ABA Journal

Slavery continues to haunt the modern world, but efforts to eradicate it are growing

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Photo by Winky Lewis

Maria watched the expensive car roll into her small town in Honduras. Two well-dressed men stepped out of the vehicle. They walked toward Maria, 15, and two friends who were with her. The men said they were recruiting people to work in a textile factory in the United States.

It sounded like a terrific opportunity—a chance for Maria to earn enough money to help her family while supporting herself. Most of all, it meant she would be able to send money to her mother, who was struggling to raise six other children on her own.

Maria agreed to go with the men. So did her two friends.

When the girls arrived in Houston, however, they weren’t brought to a textile factory. Instead, they were held captive, beaten, raped and forced to work in cantinas that doubled as brothels. When a man came to a cantina, he would choose a girl and drink beer with her. If he decided he wanted sex, he would take her to the back and pay for a mattress, paper towels and spermicide. If a girl didn’t bring in enough money on a given day, her captors would beat her.

That was Maria’s life for six long years. Finally, an American family helped her to escape. Maria managed to return to her family in Honduras. But she hasn’t seen her two friends since fleeing Houston; and for all she knows, they’re still there working in cantinas and enduring the beatings of their captors.

Maria is one face of the modern scourge of human slavery—but only one. There are millions more people like her around the world. They are children and adults, men and women. They are someone’s daughter or son, brother or sister, mother or father.

The victims of slavery populate the world’s sex trade, but they also exist in many other sectors of the international economy. Forced labor occurs in domestic work, landscaping, nail salons, industrial cleaning, food processing and agricultural work, garment production and other factory settings, as well as restaurants. Some governments impose forced labor on their citizens. And in some countries, children are unlawfully coerced or forced to become soldiers.

Click here to read the rest of “Of Human Bondage” from the April issue of the ABA Journal.

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