Award-winning rights activist at UAS

Author to speak on contemporary slavery

Posted: Thursday, October 31, 2002

Most Americans don't know that commonly available products such as chocolate and the steel used to make automobiles can be linked to slave labor, according to Kevin Bales, the director of Free the Slaves, a human rights organization trying to end slavery worldwide.

Bales will speak about contemporary slavery and its social and economic implications Friday at the Egan Library at the University of Alaska Southeast. His talk, "Slavery in the Modern World," starts at 7 p.m.

Bales' book, "Disposable People," was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 2000. Bales also will show a film based on his work called, "Slavery, a Global Investigation," which recently received two Emmy awards and has been the recipient of a Peabody Award.

In his talk, Bales will define "slave" as someone in a situation where he or she is being economically exploited and making no money. Also, slaves can't leave the situation because they are being held under the threat of violence. More vulnerable populations, such as poor women and children, are popular targets for the worldwide slave trade, though men are desirable slaves because of their strength, Bales said.

"Twenty-seven million people are in slavery today," Bales said. "That is more (slaves) than there ever have been."

He said that number includes about 50,000 people being kept in slavery in the United States, including domestic slaves in homes, slaves who work picking crops, sex slaves and illegal sweat-shop slaves. Criminal rings that traffic in drugs and weapons often illegally sell people, Bales said.

He said so many slaves are in the world that they are being sold for the equivalent of $100 each. That makes the cost to "maintain" a slave, such as providing medicine, not as cost effective as simply letting that person die and buying a new slave, he said.

To learn more about Bales' group, visit

Julia O'Malley can be reached at

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