About Women in Chains

"Several estimates of the number of slaves in the world have been provided. According to a broad definition of slavery used by Kevin Bales of Free the Slaves (FTS), an advocacy group linked with Anti-Slavery International, there were 27 million people in slavery in 1999, spread all over the world. In 2005, the International Labour Organisation provided an estimate of 12.3 million forced labourers in the world. Siddharth Kara  has provided an estimate of 28.4 million slaves at the end of 2006 divided into the following three categories: bonded labour/debt bondage (18.1 million), forced labour (7.6 million), and trafficked slaves (2.7 million). Kara provides a dynamic model to calculate the number of slaves in the world each year, with an estimated 29.2 million at the end of 2009. The weighted average global sales price of a slave is calculated to be approximately $340, with a high of $1,895 for the average trafficked sex slave, and a low of $40 to $50 for debt bondage slaves in part of Asia and Africa.

Trafficking in human beings (also called human trafficking) is one method of obtaining slaves. Victims are typically recruited through deceit or trickery (such as a false job offer, false migration offer, or false marriage offer), sale by family members, recruitment by former slaves, or outright abduction. Victims are forced into a “debt slavery” situation by coercion, deception, fraud, intimidation, isolation, threat, physical force, debt bondage or even force-feeding with drugs of abuse to control their victims.  “Annually, according to U.S. Government-sponsored research completed in 2006, approximately 800,000 people are trafficked across national borders, which does not include millions trafficked within their own countries. Approximately 80 percent of transnational victims are women and girls and up to 50 percent are minors,” reports the U.S. Department of State in a 2008 study.

Whilst the majority of victims are women, and sometimes children, who are forced into prostitution (in which case the practice is called sex trafficking), victims also include men, women and children who are forced into manual labour. Due to the illegal nature of human trafficking, its exact extent is unknown. A U.S. Government report published in 2005, estimates that 600,000 to 800,000 people worldwide are trafficked across borders each year. This figure does not include those who are trafficked internally. Another research effort revealed that between 1.5 million and 1.8 million individuals are trafficked either internally or internationally each year, 500,000 to 600,000 of whom are sex trafficking victims.


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This table, from United Nations Global Report on Trafficking in Persons (can be downloaded at the link) breaks down the percentages of victims of human trafficking per gender and age. Of those affected, 79% are women and young girls.

We always talk about privilege and what it means to be privileged. We sometimes do so in abstract terms. In fact, most socio political discussions happen in abstractions. Sometimes these abstractions help deconstruct a paradigm, they allows us to have some emotional distance so that we can look at a series of events or figures like the ones above and identify what exactly is wrong with them and their order of magnitude. However, the abstraction can also detract us from the reality, from what it means to be in a situation of slavery or human trafficking, what it really means to live a life under certain conditions, to what extent the oppression is widespread and how it is everywhere, all around us. And that’s why I started Women in Chains, if only with the hope that the sheer volume of stories and news items will help create awareness. A place to offer little commentary (if any) and instead, link to the stories and news of women and girls in situations of slavery and trafficking on the news, day after day.

I won’t be commenting much in Women in Chains (unless it’s to point out something obvious or some media representation that should not remain unchallenged). I do not wish Women in Chains to be about me or my beliefs. I just wish for it to be a space where the sheer volume of stories becomes so self evident, so defining that all we can do is start paying attention, start demanding political changes that revert the oppression and set these people free. Also, I hope to aggregate every resource, from charities, to NGOs, to government initiatives that help people in situations of slavery and human trafficking claim their lives back.

So far, this is a one person blog, but I count on anyone and everyone to submit news items, stories and organizations to be added to the index.

Women in Chains will never be a source of good news, but I do hope it will be a resource to raise attention.

Submit stories here.

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