The Slavery We Ignore.

Despite the emancipation of African-American slaves, slavery in the US is not over. Not by a long shot.

Today’s slaves are African-Americans, Caucasions, Asians, Latinos…even children. And instead of working on plantations, they work in hotels, bedrooms and massage parlors. I’m referring, of course, to the sex trade in which thousands of people…mostly women…are held against their will for the financial benefit of their “owners.”

Most of these people were captured from street corners and malls. They were enticed by on-line predators. They were lured into the “modeling” business with the promise of fame and money. They were neglected children who were sweet-talked then brutalized until they submitted to their pimps. They were hopeful immigrants who were promised transportation and green cards then held against their will until they pay off their captors’ investments. Of course, they never can. As soon as they come close, they are sold or traded to other pimps. They are held captive in cubicles in the basements of massage parlors and illegal brothels. Many are moved from city to city to prevent them from getting too close to their customers and establishing contacts that may help free them. Their services are advertised for sale in newspaper classifieds and on the Internet.

All of this is a crime…a despicable, horrible crime. Yet an even worse crime is that many people actually know about this slavery but, because it’s centered on prostitution, few people seem to care. They either condemn everyone involved…pimps, “johns” and victims alike…or they hold to the belief that all prostitution is a victimless crime. Public officials say that this form of slavery is difficult to prosecute. In reality, many in law enforcement and city governments actually participate in the crime, either as customers or as the recipients of bribes. Customers claim not to know about the circumstances of the women. They want to believe that all of the women serve willingly, and undoubtedly many do. But far too many are victimized over and over and over again.

Often the victims have been subjugated and victimized for so long they remember little else. They need help and support in order to survive even after they’re freed. And they’re often much too frightened to testify against their abusers.

But the situation is not hopeless. All that’s required for it to change is for the public to demand change and elect government officials who are determined to act. It would help if the more puritanical among us would recognize that prostitution has been around since the beginning of time and that it’s not going away. Indeed, there are women who see the sex trade as a way to improve their financial futures. And there are a seemingly endless number of customers. Legalizing prostitution would take the profit out of illegal prostitution. It would allow governments to regulate, license and control it in an open, transparent and safe manner. It would turn the women into business entrepreneurs instead of victims. More important, it would eliminate the pimps and “owners.”

Ask yourself which is preferrable? An open and controlled sex trade? Or the continuation of slavery and the victimization of women and children?