The sex trade grabs headlines, but modern-day slavery takes many forms across the globe, spreading like a cancer in the 21st century. Scholars estimate that there are as many as 27 million slaves today; the majority are not in forced prostitution, but instead in other heinous forms of exploitation (though rape and/or other forms of torture are often tools of coercion).

Slavery permeates northern India, where children, to help pay off their family's exorbitantly high debts to corrupt local businessmen, hunch over in the dark for hours at a stretch as they weave carpets on looms until their small, delicate fingers bleed. Slavery is embedded in Nepal, where children and families in debt bondage spend years making bricks by hand, never making enough money to pay off their debts. Slavery is also rooted in Brazil, where poor farmers are lured to remote forests and forced to work m hot kilns to produce charcoal for the production of pig iron, which goes into the steel of the cars we drive and the appliances in our kitchens. Slavery is found in West Africa, where the cocoa industry obtains about half of Its world crop, in part from child labor, for the chocolate we enjoy and the cosmetics we use. Contemporary slavery touches us all.

Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2013

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Copyright © 2013, University of Richmond. This article first appeared in Richmond Alumni Magazine (Spring/Summer 2013), 18-23.

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