Saturday, January 3, 2009

Slavery, 21st century

SLAVERY in the United States? That's ancient history, right? Apparently not. An Associated Press story ["Child maids being exported to U.S.," Dec. 29] grippingly documents a California case.

Shyima was only 10, living with her siblings and parents in a poor village in northern Egypt, when a wealthy couple from Cairo arranged for her to come and be their servant. Shyima's father was sick; her family was desperate. Still, Shyima was just a child.

Forced to work up to 20 hours a day for $45 a month, Shyima moved with her employers and their five children to America, where she lived in the garage, washed her clothes in a bucket, and was isolated from the outside world--until someone finally noticed. After two years of virtual slavery, Shyima gained freedom when authorities came to the home. Her employers eventually pled guilty to forced labor and slavery. Shyima's been adopted by a California couple.

Cases like Shyima's are becoming distressingly more common. The State Department estimates that upwards of 800,000 people, mostly women and children, are trafficked between countries every year. Somewhere between 14,500 and 17,500 come into the United States. Eighty percent of the victims are women and children. Some 70 percent are being brought in as sexual slaves. Others, like Shyima, come here as domestic servants.

Read more here.

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