TIME politics

Why Is It Congress Seems Concerned With Families Only When Sex Trafficking Is at Issue?

It's an old tradition in America, going back to the Mann Act of 1910

History News Network

This post is in partnership with the History News Network, the website that puts the news into historical perspective. The article below was originally published at HNN.

In one of the rare instances of bipartisan cooperation, the House’s Ways and Means Committee and the Senate’s Finance Committee passed the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act (P.L. 113-183/H.R. 4980), which President Obama signed into law on September 29, 2014. On the whole, the law seeks to encourage states to reform their foster care systems by encouraging and streamlining adoption processes. Though foster care reform is an admirable legislative concern that intersects with the real-world needs of children, what interests me is the way that foster care reform has been linked to sex trafficking within this bill.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) declared, “This legislation will ensure no state turns a blind eye to child sex trafficking by requiring state child welfare systems to identity victims and build a systematic response.” Looking at the public record, it is incredibly unlikely that any state could turn a blind eye to domestic minor trafficking as states have raced to save the children from traffickers. According to the Polaris Project, starting in 2003, all 50 states have passed laws prohibiting sex trafficking within their borders, and an additional 45 states have passed domestic minor sex trafficking laws. These state laws are fortified with the federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act (2000, reauthorized in 2003, 2005, 2008, and 2013) and the Mann Act (1910). Indeed, looking at the public rhetoric coming out of city halls, state houses, and halls of Congress, it seems that the United States is plagued with the scourge of sex traffickers preying on children. In a period of intense bipartisan division, the issue of sex trafficking seems to be one of the few issues that brings together members of rival political classes. One hundred years ago the United States was just as captivated by the issue of sex trafficking and the dangers it posed to youth.

Sensational stories about sex trafficking dominated the nation’s newspapers from 1907 until the outbreak of World War I in 1914. Called white slavery at the time, newspapers and magazines warned that a clandestine network of sex traffickers imported sex slaves from Europe to the United States to fill America’s brothels. But foreign-born girls were not the only youths at risk. Edwin Sims, a U.S. Attorney in Illinois, noted in 1909, “Literally thousands of innocent girls from the country districts are every year entrapped into a life of hopeless slavery and degradation…[by] ‘white slave’ traders who have reduced the art of ruining young girls to a national and international system.”

As numerous historians have noted, these sensational stories of sex trafficking encapsulated a host of intersecting anxieties circulating during the period: fears of the immigrant hordes, worries over the new heterosocial recreations offered by the city, dismay over the availability of legal prostitution, dread of interracial relationships, unease over women’s increased entry into the wage marketplace and public life, and concern about the eroding of traditional familial and community relationships in a period of marked rural-to-urban migration. With so many fears expressed within the stories of sexual slavery, it wasn’t long until social purity reformers, women’s rights activists, and other moral reformers turned to congress to protect “somebody’s daughters.”

In 1909, Edwin Sims and his ally Clifford Roe approached Illinois Congressman James R. Mann about drafting a nation-wide domestic anti-trafficking law that would complement existing immigration laws. Mann’s proposed law would make it illegal to take a woman or girl over state lines for the purposes of prostitution, debauchery, or “any other immoral purpose.” Debated in 1910, most congressmen signaled their support for the law, with Thetis W. Simms (D-TN) urging passage of the law to “take care of the girls, the women—the defenseless.” He suggested that “we will prevent, I hope forever, the taking away by fraud or violence, from some doting mother or loving father, of some blue-eyed girl and immersing her in dens of infamy.” Within the Progressive imagination, the most sympathetic victim of sex trafficking was the young, white girl who had a previous reputation of chastity who through no fault of her own had become alienated from a stable family structure—the doting mother or loving father. The legislation sailed through the House and Senate and was signed into law on June 26, 1910 by President Taft.

Enforcement of this broad anti-trafficking law, with its vague “any other immoral purpose” clause, fell to the young Bureau of Investigation (renamed the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 1935). When handed the mandate of the Mann Act, the Bureau had only 61 special agents, yet within three years it would have well over 300 special agents scattered across the nation. When initially enforcing the law the Bureau faced two challenges: 1. it questioned whether a widespread network of traffickers preyed on innocent young women; 2. the parameters and constitutionality of the “any other immoral purpose” clause was very much in doubt. In the face of such concerns, the Bureau initially used the law as an anti-prostitution law to expand its reach until 1917 when the Supreme Court ruled that the “any other immoral purpose” clause truly meant any other immoral purpose.

Amid the changing cultural mores of the 1920s the Bureau became a force for conservative values within the federal government. Mann Act investigations continued to make up the bulk of the day-to-day activities of the agency; but the type of Mann cases pursued changed. The Bureau actively responded to parents’ requests to track down run-away daughters and husbands’ demands for help locating adulterous wives. Until the outbreak of WWII, the anti-sex trafficking law was used to uphold patriarchal familial privilege, and the dependency of wives and daughters—strengthening family along the values of the early twentieth century.

The Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act fits into a long tradition linking the dangers of sex trafficking to the frailty of family stability. Senator Wyden argues that the new law “helps build bridges to permanent families and stable relationships, which are key to protecting children from predators.” But as the Bureau’s investigations into Mann Act cases reminds us, building stable families and fighting sex trafficking has historically meant empowering the law enforcement state, rather than growing social services or providing for victims’ assistance. Legal scholar Jennifer Sheldon-Sherman notes that the current trend in sex trafficking policy follows the same pattern of prioritizing law enforcement over victims’ services and preventive care. Perhaps the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act, with its efforts to protect vulnerable foster kids from prostitution, represents a step towards constructing a comprehensive way to combat sex trafficking.

Jessica R. Pliley is an assistant professor of women’s history at Texas State University and the author of “Policing Sexuality: The Mann Act and the Making of the FBI” (Harvard University Press, 2014).

TIME

Campaign Against Sex Trafficking Launches on Tinder

Swipe right for awareness

Correction appended: Nov. 8, 2014

Tinder users looking for a hook-up might be surprised to come across a number of profiles featuring women with cuts and bruises on their faces and bodies. And that newfound awareness is exactly the mission of Irish advertising agency EightyTwenty, which has partnered with the Immigrant Council of Ireland to launch a campaign against sex trafficking that leverages the no-cost distribution channel of the dating app.

The fake profiles, which use models so as not to exploit actual victims, begin with conventionally alluring photographs of the women. But as users swipe to see more, they see images of the abuse that victims of sex trafficking often endure. The series ends with a PSA that juxtaposes Tinder users’ options with the entrapment victims face: “Your options are left or right,” one version reads. “Sex trafficking victims have no options. You have the option to help end it now.”

The campaign’s website says the agency has received “a large number of comments from users who are shocked upon hearing about the realities of sex trafficking in a modern society.” They estimate that the illicit industry yields €200 million ($248 million) annually for foreign and domestic criminal gangs.

The campaign stands to receive criticism from activists who oppose sex trafficking but don’t support a wholesale ban on prostitution. Immediately after prompting the user to “help end it now,” the PSA links to the website for Turn Off the Red Light, a coalition that aims to end both sex trafficking and prostitution. It’s a conflation of one issue that people agree, more or less universally, is harmful, and another which is much more complicated. Melissa Gira Grant, a journalist and author of Playing the Whore, has spoken out about the way in which anti-prostitution groups oversimplify the problems sex workers face. As she wrote in the Guardian in 2011, “When politicians, social service providers and celebrity philanthropists insist that sex workers are selling ourselves, they engage in the same kind of dehumanisation that they claim johns do to us.”

There’s also the question as to whether Tinder is the right place for such a PSA. The men who most need to hear this message, some would argue, are men who pay for sex, not men who use Tinder to find sexual (and romantic) partners whose interactions involve no exchange of funds (although this argument assumes the two groups are mutually exclusive and ignores reports of escorts advertising their services on Tinder). Still, despite these critiques, the campaign stands to raise awareness about a major problem among a group of people who had previously been unaware, or at least unmotivated to act. And that, say advocates, is better than nothing.

Correction: The original version of this story incorrectly named Melissa Gira Grant as a sex worker activist and author. She is a journalist and author.

TIME sex trafficking

How to Spot a Sex Trafficking Victim at a Hotel

Man and woman in hotel lobby
Getty Images

Happens in five star hotels as well as slummy ones

As it has become clear over the last few years that sex trafficking takes place on every continent (O.K., maybe not Antarctica), approaches to defining it and ending it have changed. While there are ghastly situations in which young girls’ virginity is sold off by their debt-stricken parents in Cambodia, the reality is that western countries are by no means immune to the trade. Runaways, girls who have fallen for the wrong guy and naive women who have traveled from another country on the promise of a legitimate job can get trapped in prostitution rings anywhere.

One front in this battle has been the hotel industry. Traffickers like to use hotels to ply their trade, since they can get in and make some money and then move on before they attract too much attention. Neighbors tend to take a dim view of brothels and report them to the authorities. “It happens in hotels that are five star hotels and it happens in the sleaziest, slummiest rent by the hour hotels,” says Tammy Lee Stanoch, VP of corporate affairs for Carlson.

Perhaps because of this, some hoteliers were early activists in the anti-trafficking cause, including Marilyn Carlson Nelson, the former chairman of the chain (which owns a bunch of hotels including the Park Plaza, Country Inns and Suites and all the different types of Radisson). Initially, this was against the advice of their legal teams, who were leery of highlighting any illegal activity that was taking place within the hotels’ walls, but now many hotel chains, including Hilton, have signed on to the ECPAT Code of Conduct. “These women and children are being victimized in hotels, and whether they’re our hotels or our competitors, we’re going to take a stance on it,” says Stanoch. “Hotels need to be part of the solution because unfortunately that’s where many of these crimes happen.”

Many hotels now train their employees to watch for red flags, and the people at Carlson agreed to share some of what they’ve learned.

One of the key times is at check in. Paying with cash is obviously a cause for concern, especially if the reservation was originally made with a credit card. When an older man or woman checks in with younger women who don’t appear to be his or her children—they speak a different language, they’re distant from him, they look dazed or afraid, or if they’re made up to look older than they really are—that often means the women are not there willingly. A bunch of guys checking in with two young Latvian women alarmed this hotel employee, who went called the cops on them and broke up a trafficking ring. And then there’s the luggage clue; legitimate travelers usually bring a bunch of bags with them.

For hotels, the next line of defense after a vigilant front desk clerk is the in-house security team. Sometimes traffickers will check in to the room and only much later smuggle the girls and the johns into the hotel through a side door. “Very few women are being paraded by the front desk,” says Stanoch. Hotels have put in very sophisticated camera equipment, but that doesn’t mean they catch everything. Rooms which are being used by traffickers typically have a lot of men coming and going, and sometimes have men congregating outside the door, in the lobby or in the parking lot.

FBI San Antonio Special Agent Michelle Lee told local media after an undercover sting in June that traffickers often use two rooms. “One room is the working hotel room and the other room is where everyone else usually stays and they have just a few, very limited belongings.” Stanoch notes that the hotel staff moves pretty fast, once their suspicions have been raised. “This isn’t something we wait on,” says Stanoch, about how bringing in law enforcement. “It all happens very quickly.”

The hotel housekeepers are key players here too, since traffickers tend to decline cleaning services for days on end. They’re also less likely to tidy up, so the housekeeping staff may find large amounts of condoms and lubricant when they do get in to the room. (Stanoch says people who are having consensual sex generally tend to be neater with their paraphernalia. Who knew? ) Cleaners are also trained to watch out for a large number of computers or cell phones in a room. And then there’s porn. If one room is watching an unusual amount of porn on their hotel TV, that can trigger suspicions especially if it happens in tandem with other signs of trafficking. Not always, of course. “We are very sensitive to our guest’s privacy,” says Stanoch. “If something is suspicious in the guest room, in addition to indicators like a room that has been paid for in cash or multiple men coming and going, this may be cause for concern.”

Checking on the contents of another traveler’s room (or their TV habits) is of course frowned upon for regular guests, but there are things any traveler can watch out for: if you’re checking in or in the lobby, do the women being checked in have their own credit cards and forms of identification? Do they look to be in good health? Do they seem disoriented or disheveled? Are their “boyfriends” significantly older? Do the men seem to be preventing the women from moving about freely? There have even been reports of some women having tattoos that mark ownership.

If you’re on the same floor as a room which seems to have a lot of men hanging around outside, or a constant stream of visitors, you might want to let the hotel authorities know. Each of these symptoms on its own could have a perfectly plausible explanation, but if more than one or two of these warning flags are waving, then it might be time to tell hotel management of your concerns.

The Polaris Project, which works to combat slavery of all kinds (more people are enslaved by forced labor than the sex trade) has just released this awesome map, which identifies the local trafficking-fighting agencies all over the world. But Carol Smolenski, executive director of ECPAT USA, suggests that hotel security is your first line of attack. “It does get more complicated overseas because it depends on the nationality of the perpetrator and what country you are in,” says Smolenski. “We still recommend that if people are in a hotel when they notice something wrong, they should report it to the hotel management.” And if you’re in the United States, it be worthwhile to keep this number handy, too, 1-888-373-7888, the National Human Trafficking Hotline.

Have the new guidelines many any difference? Carlson didn’t provide any numbers and some observers are dubious, but Stanoch is persuaded they have. “Since we’ve started this training, I’d say the incidence of trafficking has dropped dramatically.” Now activists want to move further upstream, fighting trafficking at the source, by supporting organizations that offer vulnerable women training and job skills.

Correction: The original version of this story misstated the title of Ms. Stanoch. She is VP of corporate affairs, not external affairs.

Read next: Watch This Woman Get Harassed 108 Times While Walking in New York City

TIME politics

In Defense of Johns

Jim Norton Christopher Lovenguth

I'm not ashamed to pay for sex—and other men shouldn't be either

As a man who has spent an embarrassing amount of money on prostitutes and various other sexual encounters, I was excited when I heard about a “National Day of Johns,” because I thought I was being honored.

I envisioned myself being carted down New York City’s Fifth Avenue on the back of a flatbed truck, waving to cheering fans as confetti rained down on me and my disappointed parents hid behind a mailbox. A silly (yet understandable) mistake on my part, as the National Day of Johns was a celebration of the arrests of hundreds of men in a series of sex stings in 15 states. The fact that I’ve never been arrested in one of these stings should convince even the most ardent of atheists that miracles are indeed possible.

I suppose you could say I am the consummate john. I’m loyal, I’m dedicated, and I will always come back — even as it seems as though efforts to shame johns are on a national upswing throughout the country.

I cannot even fathom a guess as to how much money — let alone time — I’ve spent on paid sex in the past 25 years. Although I can tell you that when Charlie Sheen confessed he’d spent $50,000 in one year, I nodded my head and saw it as an achievable goal. Because I’ve never actually tallied the dollar amount of my sex addiction, my therapist tells me I should — her logic being that a concrete cost would make it more definitive and its consequences more tangible.

But really, perhaps the most shameful thing I can admit is this: I’m not really ashamed. And neither should any of these other (unmarried) johns who have been arrested.

If these men are anything like me, they might simply feel more comfortable with prostitutes. I never pick them up to be abusive. I always feel extraordinarily loving and close to them. When I first began soliciting sex for money, it never occurred to me that some of them are possibly forced into prostitution or have abusive pimps. I must have known it deep down on an intellectual level but hadn’t witnessed anything to confirm it.

Until I did.

The only experience I’ve had where an element of violence was present was driving on 48th Street in New York and talking to a girl through my passenger window. (A big part of my addiction is the ritualistic aspect, and for some reason I only liked to pick up prostitutes who talked to me through the passenger window.) As we were speaking, a van full of girls stopped, and a guy I assume was her pimp bounced her across the hood of my car and threw her in the van.

This is why I’m a firm believer that prostitution should be legalized and pimps should be thrown down an elevator shaft.

Law-enforcement stings designed to shame men who pay for sex are nothing more than the state blowing its own morality horn. Being a comedian who is single allows me a luxury most johns don’t have, which is the freedom to discuss the topic openly. And not from a case-study point of view but from the honest point of view of someone who has spent the equivalent of a Harvard Law School education on purchasing sex.

By keeping prostitution illegal because we find it morally objectionable, we allow (or, more accurately, you allow) sex workers to constantly be put into dangerous situations. Studies have shown that rapes and STDs dropped drastically from 2003 to 2009 in Rhode Island after the state accidentally legalized it. The American Journal of Epidemiology showed that the homicide rate for prostitutes is 50 times that for those in the next most dangerous job for a woman, working in a liquor store. You don’t need a master’s in sociology to understand it would be much safer for sex workers if they were permitted to work in places that provided adequate security. Legalizing prostitution would also alleviate the fear a sex worker may have about reporting a john’s abusive behavior because of the risk of arrest.

The illegal aspect of prostitution has never deterred me, nor would legalizing it cause me to engage in it more.

The decision people make to have sex for a living would undoubtedly confuse and repulse a large part of the population. But in a free society, people must be allowed to make choices for themselves that are incomprehensible to others. By keeping prostitution illegal and demonizing all of its parties, we (you) are empowering pimps and human traffickers and anyone else who wants to victimize sex workers because they feel helpless under the law.

Give sex workers rights. Give johns a break.

Norton is a comedian, New York Times best-selling author and host of The Jim Norton Show on Vice.com

TIME 30 Days of Ramadan

Ramadan, Day 12: Sex Slavery and Objectification of Women

We are desperately in need of a cultural shift in how we think of women.

The holy month of Ramadan is a time of deep reflection for Muslims worldwide. Over the 30 days of Ramadan, Imam Sohaib Sultan of Princeton University will offer contemplative pieces on contemporary issues drawing from the wisdoms of the Qur’an – the sacred scripture that Muslims revere as the words of God and God’s final revelation to humanity. The Qur’an is at the heart of Muslim faith, ethics, and civilization. These short pieces are meant to inspire thought and conversation.

Recently, on my drive home I was listening to Public Radio when I came across a story that just boiled my blood and sunk my heart. It was the story of mostly young and vulnerable women who were kidnapped from Tenancingo, Mexico and forced into sex slavery right here in the United States. It is the single largest source of sex slaves in America according to this report.

The latest studies estimate that there are more than 20.9 million people – mostly girls and women – who are forced into sex slavery worldwide. And, sex trafficking is the fastest growing criminal enterprise in the world today. These statistics can just sound like numbers until we pause and think of the individuals who suffer through this evil. We may not know them by face or name, but they do have faces and they do have names and they really do matter.

The problem of sex trafficking can seem beyond our control, but there are some wonderful organizations out there fighting the good fight everyday that we can support in whatever ways we can to help end this evil. And, as citizens we can demand that our government do more domestically and internationally to further the cause of human freedom. As a nation, abolishment of slavery was and is an important milestone in our history. We now have to go the extra mile to end slavery in all of its illegal forms starting here at home.

I would like to argue that there is something else we can do too – something that requires moral courage, introspection, and ultimately a cultural shift. We can start a movement against the sexual objectification of women. If we are really honest, the shocking evil of sex trafficking is in, some ways, only an extension and the ugliest manifestation of treating women like commodities. From selling cars and clothes to beer and chips and everything in between, we have become quite comfortable with the sexual objectification of women in society. And, somehow as long as a woman consents and is over the random age of 18 or 21, it becomes completely legal to sexually and commercially exploit her.

Sadly, many women – young girls in particular – have internalized a lot of this objectification around them on highway billboards, television and movie screens, and Internet. For it nowadays to be common and culturally acceptable for a young girl to walk around in the mall, for example, with something like “juicy” written across her backside or across her chest is an indication of the serious problem that lies before us.

Needless to say, women are not objects – they are human beings who have souls and intellects and are endowed with God-given dignity that no man or corporation should ever be able to take away from them. Starting with the way we raise our boys and our girls, we are desperately in need of a cultural shift – locally and globally – on how we think of women.

A young man once came to the Prophet Muhammad asking permission to commit fornication with women. The Prophet drew the young man closer to himself, put his hand on his shoulders, and asked, “Would you like this for your sister or your mother or your daughter?” The man immediately replied that he would hate it. The Prophet said, “then, how can I permit you to do this with someone else’s sister, mother, or daughter?”

Ramadan is the month in which we learn to discipline our sexual appetites through the spiritual discipline of fasting. The idea is not sacrifice our appetites completely at the altar of monasticism, but rather to bring our inclinations into conformity with a higher and more ethical way. If people were not slaves to their sexual appetites there would be no industry for sex slavery. And, if people learned to control their sexual glances, there would be far less objectification of women. As with everything else that is good, it all begins with the self.

TIME Crime

FBI Recovers 168 Children From Sex-Trafficking Rings Across the U.S.

FBI Director James Comey participates in a news conference on child sex trafficking, at FBI headquarters, June 23, 2014 in Washington, D.C.
FBI Director James Comey participates in a news conference on child sex trafficking, at FBI headquarters, June 23, 2014 in Washington, D.C. Mark Wilson—Getty Images

The weeklong operation took place in more than 100 cities

The FBI has rescued 168 children and arrested 281 pimps in a weeklong child-prostitution sting operation carried out across the U.S., in partnership with local law-enforcement agencies and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC).

Operation Cross Country VIII took place in 106 cities across 54 FBI divisions, the bureau announced Monday. The various cross-country operations have to date rescued around 3,600 children and led to 1,450 convictions, more than a dozen of which have come with life sentences in prison. The FBI operation has also recovered more than $3.1 million in assets.

“Operation Cross Country reveals that children are being targeted and sold for sex in America every day,” said John Ryan, the CEO and president of NCMEC, in a statement.

Initial targets have typically included casinos, truck stops and websites advertising escort and dating services, as identified by local law enforcement. The FBI uses the information gathered from these busts to expand their search and to partner with the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney’s Offices to serve those running child-prostitution rings with federal charges.

“Child sex traffickers create a living nightmare for their adolescent victims,” Leslie Caldwell, assistant attorney general for the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice, said in a statement. “They use fear and force and treat children as commodities of sex to be sold again and again. This operation puts traffickers behind bars and rescues kids from their nightmare so they can start reclaiming their childhood.”

TIME Cambodia

Trafficking Activist Somaly Mam Is Accused of Faking Her Life Story

Cambodian activist Somaly Mam (R) accepts a "Woman of the Year" award with a child she rescued from sexual slavery, during the 2006 Glamour Magazine "Women of the Year" Honors award show in New York City October 30, 2006. Lucas Jackson—Reuters

Following a Newsweek article, and a legal probe that found several alleged inconsistencies in her oft-cited biography, Mam has quit the NGO she helped found

Somaly Mam, the world-renowned campaigner against sex trafficking, and a TIME 100 alumni from 2009, resigned Wednesday from the organization she started, after a probe found apparent inconsistencies in the shocking personal history she has frequently cited when raising funds for her cause.

The Somaly Mam Foundation’s executive director Gina Reiss-Wilchins published a statement on the organization’s website, expressing “heartfelt disappointment” over Mam’s decision, which came after a two-month investigation by a legal firm the foundation hired to investigate the allegations of falsification.

The firm looked at various claims made by Mam, including her being sold into sexual slavery at a young age.

Mam’s resignation comes a week after a May 21 Newsweek article, which questioned several of the central assertions of her autobiography, The Road of Lost Innocence, such as her being an orphan and having been abducted.

“We remain grateful to Somaly’s work over the past two decades and for helping to build a foundation that has served thousands of women and girls,” stated Reiss-Wilchins. “We look forward to moving past these events and focusing all of our energies on this vital work.”

TIME sex trafficking

Inside the Scarily Lucrative Business Model of Human Trafficking

Igor Bilic—Flickr Vision

New report estimates almost $100 billion annual profits in sex trafficking alone.

Though many people believe slavery to be a thing from the distant past or award-winning movies, new figures out from the International Labor Organization (ILO) suggest that human trafficking—essentially, coercing people to work under unjust, often inhumane, circumstances—is a growth business.

Estimates of just how much the human trafficking business is worth have grown massively since the last ILO report on forced labor almost a decade ago. Back in 2005, the business was estimated at about $44 billion annually. Now, it’s more like $150 billion. This likely reflects a growing awareness of the numbers of people who have been caught up in some sort of bonded labor, rather than actual growth in the business.

Annual-profits-of-forced-labour-per-victim-and-sector

ILO’s study suggests that what often pushes people into bonded labor is not a constant level of grinding poverty, but a sudden financial setback. Poor households are much less able to deal with an unexpected misfortune—a lost job, a medical emergency, a hike in the rent or the prices of goods and services.

This setback, which sometimes makes it hard for at-risk populations to even afford food, pushes individuals into borrowing, which sets them up for usurious interest on credit, or pushes them into accepting any work at all to feed their families.

Contrary to a widespread misconception, only a small portion of the trade comprises sex trafficking, though most of trafficking money does come from the sex trade.

“Globally, two-thirds of the profits from forced labour were generated by commercial sexual exploitation,” says the report, “amounting to an estimated $99 billion [U.S. dollars] per year.” There’s also a lot of profit from bonded labor among those who gather food, in either agriculture or fishing industries. Laborers are worth approximately $9 billion a year in profits.

The homefront isn’t a safe haven either. The ILO estimates that “private households that employ domestic workers under conditions of forced labour save about $8 billion [U.S. dollars] annually by not paying or underpaying their workers.”

Since we’re talking about a very informal and mostly illegal trade, numbers are extremely hard to come by. These are not the kind of businesses that create annual reports. The ILO uses a slightly different formula for working out how much each sector is gaining from forced labor. For the agriculture industry, it estimated the difference between the value added by the worker and the wages paid to the workers in that sector, using 2012 Global Database information.

(Under modern parameters, people can be paid while engaged in forced labor. For example, domestic workers are considered to be in forced labor if they’re paid 40% or less of what they should be paid.)

Annual-profits-of-forced-labour

More than half the money from forced labor is made in the Asia Pacific region, says the ILO. India and China have lots of bonded workers, some of who they export to other parts of the world. Much of this trafficking, although not all, is for the sex industry. Some anti-slavery advocates are highly critical of tourists who pay for prostitutes in foreign countries.

“We have a culture that normalizes the sex industry so that it is seen as a benign, ‘victimless’ crime,” says Carol Smolenski of ECPAT-USA, an organization that fights child prostitution. “Even though the life histories of so many of women show them turning to this industry out of desperation, a lack of options or through violence and intimidation by pimps and traffickers.”

But while the big money comes from the Asia Pacific region, more profit is made from each bonded laborer who ends up in wealthier nations.

In developed countries and the EU, coerced workers can be worth almost $35,000 a year to their exploiters. In the Middle East, it’s more like $15,000. Most of this money is made on the back of undereducated or unskilled workers in industries and sectors where demand for labor fluctuates. Apart from the sex industry, agriculture and domestic work, these workers toil in construction, manufacturing and mining.

Annual-profits-of-forced-labour-pervictim-and-region

In general, the likeliest victims of forced labor are poor, unskilled workers who get stuck in a bad situation in a place where the rule of law is a little iffy. But not always. Sometimes highly skilled individuals can be caught up too, particularly if they’re on foreign soil.

In this week’s Time magazine, Shandra Woworuntu, who worked in finance in Indonesia, tells the story of how she was snapped up from the airport and traded from brothel to brothel in a sex trafficking ring in 2001 for several months and finally escaped by jumping from a second story window. What lawless part of the world did this horrific event take place in? Brooklyn, New York.

TIME Nigeria

New Boko Haram Video Appears to Show Kidnapped Nigerian Schoolgirls

Footage released by Boko Haram purportedly shows some of the Nigerian schoolgirls abducted in April as its leader says he'll free them in a prisoner exchange

Updated 4:47 p.m. ET

A new video released by the extremist group Boko Haram claims to show for the first time more than 100 Nigerian schoolgirls abducted last month, amid growing outrage at the kidnapping and the government’s response.

The authenticity of the video, first published by AFP on Monday, could not immediately be confirmed. It depicts the girls wearing hijab and praying. In the video, a leader of the group boasts that the girls, who came from both Christian and Muslim families, have converted to Islam. “We have indeed liberated them,” the militant leader Abubakar Shekau says in the video. “These girls have become Muslims, they are Muslims.”

Shekau says he will only release the schoolgirls if the Nigerian government frees Boko Haram prisoners. “It is now four years or five years that you have arrested our brethren, they are still in your prison and you are doing many things to them, and now you are talking about these girls?” he said. “We will never release them until you release our brethren.”

A top Nigerian official quickly dismissed the notion that the government would release Boko Haram prisoners in exchange for the safe return of the schoolgirls, AFP reports. “The issue in question is not about Boko Haram… giving conditions,” Interior Minister Abba Moro said.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters Monday that the United States has no reason to doubt the authenticity of the video, and that U.S. intelligence agencies are scouring the video for clues.

“Our intelligence experts are combing over every detail of it for clues that might help in the ongoing efforts to secure the release of the girls,” Carney said.

A team of almost 30 American officials is already in the country assisting in the investigation; it includes four Department of State advisers, 17 Department of Defense advisers and four people from the FBI.

In an earlier video, Shekau had threatened to force the girls into marriage, saying he would “sell them in the market, by Allah.”

Boko Haram kidnapped 276 schoolgirls from their school in Chibok almost a month ago, and an international social media campaign is demanding their release. Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has been widely criticized for his failure to prevent the attack and for his response. The United States announced last week that it was sending a team to aid in search and rescue of the girls.

-with reporting from Zeke J Miller in Washington

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