Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Inside the Business of Modern Slavery by Siddharth Kara

Sex Trafficking:
Inside the Business of Modern Slavery
by Siddharth Kara

Hardback: 298 pages
Publisher: Columbia University Press
First Released: 2009

Source: review copy from publisher

Back Cover Description:
Every year, millions of women and children are abducted, deceived, seduced, or sold into forced prostitution, made to service hundreds if not thousands of men before being discarded. Generating huge profits for their exploiters, sex slaves form the backbone of one of the world's most profitable illicit enterprises, for unlike narcotics, which must be grown, harvested, refined, and packaged, the female body requires no such "processing" and can be repeatedly consumed.

In this first-of-its-kind journey, Siddharth Kara investigates the mechanics of the global sex trafficking business across four continents and takes stock of its devastating human toll. Since first encountering the horrors of sexual slavery in a Bosnian refugee camp in 1995, Kara has taken multiple research trips to India, Nepal, Burma, Thailand, Vietnam, the United Kingdom, Italy, the Netherlands, Albania, Moldova, Mexico, and the United States. He has met hundreds of slaves, has witnessed the sale of numerous human beings into slavery, and has confronted some of the criminals who have exploited them.

Drawing on his background in finance and economics, Kara provides a rare business analysis of sex trafficking, focusing on the local drivers and global macroeconomic trends that gave rise to the industry after the fall of the Berlin Wall. He quantifies the size, growth, and profitability of sex trafficking and other forms of modern slavery—metrics that have never been published before—and locates the sectors that would be hardest hit by specifically designed interventions and penalties.

Kara supplements his analysis with a riveting account of this unconscionable industry, sharing the moving stories of victims and revealing the shocking conditions of their exploitation. He concludes with a proposal for aggressive measures that target the essential business and economic functioning of the sex trafficking industry designed to provide a more effective global approach to abolishing these crimes against the world's most vulnerable and exploited persons.

The author will donate a portion of the proceeds from this book to the organization Free the Slaves.

Sex Trafficking is a thought-provoking and heart-touching looking into modern slavery. While the author mainly focused on forced prostitution, he also covered other types of forced labor and slavery. He included many stories of slaves and ex-slaves to give a face to slavery and to demonstrate the variety of ways women are enslaved. The author also gave detailed economic breakdowns of the profitability of forced labor and explained how these economics can be changed to make slavery economically less desirable.

Much of the book was written in an engaging, conversational style. The parts on economics did get a bit technical and dry, but his points were still very understandable.

I don't agree with everything the author said since his view of the world is different than mine. However, the reader can easily use the information he's gathered in this book to come to their own conclusions on how to fight modern slavery. The author does suggest several practical things an individual can do to help.

This book gave insight into modern slavery. It also provided a look into how very different other cultures can be in how they treat women, view slavery, etc. I'd highly recommend this book to anyone desiring a stop to modern slavery, people interested in other cultures, and to all women (especially feminists).

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Chapter One
Gaunt and distressed, [Maya] was nineteen when I interviewed her, after almost four years as a sex slave in each of Mumbai’s two main red-light districts, Kamathipura and Falkland Road. She was born in the Sindhupalchok region of Nepal, one of the poorest stretches of land on the planet, with an annual per capita income of $180, or fifty cents per day. Desperate to make ends meet, her parents sold her to a local agent for $55 on the promise that she would have a good job at a carpet factory, from which she could send home up to $10 per month. The night Maya left home, the agent resold her to a dalal (trafficker), who took her to Butwal, a border town with India, where they spent the night with another girl. The next day, Maya, the other girl, and the dalal crossed the border into India by foot. A few days later, they were in Mumbai.

This is what Maya told me happened next:

“Once I came to Mumbai, the dalal sold me to a malik [brothel boss] in Kamathipura. The malik told me I owed him thirty-five thousand rupees [$780], and I must have sex with any man who chooses me until this debt is repaid. I refused, and his men raped me and did not feed me. When I agreed to do sex, they gave me medicines because I had a urine infection. I was in that bungalow two years and made sex to twenty men each day. There were hundreds of girls in this bungalow, many from Nepal. One time I tried to escape. I complained to the police, but they did nothing. A few days later the malik’s men found me on the streets and took me back to the brothel. The malik put chili paste on a broomstick and pushed it inside me. Then he broke my ribs with his fist. The gharwali [house manager, madam] tended my wounds for a short time, and after this time I went with clients again, even though my ribs pained very badly. The gharwali gave me opium to make the pain less. After two years, the malik sold me to another malik on Falkland Road. During this time I lived in a pinjara [cage] with one other woman. It was very small and it was on the street, so it was very noisy at night. I was pregnant two times, and the gharwali gave me pills to kill the baby. The second time I became very ill. When I was strong I ran away. I went to a shelter near Falkland Road. They told me I have HIV. They helped me contact my father, but he told me not to come home. He said I can never be married and because I have HIV, I can only bring shame.”

Maya’s story is emblematic of the hundreds of thousands of women and children trafficked and forced into prostitution each year. As with each victim in this book, I have not used Maya’s real name, and in a few instances in which discussing precise geographic locations might result in danger to the individual, I have provided an alternate setting. Like most sex trafficking victims, Maya and her family were vulnerable to deceit due to economic desperation. Once Maya arrived at the brothel, she was swiftly broken down through physical and psychological torture. While her journey to Mumbai was direct, other victims endure multiple stops in several countries, where they are exploited, resold, and tortured. At each destination, victims are told they must work off the “debt” of trafficking them by having sex with up to twenty men per day. The accounting of these debts is invariably exploitative, involving deductions for food, clothing, rent, alcohol, and exorbitant interest rates. The false promise of attaining freedom is a powerful tool that brothel owners utilize to control their victims. As time passes, some slaves accept their fates, and in a Stockholm Syndrome–like transformation, they might be “freed” to serve as working prostitutes who mentor new slaves upon arrival. In Maya’s case, when her brothel owner decided she had worked off her debt, she was resold and given a new debt. If she had not escaped, the cycle of slavery might never have ended.

Read the Preface and part of Chapter One of Sex Trafficking.

1 comment:

Genre Reviewer said...

Amber, who won the book giveaway contest for this book, sent me the following e-mail (and gave me permission to post this here):

Debbie - I read the book and just loved it. It was so heartbreaking but really opened up my eyes to the horrible truths of slavery in the world today. While Kara's economic analysis is very speculative I think he definitely has the right idea.

This has inspired me to redouble my efforts with my local Amnesty International chapter and I am suggesting this book as our book of the month for September.