From National Geographic:

There are more slaves today than were seized from Africa in four centuries of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. The modern commerce in humans rivals illegal drug trafficking in its global reach–and in the destruction of lives.

This part is particularly disgusting:

Victoria’s odyssey began when she was 17, fresh out of school in Chisinau, the decayed capital of the former Soviet republic of Moldova. “There was no work, no money,” she explained simply. So when a friend–“at least I thought he was a friend”–suggested he could help her get a job in a factory in Turkey, she jumped at the idea and took up his offer to drive her there, through Romania. “But when I realized we had driven west, to the border with Serbia, I knew something was wrong.”

It was too late. At the border she was handed over to a group of Serb men, who produced a new passport saying she was 18. They led her on foot into Serbia and raped her, telling her that she would be killed if she resisted. Then they sent her under guard to Bosnia, the Balkan republic being rebuilt under a torrent of international aid after its years of genocidal civil war.

Victoria was now a piece of property and, as such, was bought and sold by different brothel owners ten times over the next two years for an average price of $1,500. Finally, four months pregnant and fearful of a forced abortion, she escaped. I found her hiding in the Bosnian city of Mostar, sheltered by a group of Bosnian women.

In a soft monotone she recited the names of clubs and bars in various towns where she had to dance seminaked, look cheerful, and have sex with any customer who wanted her for the price of a few packs of cigarettes. “The clubs were all awful, although the Artemdia, in Banja Luka, was the worst–all the customers were cops,” she recalled.

Victoria was a debt slave. Payment for her services went straight to her owner of the moment to cover her “debt”–the amount he had paid to buy her from her previous owner. She was held in servitude unless or until the money she owed to whomever controlled her had been recovered, at which point she would be sold again and would begin to work off the purchase price paid by her new owner. Although slavery in its traditional form survives in many parts of the world, debt slavery of this kind, with variations, is the most common form of servitude today.

The US State Dept also has online their 2003 Trafficking in Persons Report, where fifteen countries ranked as the worst offenders, who could face the possibility of sanctions from the US government. Also worth reading is Hopes Betrayed: Trafficking of women and girls to post-conflict Bosnia and Herzegovina for forced prostitution.

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