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A conservative estimate tells us there are more than 27 million people enslaved in the world today. That's double the amount of people taken from Africa during the entire trans-Atlantic slave trade. A hundred and fifty years ago, an agricultural slave cost about three times the annual salary of an American worker. That equates to about $50,000 in today's money. Yet today, entire families can be enslaved for generations over a debt as small as $18. Astonishingly, slavery generates profits of more than $13 billion worldwide each year. 

Many have been tricked by false promises of a good education, a better job, only to find that they're forced to work without pay under the threat of violence, and they cannot walk away. 

Today's slavery is about commerce, so the goods that enslaved people produce have value, but the people producing them are disposable. Slavery exists everywhere, nearly, in the world, and yet it is illegal everywhere in the world. 

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Lisa Kristine  (TED, 2012)

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As a journalist, I really care about how we relate to each other through language, and the way we tell that story, with all the gory, violent detail, the salacious aspects -- I call that "look at her scars" journalism. We use that story to convince ourselves that human trafficking is a bad man doing a bad thing to an innocent girl. That story lets us off the hook. It takes away all the societal context that we might be indicted for, for the structural inequality, or the poverty, or the barriers to migration. We let ourselves think that human trafficking is only about forced prostitution, when in reality, human trafficking is embedded in our everyday lives. 

Let me show you what I mean. Forced prostitution accounts for 22 percent of human trafficking. Ten percent is in state- imposed forced labor. but a whopping 68 percent is for the purpose of creating the goods and delivering the services that most of us rely on every day, in sectors like agricultural work, domestic work and construction. 

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Noy Thrupkaew

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Experts tell us that there's about 35 million people in slavery today. That's about the population of the entire nation of Canada, where we're sitting today. This is why, over time, I have come to call this epidemic of violence the Locust Effect. Because in the lives of the poor, it just descends like a plague and it destroys everything. In fact, now when you survey very, very poor communities, residents will tell you that their greatest fear is violence. But notice the violence that they fear is not the violence of genocide or the wars, it's everyday violence. 

In South Asia, I could drive past this rice mill and see this man hoisting these 100-pound sacks of rice upon his thin back. But I would have no idea, until later, that he was actually a slave, held by violence in that rice mill since I was in high school.  Decades of anti-poverty programs right in his community were never able to rescue him or any of the hundred other slaves from the beatings and the rapes and the torture of violence inside the rice mill. 

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Gary Haugen TED 2015

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You know for me, the interest in contemporary forms of slavery started with a leaflet that I picked up in London. It was the early '90s, and I was at a public event. I saw this leaflet and it said, "There are millions of slaves in the world today." And I thought, "No way, no way." And I'm going to admit to hubris. Because I also, I'm going to admit to you, I also thought, "How can I be like a hot-shot young full professor who teaches human rights and not know this? So it can't be true." 

So, I began to do a research project of my own. I went to five countries around the world. I looked at slaves. I met slaveholders, and I looked very deeply into slave-based businesses because this is an economic crime.

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Kevin Bales   TED 2010

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