Imagine one twelve-year old girl in a hotel room in Lima, Peru. She both lives in the room, and works in the room. Her room costs about $20 a day, and the hotel is happy for the steady business. The bar next door is also happy that the girl is in the hotel room, because her clients come there to drink, before and after their business with her. And the small restaurant in the other side of the street also appreciates the girl’s presence, as they exchange free meals for a favorable whisper in her client’s ear. Imagine that this one case of a single girl and her local financial interdependence is multiplied by the thousands and thousands across the globe. It is then, says David Batstone, president of the Not For Sale Campaign, that sex trafficking as a lucrative business makes sense. In fact, Batstone points out, the only people who aren’t making money from the sex industry are the ones upon whom the whole network depends: the girls — or women, or boys — for they are slaves.
Today, there are 27 million slaves world-wide, more than the entire current population of the state of Texas, more than at any other time in history, and 90 percent of the commerce has to do with sexual exploitation. Vulnerable populations are the most at risk, whether a country or a socio-economic group. Profit is always the motive. In the 1970s, favorite targets were girls from Southeast Asia. Then, the focus moved to African girls from Nigeria, Uganda, and Ghana. Girls from Brazil, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, and Central America were taken from their families from the mid-80s through the 90s.
Just how are these children taken? Most are lured from their families by neighbors or relatives, who deceive them (for lucre) into thinking that their children will get an education or a legitimate job if they’re allowed to go to the capital or abroad. Another sad truth is that they’re often sold by their own parents. Some honestly believe that their sons and daughters are going to a better future: a steady job in housekeeping, for example, or modeling. Others simply trade one possession for another: a daughter for a large-screen TV. No matter the motivation, the child becomes a slave. But because sex slavery is often misinterpreted as prostitution, both the authorities and the well-meaning tend to look the other way. One mission of the Not For Sale Campaign is to educate that children are not prostitutes.
The Not For Sale Campaign also organizes and funds rescue projects. One currently operating is located on Nepal’s border, where fourteen-year-old girls are being trafficked into the brothels of India. Not For Sale has established eight check points in partnership with the Nepalese police force: 1750 girls were rescued and cared for last year.
Sex trafficking isn’t just something that happens on the other side of the world: Not For Sale has uncovered and is the process of mapping operations in Ohio, Massachusetts, California, Texas, Georgia, Tennessee, and other states. Toolkits and information sheets are available for teachers, churches, students, and other groups, to mobilize and equip them to become modern abolutionists.
Spirituality & Health supports the Not For Sale Campaign, and urges you to do the same. Make a gift this holiday season to change the world: your donation of $27 a month (for the 27 million in slavery) can help end slavery in our lifetime. The Not For Sale funds will be directed to investigate slavery and rescue the victims. Visit NotForSaleCampaign.org.