Sidebar: Exploitation, Sexploitation, and Consumer Society

Ray Waddle

It’s a crime against humanity and ultimately a sin: Some 20-30 million people – including five million children – are trapped in modern slavery, whether forced by traffickers into labor or exploited in commercial sex enterprises, says a United Church of Christ report at

More than 75 percent of human trafficking is forced labor (child labor, debt bondage among migrant laborers, involuntary domestic servitude, child soldiers). Nearly 25 percent of human trafficking is forced prostitution, according to the International Labor Organization.

“In America, 60,000 men, women, and children are enslaved at this very moment,” the Interfaith Toolkit on Human Trafficking declares. “Human trafficking is the second largest and fastest-growing organized crime in the world.” Profits from sex slavery are estimated to be nearly $10 billion.

Children and youth are especially vulnerable.

“Unsheltered youth are more likely to fall victim to sexual exploitation,” the toolkit says. About 1.7 million US youth experience homelessness each year. The toolkit cites these statistics: 28 percent of youth living on the street trade sex for basic needs, such as food or shelter, a practice known as survival sex. Nearly 40 percent of all American homeless youth identify as LGBTQIA, yet only 7 percent of the US youth population is LGBTQIA.

“The violence done to the physical, psychological, and spiritual wellbeing of children and women who are forced into prostitution, the pornography industry, sex tourism and other forms of sexploitation are violations of the call of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to love our neighbors as ourselves,” declares the human trafficking webpage at “The influx of immigrants crossing the border into America are most susceptible to modern slavery, as traffickers use their vulnerability as immigrants as tools to manipulate and coerce.”

Modern consumerism drives much of the exploitation. “Our demand for more products and low prices comes at a high price – that of the slave labor of men, women, and children around the globe,” the toolkit says. “As Americans, we must ask ourselves: ‘Do we really care under what conditions our products are made?’”

Human Trafficking Awareness Month is January. Available at, the toolkit offers churches ways to fight sex slavery and inhuman labor practices. The toolkit was produced by the Washington Inter-Religious Staff Community Working Group on Human Trafficking.

– Ray Waddle