New fight, old foe: Slavery
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Kim's poignant story is told in "Not for Sale: The Return of the Global Slave Trade and How We Can Fight It," by David Batstone, one of three new books associated with the Amazing Change campaign.Skip to next paragraph
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A professor of ethics at the University of San Francisco, Dr. Batstone traveled to five continents last year to investigate the workings of modern slavery, including going undercover to gather evidence. He defines slavery as "forcing someone else's labor without compensation, and using violence to keep them in their position."
Batstone's interest in the subject was first ignited, he says in an interview, when his favorite Indian restaurant, where he and his wife ate regularly, figured in an exposé by the San Francisco Chronicle. The story revealed that the young waitresses at the restaurant had been brought from India against their will and were also forced to perform sexual favors. The restaurant owner had trafficked in hundreds of young girls and boys.
"In the US, 47 percent of trafficking is in the commercial sex business," Batstone adds. The women are brought mostly from China, Mexico, and southeast Asia.
On his journeys, Batstone found that the most prevalent form of slavery globally is in agriculture, involving labor in rice mills or on plantations, as well as rock quarries and brick kilns. In some cases, people borrow small amounts of money from a local landowner to buy food or pay for a wedding, and the lender begins adding egregious levels of interest, requiring work until it's paid off.
"In India, I met a family of four generations of women," Batstone says, "great-grandmother to daughter, who had spent their entire lives under obligation to a landowner for a loan the great-grandfather had taken out for the equivalent of $10. This is illegal, but hardly enforced."
While exploring this dark side of the global economy, Batstone found a silver lining: "a rising tide of modern-day abolitionists who are building an underground railroad for the 21st century." So inspired was he by the efforts of many small, understaffed, and underfunded groups working to free people, that the focus of his book shifted to profiling these new abolitionists.
He decided to mount his own international advocacy and fundraising project, too: the "Not for Sale Campaign" (www.notforsalecampaign.org). The campaign enlists athletes, musicians, and others in "making whatever you love best an abolitionist activity."
Figure-skating star Brian Boitano, for instance, "has pledged to give $10 every time he does a triple loop," Batstone says. A "Concert to End Slavery" with top-notch artists has just been filmed in a Los Angeles recording studio, and a documentary related to the book will be ready for TV in March.
But more is needed than raising awareness and funds, Batstone says. "People who should be acting to stop slavery say they don't know where it is." So his students at the University of San Francisco have taken on the job: mapping slavery in the area – where it occurs in agriculture, the restaurant business, domestic servitude, etc. They are also creating a model for how to map slavery so that students and others could do the same in other cities.
"We'll take that report each year to the mayor's office, the chief of police, and the media, saying 'Here's where slavery can be found in our city,' " he says. "My students are unbelievably charged up."
Zach Hunter, too, is enthused about what young people can accomplish. "My vision is that my generation would be written about in the history books as a generation that really cared about others and brought about change," he says.