Over the next few months I’m going to be doing a series of posts on sex slavery. In southeast Asia it is basically an industry. Thailand actually has a tourist market for sex – mostly girls. Sri Lanka on the other hand is less well known to the public but has a huge sex trade for young boys. These are the areas that are among the most public. Eastern Europe has a much less public sex trade. And then there is the United States. Worldwide there are more than 20 million people in slavery. That’s more slaves than there were during the civil war.
We are starting to follow the efforts of The Exodus Road ( http://www.theexodusroad.com ) . They are a group helping women in Southeast Asia out of sex slavery. It’s one success story at a time, but the pipeline is being back filled almost as quickly as being rescued. While each success is important, the real value is that this is one of the more active regions for creating awareness of the problem. In contrast, the last real attention Sri Lanka got was when one of it’s more famous residents – Arthur C. Clarke had his knighting ceremony quietly rescheduled off the Queen’s schedule. Apparently he wasn’t living there for the tropical climate.
The sex trafficking and slavery going on in the United States is much more subtle and doesn’t get nearly as much attention as it should. In my work with social service agencies, I see girls in residential care regularly being targeted for exploitation. Promises of money quickly turn to drugs and debt and eventually slavery. It’s happening in almost every major city and we barely see it. There is a perception that prostitution is a crime, and that the women performing sex for money are doing that of their own free will. Pimps aren’t just for protection and handling the money, they are generally the ones calling the shots. Girls are bought, sold, and traded like baseball cards. It’s not unlike what is happening in other parts of the world. We just need to wake up and start seeing the problem.