We like to think that our world is making progress, that as humanity develops technologically and economically we are also developing morally and socially. The rise of the new slave trade challenges that easy, comfortable assumption. True, slavery is not as economically important today as it was in the nineteenth century when the slave-dependent cotton industry provided cheap raw materials for the cutting edge textile factories that led the Industrial Revolution. And it is also true that while there are more slaves today than ever before in world history, the percentage of the world’s population held in slavery seems to be in long term decline.
But slavery today is by some measures more brutal and more soul destroying than it was in the past. The brothel industry in particular, subjecting millions of young women and children to repeated multiple rapes night after night for years at a time, is organized on a far larger and more extensive scale than it was in the past — and slaves make this industry possible.