Thursday, February 19, 2009

Book Review on "A Crime So Monstrous"

Slavery still persists thought much of the world. From Europe to Haiti to India people still work without freedom. A new book from former Newsweek reporter E. Benjamin Skinner sheds light on the problem. Mary H. Meier of the Boston Globe writes this review of "A Crime So Monstrous"

Of all the unhappy women and men whose paths cross author E. Benjamin Skinner's in his book on present-day slavery, the saddest is undoubtedly the nameless Romanian girl with Down syndrome in a Bucharest brothel. "Mascara ran from pools of tears around deep-set eyes," Skinner writes. "Below her right bicep were no less than ten deep, angry red slashes, raised, some freshly scabbed."

Her image pervades "A Crime So Monstrous," a devastating exposé of the millions of suffering enslaved human beings around the world, including children.

Under threat of brutality, they toil in wealthy Haitian households, European brothels, and Indian quarries. Skinner encountered many such cases as he traveled to these sites with John Miller, the former head of the US State Department's Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. Field action to halt slavery is carried out through private groups funded from the office's annual budget of $375 million.

To document more of the stark horror of slavery in other countries, he traveled widely, from Haiti, to the former communist countries of Eastern Europe, where severe poverty was endemic, to the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia, and to India, where peasants and quarry workers who amass even small amounts of debt can remain in virtual slavery to their creditors for generations. In Moldova (part of which was once known as Moldavia and belonged to the former Soviet Union), some 400,000 women have disappeared since independence into slave prostitution.

The problem of winning emancipation in so many countries is huge, but there are isolated bright lights. In Moldova, psychologist Dr. Lidia Gorceag operates a shelter for former sex slaves, funded by the International Organization for Migration in the United States. Many of these women come to her with physical injuries; their emotional scars are even deeper. Gorceag and the IOM help them to start their own small businesses such as selling sunflower oil or working in hair salons to gain economic independence. And in Washington, D.C., Kevin Bales runs Free the Slaves, an umbrella organization working to halt trafficking.

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