Bill Clinton on Ending Slavery

The 2010 Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) wrapped up yesterday. Free the Slaves president Kevin Bales was there. But, unlike in previous years, he did not take part in any panels or presentations—this time, he was just an attendee.

But, it seems that the legacy of Bales’ previous appearances was alive and well. The issue of modern day slavery was brought up by prominent 2010 presenters and panelists: Ashton Kutcher announced his commitment to eradicate sex slavery in a discussion with Nicholas Kristof and Arianna Huffington, and Wyclef Jean called slavery a “core issue” in Haiti.

The video below is from the 2009 CGI, in which Bill Clinton praised Kevin Bales’ book Ending Slavery. Here’s to hoping that the eradication of slavery continues to be an important topic at future CGI events!


Today slaves are cheaper than they have ever been. The enslaved fieldworker who cost the equivalent of $40,000 in 1850 costs less than $100 today.

“… In India today you can still buy slaves as well as farmland and oxen, which remain the essential ‘tractors’ that keep farms going. But when we compare the price of a slave to the modern prices of land, labor, or oxen in India, the slave costs, on average, 95 percent less than in the past. This precipitous collapse, unprecedented in all of human history, has dire consequences for slaves. If you buy a fully equipped, band new car for $40, do you think your relationship to your car would change? If your car were that cheap, you would begin to treat it as something to be used and then discarded. Why event fix a flat tire if the whole car cost less than the repair? Most slaveholders fee that way about slaves today.”

Kevin Bales, Ending Slavery: How We Free Today’s Slaves (page 12)

Craigslist took down their adult services ad, and replaced the link with a “censored” sign—which was later removed without comment.

Craigslist has been allowing the advertisement of children for commercial sex around the world, including in the United States, for years. I used to work at Polaris Project, a major domestic anti-trafficking organization where I had clients, young American girls, who’d been advertised on Craigslist.

Finally, Craigslist has taken down its “adult services” section in the U.S., in response to outcry from activists and law enforcement officials. But for some reason they still think it’s ok to continue their “Erotic Services” section in places like India, where Free the Slaves has programs and where sexual slavery of girls in prostitution is widespread.

Read about Free the Slaves work in India here and here.

Along with 103 other representatives from the anti-slavery movement, Free the Slaves President Kevin Bales signed a letter sent to Craigslist calling for a takedown of all their adult services ads. Last week, Craigslist did take down adult ads—but only on their U.S. site. They did this, seemingly in response to criticism levied at them from the media, activists and 17 attorneys general who publicly denounced the website for what they saw as facilitating sex trafficking. (Download a PDF of the letter here.)

Craigslist has largely kept mum since they took down their U.S. adult ads. But a representative is scheduled to break this silence tomorrow at a House Judiciary hearing. Free the Slaves Freedom Award winner Tina Frundt, a survivor of childhood sex trafficking and advocate for sex slaves in the U.S. is also scheduled to testify.

The letter signed by Kevin Bales will also be presented at this hearing. Download the letter here, or read it in full after the jump:


Quote: One drop of water

The world of water

“Yes, twenty-seven million in slavery is a lot of people, but it is just .0043 percent of the world’s population. Yes, $23 billion a year in slave-made products as services is a lot of money but it is exactly what Americans spent on Valentine’s Day in 2005. If humans trafficking generates $32 billion in profits annually, that is still a tiny drop in the ocean of the world economy.”

Kevin Bales, Ending Slavery: How We Free Today’s Slaves (page 3)

Ron Soodalter, co-author (with Free the Slaves President Kevin Bales) of The Slave Next Door has posted a piece on Huffington Post, calling for support of the California Transparency in Supply Chains act. This bill would require California companies that make over $100,0000 a year to post what they are doing to ensure that slavery is kept out of their supply chain. The Slave Next Door investigates slavery within the US, and posits that slavery never really went away. The book is being released in paperback today, August 23—which just happens to coincide with the International Day for Remembrance of the Slave Trade.

This past June, Free the Slaves, along with our partners in ATEST, endorsed this bill in a letter to the California Assembly Judiciary Committee. You can download our statement here.)

Here is Soodalter’s post from HuffPo:

In just a few days, we will commemorate the International Day for Remembrance of the Slave Trade. Although most of us might be unaware that the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade lasted some 350 years, we do tend to believe that slavery is a thing of the past — that the Emancipation Proclamation and the 13th Amendment banished it forever from our shores and that America has been slavery-free ever since.

Sadly, nothing could be further from the truth. Most Americans are unaware of the extent to which both foreign nationals and U.S. citizens are victimized by human trafficking and various forms of slavery in our country today. And if we think that our own lives are untainted by the products of slave labor, we must think again. As Free the Slaves president Kevin Bales and I point out in the newly updated paperback edition of The Slave Next Door: Human Trafficking and Slavery in America Today (UC Press, 8/23/2010), there’s a very good chance that the clothes we wear and the food we eat have been tainted by slavery. Cotton, that symbol of bondage in the pre-Civil War South, is now being picked by slave labor on three continents, and marketed as clothing here at home. The orange juice and tomatoes we have with our burgers at lunch could very well have come from a Mexican or Guatemalan immigrant working under coercion. The rug we walk on at home could have been woven in India, Pakistan or Nepal by one of a hundred thousand child slaves, seven, eight, nine years old. Cell phones and lap tops require an element called tantalum; it comes from an ore that is mined in the Congo, often by slaves.