Modern Slavery, Human Trafficking: The Never-Ending Evil
Hillary Clinton, former U.S. secretary of state, wrote:
Elementary students across America are taught that slavery ended in the 19th century. But, sadly, nearly 150 years later, the fight to end this global scourge is far from over. Today it takes a different form and we call it by a different name - “human trafficking” - but it is still an affront to basic human dignity in the United States and around the world. (Clinton, 2010, para. 1)
In her review of Laura Murphy’s book Survivors of Slavery: Modern-Day Slave Narratives Martha Banks presents the realities and complexities of modern slavery in its global context. Slavery today is a system of forced labor that involves no or little pay, involving mostly women. Although most victims are adults, children are also enslaved around the world. I went to the Web to get a sense of the scope of the population of interest: The two most prevalent types of slavery in the world involve sex work and forced labor. According to United Nations (UN) reports, we may underestimate the rates of human trafficking related to labor because it is less visible, reported, and/or prosecuted. While it is difficult to estimate, UN reports suggest that as many as 2.5 million individuals are trafficked at any one time and billions of dollars of profit are generated annually (United Nations, 2015). Banks notes that while the percentage of those enslaved throughout the world is lower than it has ever been, the sheer number of people enslaved is greater.
Banks goes on to describe how in Survivors of Slavery Murphy organizes the narratives of individuals who because of extreme poverty, and the extreme greed of some, are forced into exploitative systems, through kidnapping, deception, and manipulation. What is startling is the realization that we need to hear these voices to evoke what should be readily provided—human concern for the conditions of those enslaved and a resolve to address their plight.
The issues highlighted in the book review led me to reflect on the preparation of clinicians who might be called on to treat victims of modern slavery. Do we have sufficient knowledge and understanding of the issues that victims face and the resources that they need? More importantly, are psychologists prepared to understand and respect victims’ right to choice, including the right to refuse treatments and interventions? What impact might our research have on efforts to collaborate in anti-slavery advocacy and social justice initiatives, particularly efforts to persuade the countries that have not signed onto the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, Supplementing the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, 2004) to do so?
By Martha E. Banks
PsycCRITIQUES, 2014 Vol 60(11)