Humanity still being devalued by slavery today


This editorial might have been published to commemorate Black History Month. Or, on Feb. 23, the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the British slave trade. Or Jan. 1, the day the Emancipation Proclamation freed American slaves in 1863.

When it comes to slavery, sadly, it’s always timely. Inhumanity is timeless, reducing free people to chattel, prisoners and worse. Much worse.

Consider Oakland, Calif., where police in 2002 found 218 children ages 11 to 15 forced into daily prostitution by 155 pimps.

There’s Serena of the Philippines, who went to Saudi Arabia to work as a maid, but her employer confiscated her passport, beat her, pushed her down stairs, choked her until she passed out, refused to let her leave. Without a passport she couldn’t flee, so Serena attempted suicide.

And Michael, who at 15 was kidnapped by the Lord’s Resistance Army to “serve” as a combatant in the Ugandan Insurgent force. He was forced to kill a boy who tried to escape and watch as another youth was hacked to death.

Don’t forget China, where the one-child policy and widespread abortions of female babies have so reduced the female-to-male ratio that women are kidnapped from adjoining countries and even sold by their families to become unwilling brides.

You thought slavery was a thing of the past? Contemporary slavery is believed to be the third most-lucrative illegal international industry behind drug and weapons sales.

The international nonprofit Free the Slaves estimates a slave in 1850 cost the equivalent of $40,000 today. A slave’s value today is estimated at $90. Slaves are cheaper than ever. Estimates number them at 4 million to 27 million worldwide. That compares with 3.9 million slaves in the United States in the 1860s.

“As unimaginable as it seems, slavery and bondage still persist,” says a recent State

Department report on human trafficking. “Trafficking in persons is one of the greatest human-rights challenges of our time.”

And of all time. William Wilberforce, depicted in the current movie “Amazing Grace,” devoted 46 years in Britain’s Parliament to ending slavery. He succeeded without waging war, as occurred in the United States.

Yet the supply of slaves remains ample and continually replenished. Price is low, and demand high. The State Department estimates as many as 800,000 human beings, 80 percent women and girls, are trafficked annually as commodities against their will across international borders, up to 17,500 of them into the United States.

We thought you might want to know, even if we’re a little tardy.