As a new school year begins across the nation, students will once again take up their books to learn about the shameful history of the slave trade around the world. The problem is that the slave trade is far from history. In fact, it is very much the shame of our world today.
Currently, more slaves exist than during the time of slave trade abolitionist William Wilberforce. But unlike in Wilberforce’s day, 80 percent of today’s slaves are women and girls; 50 percent are children.
Earlier this summer, the U.S. State Department came out with its Trafficking in Persons Report for 2011. The report created global concern as nations reacted to their “tier placements.” Most third world countries fell under “Tier 2,” a dubious designation reserved for nations whose governments don’t “fully comply with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s (TVPA’s) minimum standards, but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards.”
The report is no surprise to those of us who work to rid the world of extreme poverty. For instance, in the 26 developing nations where Compassion International serves, 19 were placed in the “Tier 2” category. An additional five nations where Compassion serves were on the “Tier 2 Watch List,” a group of “countries whose governments do not fully comply with the TVPA’s minimum standards, but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards,” according to the report. Only one of the 26 countries found itself in “Tier 1”—meaning it was fully compliant with the TVPA’s minimum standards.
The nature of slavery may differ from country to country—from enslavement in the sex trade slavery to child abduction by rogue military organizations—but nearly all enslaved children share a common trait: extreme poverty. It’s no coincidence that the majority of countries on the State Department’s Tier 2 and Tier 3 of the human trafficking lists are also grossly impoverished nations.
While the trafficking of any human being is grossly inhuman, there is nothing more damaging than the trafficking of children. By destroying the potential of a child’s life, the very future of the country in which that child resides becomes bleak. Nations with high rates of child slavery are compromising their next generation of leaders in business, government, the arts, education and every other area of productive society.