I recently visited the country of Ghana and followed in President Barak Obama's footsteps to visit the Cape Coast Castle. The Cape Coast Castle is one of the many castles and forts the Europeans built along the West Coast of Africa. These fortresses were used as trading stations for gold, ivory, and human beings. During the time of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, approximately 16-22 million slaves from countries throughout Africa were trafficked through the castle. According to Paul Lovejoy from Cambridge University, there were approximately 10 million slaves exported between 1650 and 1900.
The slaves were kept in dungeons, just like the one shown in this video. The women were held naked in dark dungeons. There was no toilet. They lived and ate in the dungeon. They were not allowed to bathe for months. The women were often used as sex slaves. Soldiers were allowed to peer into the entrance of the dungeon and select who they wanted for the night. The women who were selected were hosed down and removed from the dungeon. They were used and abused by the men. Those who became pregnant were thrown in to the sea because most of the men had wives in their home country.
Many of the slaves did not survive the passage from Africa to the Americas or Europe. As I walked through the castle, I realized that the slavery of centuries ago is not very different from modern day slavery -- the dehumanizing conditions in which the slaves are kept, the gross violation of human rights, and the apathy of the masses towards their plight. In the book, "Sex Trafficking: Inside the Business of Modern Slavery," released in 2009, author Siddharth Kara quotes sex slaves that he has interviewed:
"Victims are starved, deprived of fresh air and sunlight, and beaten regularly. At times they are ordered to inflict on one another. Many are shackled and handcuffed to metal bed frames."
"One day, I fell for their trap. I had a little dream of my own. It was to make some money and to buy my house. I arrived in America with such hopes and dreams. Who would have known what would be waiting there for me instead? Since the day I arrived, I had to live like an animal. The karaoke bar was a prison that was filled with nothing but curses, threats, and beatings."
Experts say that there are approximately 27 million slaves today. This is more than twice the amount of slaves traded between 1650 and 1900. The 13th Amendment to abolish slavery was passed in 1865. How is it that there are more slaves today than any other point in history?
The first step to addressing this issue is to acknowledge that it exists. The next step is to get involved with organizations that are combating human trafficking. Below is a list of a few organizations: