April 4th 2020

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY The world has changed: Now for the new order

FAMILY AND SOCIETY Move to curtail underage online porn epidemic

CANBERRA OBSERVED ScoMo's delicate balancing act in extraordinary times

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Time and timing are crucial to Cardinal Pell's appeal by Peter Westmore

NEW ZEALAND Political divisions polarise across the Ditch

NEW ZEALAND Victorian Road Map smooths way of NZ anti-life clique to abortion 'reform'

FREE SPEECH Intolerance brigade at UQ attacks professor of Law

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Victoria lifts moratorium of gas exploration

CHINESE HISTORY The Soong Dynasty: Three sisters who rules China

LAW AND SOCIETY Guilt by accusation: The kangaroos are roaming freely through Australia's legal system

GENDER POLITICS Dr Quentin Van Meter's Australian talk is opening eyes in the U.S.

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS Australia is not safe in the borderless globalised world

SHOPPING AND SOCIETY The Ubermensch in the aisles

MUSIC We seem to have lost the point of counterpoint

CINEMA The Current War: Industrial miracle workers

BOOK REVIEW A dark trade that continues unabated worldwide

EBOOK READ THIS Both sides to this old story



NATIONAL AFFAIRS Use detention centres to help deal with covid19 epidemic

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Justice at last: Cardinal Pell set free

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dark trade that continues unabated worldwide

News Weekly, April 4, 2020

SLAVERY INC: The Untold Story of International Sex Trafficking

by Lydia Cacho

Granta Books, London
Paperback: 320 pages

Price: AUD$26.90

Reviewed by Gabrielle Walsh

World leaders are waking up to the scourge that is the international sex trade. As recently as January 31, 2020, U.S. President Donald Trump signed an Executive Order on combatting human trafficking, including the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, and the creation of a new White House position that will be dedicated to the task. The President declared his administration was “100 per cent committed to eradicating human trafficking from the earth”.

Which makes Lydia Cacho’s exposé of sex trafficking and sexual exploitation as relevant as it was when it first appeared in Spanish in 2010.

Since Cacho wrote Slavery Inc., the tide of human trafficking has not slowed. She writes: “In 2006, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) on trafficking in persons: global patterns names Australia as one of 21 trafficking destination countries in the high category.” In 2020, the UNODOC website says: “Trafficking in per-sons is a serious crime and a grave violation of human rights. Every year thousands of men, women and children fall into the hands of traffickers.”

Slavery Inc. shines a light on a dark and expanding global trade. The book explores the complex web of one of the most serious problems of the 21st century – slavery in various forms but, in particular, sex slavery. This trade, Cacho explains, has grown unfettered across the world leaving in its wake many victims, mainly women and children.

In building her case, Cacho relies heavily upon extensive interviews with victims, traffickers, pimps, police officers and immigration officials in many countries. She thus exposes an illegal and growing global industry.

Cacho writes: “According to the Global Report on Trafficking in Persons, published by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in 2009, which covers 155 countries, 79 per cent of trafficking is for the purpose of sexual exploitation.”

In her Introduction, she writes: “Although all forms of human trafficking are rooted in the search for economic power, sex trafficking encourages, creates, and strengthens a culture in which slavery is normalised and considered to be a viable answer for the millions of women, girls and boys who live in poverty and lack education. The power of the international sex trade lies in turning the human body into a commodity, to be exploited, bought and sold without the owner’s permission.”

Several traffickers interviewed made a similar statement – “this is all about money, not people” – and such people invest millions of dollars in political lobbying to normalise slavery.

Cacho learned that an Illegal cargo of AK-47s did not need anything more than proper packaging, a buyer, a corrupt government intermediary, and a seller. “A human slave, however, must be convinced that her life has no value except to her buyer and seller. The trafficker’s power is sustained by eliminating the potential victims’ chances of dignity and freedom. Poverty is not only the fertile ground but the machine that plants the seeds of slavery in the world. Government’s complicity is undeniable.”

Through many interviews, Cacho was able to uncover the main levers of this ever-expanding global industry.



Cacho looked into organised crime for part of the explanation and discovered that the Japanese Yakuza, Chinese Triads, Italian, Russian, Albanian mafias and Latin American drug cartels were all heavily engaged in this highly profitable industry.

“All these businesses are run by diverse groups of Triads in the United Kingdom, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, the United States, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Mexico.” Cacho discovered that in all the cities of the world where there are Chinese factories, the trafficking in men, women and children exists. “The Chinese mafia … specialises in the buying and selling of young Asian girls.”

According to a young woman who had escaped from slavery, it was believed that at the time there were up to 300 factories in Mexico, overseen by the Chinese Mafia, where trafficked girls were working as slaves, in brothels or massage parlours. “The Triads have become experts at creating international networks providing child and adolescent sex tourism to clients.”

Stories of successful rescues are dotted throughout the book. With assistance from the Centre for Integral Support for Women, which runs a shelter for battered women, Cacho interviewed Arely, 19, who was kept as a slave in a brothel. Her story was strikingly similar to those of many other rescued girls.

Attempts to get Arely to consult with officials from immigration were fruitless as she was convinced that she would meet with her death if she did so.

In Japan, Cacho writes, “the Yakuza are very well organised … their principal business is the sex trade”. This trade is also growing in Turkey: over the five years 2004–09, 200,000 women and girls were trafficked to Turkey.

According to Cacho, other countries where slavery is expanding are: Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan. However, she points out, “the problem is what governments choose to address or ignore once they become aware of these tales of globalised slavery”.



Legalising prostitution is no answer. Rather, the business of slavery requires the existence of legal prostitution. “Evidence shows that legalisation [of prostitution] would further open the door to the mafias and facilitate slavery. There is also a direct correlation between adult prostitution and sexual violence against girls at younger and younger ages.”

Some in favour of legalising prostitution see it as a way to give women control over their bodies, but Cacho believes that “passing laws to legitimise a despicable occupation in such an unequal world will end up favouring the victimisers and not the victims”.



Cacho spends a whole chapter on the money laundering practices that are used to hide the funds gained through sex trafficking. Banks and stockmarket investors play a part in the money trail. Cacho writes: “The only way to control money laundering and freeze the profits from trafficking in order to stop the slave trade would be to have the same legal requirements for money transfers throughout the world, so that senders and recipients would have to prove their identity and hence the original source of the money.

“To understand how human slavery works, we need to accept that the mafia runs businesses, that prostitution is an industry, and that women, girls and boys are the commodities being sold.”

Businesses are protected by local mafia and, when girls are rescued, they are replaced with other girls within a couple of days. The sex industry is a business and, as such, yields high taxes for governments. Another important point Cacho makes is that, “as in other industries, slavery has been bolstered by the liberalisation of global markets”.



Throughout the book, Cacho acknowledges the good work many NGOs and other groups undertake to bring victims out of the industry and equip them to find decent employment. Examples of these are AFESIP Cambodia (Acting for Women in Distressing Situations), and ECPAT (End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes).

These groups also provide sound data on the extent of sexual exploitation. Thus it is known that, in Cambodia each year, “2000 girls and boys are victims of trafficking for sexual purposes; some are used as beggars and others as domestic slaves”.

All the Women Together Today and Tomorrow (SAWA), supported by the United Nations Development Fund for Women, undertook research on human trafficking and published its report in June 2008, “Trafficking and Forced Prostitution of Palestinian Women and Girls: Forms of Modern Day Slavery”.

The investigation learned there were many illegal brothels in East Jerusalem with trafficked women and girls. “These criminal syndicates function like a clock that marks not the passing of minutes and hours but the flow of millions of U.S. dollars through the legal gaps that exist between one country and another.”

Throughout the book, Cacho has generously referenced reports, books and research that throw light on the history of the industry and the numbers of victims and perpetrators involved.

This book is recommended for the clarity it brings to an illegal, complex, global industry that leaves many victims in its wake. Work for the eradication of global trafficking must be on every person’s “to do” list and Lydia Cacho’s Slavery Inc. is a great place to get informed.

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