Slavery, the bottom line: An interview with Siddharth Kara

Siddharth KaraIn an interview with The Boston Globe, Siddharth Kara, author of Sex Trafficking: Inside the Business of Modern Slavery, explains why understanding sex trafficking as an economic issue is crucial to its eradication.

Whereas a leading industry like Google has a profit margin of 30 percent, modern sex trafficking has one of 70 percent. Like any other business, Kara argues, sex trafficking succeeds by minimizing or eliminating labor costs. Kara elaborates on the business model of slavery:

The business model contains three essential steps: acquisition, movement, and exploitation. Sex trafficking is probably the most profitable form of slavery the world has ever seen, in that you can acquire or transport someone for a few hundred dollars, maybe a couple thousand dollars, and generate tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands….That’s the essential functioning and logic of the business model: low cost and risk to transport the slave, and immense profitability on the exploitation side.

So how to end slavery. Kara suggests that tougher penalties for traffickers and a more efficient justice system is essential. Presently, traffickers see little risk and therefore prices are relatively low but by creating greater risk and driving prices up, the demand will decrease. Kara explains:

Depending on which country you’re in, it takes 1.5 to 2 hours of work at that country’s per capita income to purchase 1 hour of sex from a sex slave. So you ask yourself, How many males will trade in 1.5 hours of salary to purchase sex? A huge number. If we were to revert back to where prices were a decade ago, by putting more cost and risk into the system…you [would] see a massive decrease in demand, because you’ve priced out of the market those low-wage consumers — like day laborers, taxi drivers, and tuk tuk drivers — who are now in the market.

Ultimately, Kara believes that employing measures to eradicate sex trafficking should cost no more $400 million. Kara is further encouraged by economists, human rights activists, and others who are currently focusing more attention on the issue.

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