New or changed laws should address conspiracy to enslave or profiting from slavery, in the same ways as laws against homicide punish conspiracy to murder and don’t restrict guilt to the person who pulls the trigger.’ (238)
- ‘No miracle is required – just the enforcement of existing laws and agreements, the development of a few new ones, and the provision of help to get these people and families on their feet.’ (240)
- ‘We have to remember that violence is the tool, not the aim, of slavery. Slaveholders will violently defend their lucrative businesses, but they will walk away from the slaves and the business if it stops making money. Putting the pressure on its profits is a key strategy for ending slavery.’ (240)
- ‘There are already pilot programs showing the effectiveness of targeting profits. One of the worst industries in India for the abuse of child slaves has been rug and carpet making. If you have an oriental rug on your floor right now, there is a good chance that it was woven by slave children. For many years campaigners in India tried to free and rehabilitate these bonded laborers with only partial success. But a few years ago the Rugmark Campaign set out to put the pressure not on the makers but on the buyers of carpets. Working from a tiny office with little funds, these activists proposed that people should look for a special tag on handmade rugs that guaranteed that they were not made by slaves. To earn the Rugmark, producers had to agree to only three things: not to exploit children, to cooperate with independent monitoring, and to turn over 1 percent of the carpet wholesale price to a welfare fund for child workers. Special effort was put into building up a sophisticated monitoring team that can detect fake labels, knows carpet making inside and out, and can’t be corrupted. Today the German, U.S., and Canadian governments have recognized the Rugmark…In Europe the market share of “slave-free” carpets is 30 percent and growing.’ (240-241)
- ‘This campaign shows that when Western consumers and retailers learn about the links between slavery and the products they want, they are willing to change their buying habits.’ (241)
- ‘To solve the puzzle of how slavery is linked to our lives, we need to draw on good researchers, good economists, and good businesspeople: researchers to follow the flow of raw materials and products from the hands of slaves to their ultimate consumer, economists to explore the nature of slave-based businesses and work out viable alternatives, and experienced businesspeople, to help the businesses all along the product chain find the best way to end their participation in slavery.’ (243)
- ‘The idea that profit is its own justification, that success conveys respectability, drives new businesses, which therefore ignore the human cost.’ (244)
- ‘State activities that were previously nonprofit (everything from law enforcement to famine relief) are being turned into profit-making businesses. As politicians and businesspeople share the new revenue, corruption sets in.’ (244)
- ‘There is more profit in breaking minds than in breaking bodies.’ (246)
- ‘Unlike a century ago, no modern slaveholders delude themselves that they are somehow “civilizing” their slaves, or lifting them toward religious salvation. In the lean, mean global economy slavery is stripped of its moral justifications: slaves equal profits.’ (246)
- ‘One of the most important things we can do to combat slavery is to help protect these local campaigners. We must ensure that their groups are tightly connected to bodies like Anti-Slavery International and to make certain that ASI has broad public support.’ (247)
- ‘The apartheid movement really cracked when big American investment houses and universities began to pull out, hurting the regime financially.’ (248)
- ‘The terms of trade are usually thought of as commercial agreements, but they are also an implicit statement of moral values. In its present terms, the global system values property over human life. When a nation like China steals the property of capital, pirating copyrights, films or technology, other countries will take action to stop it and be willing to impose sanctions and penalty tariffs on the offending nation’s trade. When human lives are stolen…nothing happens to the offenders since, according to the free market’s sense of conscience, there is no crime.’ One World, Ready or Not (249)
- ‘We are back to the terms of the abolition campaigns of the nineteenth century: if we are going to stop slavery we must convince the world that human rights need even more protection than property rights.’ (249)
- ‘What country has been sanctioned by the UN for slavery? Where are the UN inspection teams charged with searching out slave labor? Where are the penalties from the WTO for exporting slave-made goods? Who speaks for slaves in the International Court of Justice?’ (250)
- ‘The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency leads other countries in spending billions of dollars to stem the flow of drugs. What budget contains funds to counter the flow of slaves?’ (250)
- ‘The crime itself tends to be called “trafficking” rather than by its true name – the slave trade.’ (252)
- ‘The main group working against slavery is Anti-Slavery International (ASI), the oldest human rights organization in the world. Formed in 1839 to campaign against the Atlantic slave trade, it is based in London and works hard to expose and combat slavery and child labor. But ASI, with only 6,000 supporters and members, is a mouse fighting a herd of elephants. Compared to well-known organizations such as Greenpeace or Amnesty International that have millions of supporters worldwide, ASI is tiny. Why? It is trapped by public ignorance: most people believe that slavery ended in the nineteenth century. To convince them otherwise requires a big publicity push, but to mount such an effort ASI needs to be a big organization with lots of resources.’ (258-259)
- ‘It is a huge fight. On one side are people making a great deal of money from slavery. On the other is a handful of activists who have to spend more time fighting ignorance than fighting the slaveholders themselves.’ (261)
- ‘[Frederick Douglass] poured into the ears of his audience biting ridicule and sarcasm, beneath which lay a single, simple question: If there are still slaves, how can you be proud of your freedom?’ (262)
- ‘If there is one fundamental violation of our humanity we cannot iallow, it is slavery. If there is one basic truth that virtually every human being can agree on, it is that slavery must end.’ (262)
- ‘One of the most powerful weapons against slavery is the threat of economic sanctions by the big economies. A law passed in the U.S. Congress all but stopped child slavery in Dominican sugar fields overnight. When politicians want your vote, ask them what they are doing to stop slavery.’ (264)

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