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What do they mean, “trafficked”?

This phrase set me off: “a UK initiative established to raise awareness of the plight of workers trafficked into the sex industry.” (1)

Why “trafficked”? What’s with this terminology? You see it all the time. “Tantamount to slavery.” “Conditions indistinguishable from slavery.” Why “tantamount”? Why “indistinguishable from”?

It IS slavery. It is slavery of the worst and most disgusting sort. Even hard labor does not involve body invasion. It is slavery with every possible revolting humiliation included. It is slavery with physical torture, disease, and early death, just like “real” slavery. It is human beings carrying a price tag, bought by men. That isn’t “tantamount” to slavery. It IS slavery.

Why do so many people work so hard to call it something else? Look at the terminology in that first sentence: “workers,” “trafficked,” “industry.” Workers is what we all are. Nothing special there. Traffic is just a term for buying and selling stuff, with connotations of a busy bazaar, borderline deals, and smuggling. Maybe bricks of cocaine are being moved around. And “industry,” well, that’s positively good. Hard work, salt of the earth. Admittedly, it’s qualified as being the “sex industry,” but still. It feels like they’re talking about regular economic transactions.

What they’re talking about without euphemisms is the plight of women and children sold to men.

Slaves aren’t “workers” unless workers are now locked up and beaten. The women aren’t bricks on a conveyor belt, shunted to new buildings. Lies and kidnapping keep the pipeline full of new slaves, just as they did in the bad old days. Unless you want to call selling organs an industry, that’s the wrong word for it. It’s a crime.

In our free and enlightened time, there are more people enslaved than ever before. The estimate is some twenty seven million living in slavery (1999). That includes only forced labor, not workers struggling with appalling conditions. Of those 27,000,000, over 70%, three quarters, the vast majority, most, are women or girls. Fifty percent of all slaves are children, most of them girls. Female slaves are generally violated, even when suffering sexual torture isn’t their primary function.

Slavery is no longer focused on a class or a race. Now it’s not whites who think blacks don’t feel pain the way real people do. Now it’s men who think buying women is okay because who cares what they think and anyway they like it.

Slavery is not okay. Everybody knows that. Maybe, if we called it by its right name, there’d be no way to continue pretending it is.