Sex trafficking has become a great problem for the civilized world. Unfortunately it has developed more rapidly with the pace of globalization. As the business of the world is becoming larger, this nuisance is also expanding its feet. Infact, sex trafficking is an epidemic. Millions of women and children are forced or sold into prostitution each year where they live a life of hopelessness and brutality. What can be done? If trafficking remains profitable how can it be stopped? Former investment banker Siddharth Kara has a proposal. He presents a business analysis of the industry and suggests sectors that could be affected by outside interventions. For close to a decade, this investment banker-cum-abolitionist visited brothels, shelters and villages around the world, interviewing hundreds of trafficking victims, their families, law-enforcement officials and NGO workers. This is not first book, which deals with issues of Human Trafficking but definitely a pioneering attempt to analyze the Human Trafficking in terms of business profit and loss with proper adjustment with graphs and figures. The presentation of case studies in the book makes it altogether different and more authentic. There is another quality of the book; it is attempt of 10 years of extensive research of many difficult areas of the world. The author had visited and remained there for many months to collect the case studies. This book augurs for the governments of the respective states to make a strong policy to end the expanding trade of Sex Slavery which is thriving with world trade. It is a severe blot on the human face. This book is divided in the seven chapters. Chapters are divided into area specific problem of sex trafficking. It moves from Indian subcontinent to South East Asia to Eastern Europe. It includes the developed world like Europe and the United states.     

The first part is introductory which explains the problems related with human trafficking in the world. Human trafficking and other forms of slavery are thriving in the shadows. At the end of 2006 there were as many as 28.4 million slaves who were sold by their parents, abducted or coerced into a life of forced labor, bonded labor or sexual servitude. And yet, mainly due to its underground criminal nature, this violent exploitation remains ill-understood by governments and is rarely adequately tackled. “What we know is the tip of the iceberg, but [we] have no assessment of the iceberg itself,” said Antonio Maria Costa, executive director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, in a recent interview with the BBC.In 2006, the average net profit margin of sex trafficking was 70%, while Google, General Electric and Exxon Mobil posted margins of 29%, 12.8% and 10.8%, respectively. Even within the slave industry, which according to Mr. Kara brought in $152.3 billion in revenues in 2007, trafficked sex workers are by far the most lucrative slaves—although only 4.2% of the world’s slaves are trafficked sex slaves, they generate 39.1% of slaveholders’ profits. What makes this illicit business so immensely profitable, according to Mr. Kara, are the relatively low costs and risks involved with running it. The fixed cost of purchasing a slave, for instance, is on average a mere $1,800, with some parents selling their children to traders for as little as a few hundred dollars.

Second chapter deals with factors of globalization and rural poverty. Exacerbating the problem is the fallout from unregulated economic globalization, which, Mr. Kara argues, has deepened rural poverty, disenfranchised the poor, and produced a vast and vulnerable population that can be procured and transported more cheaply and easily than ever before. The rapid opening up of market economies following the fall of the Berlin Wall precipitated the macro movement of slaves from South Asia, East Asia and Eastern Europe to wealthier countries in the Middle East, Western Europe and North America, as well as to Asian city centers, he argues. Indeed, Mr. Kara rants on so furiously about the evils of “corporate-centered American-style capitalism” and “extreme market-economy principles” that at times it’s hard to tell who he believes to be the bigger culprit—the slave trader or the IMF. Kara also argues that there is a clear price limit to what people will pay for sex—in other words, that the demand for sex is extremely elastic. The decreasing price of sex, which the use of slaves has allowed, has opened up the prostitution market to low-wage laborers who would not otherwise have the means to purchase sex. This analysis ultimately indicates that the best way to combat sex trafficking would be to erode its profitability by increasing the cost of obtaining and exploiting sex slaves. To begin with, laws against human trafficking should be at least as aggressive as those for drug smuggling, he argues. In India, for instance, the financial penalty for drug trafficking is currently 100 times more severe than fines for trafficking sex slaves. To raise prosecution rates, Mr. Kara advocates the formation of a multinational tactical unit that would act as a special inspection force responsible for conducting raids and gathering evidence. He also calls on governments to achieve higher conviction rates by allowing cases to be fast-tracked in special trafficking courts, providing better witness protection and addressing law-enforcement and judicial corruption.

As the world falls deeper into economic depression, it remains unclear whether the sex trafficking industry will expand or contract. In a recent announcement concerning the UNODC’s Global Report on Trafficking in Persons, Mr. Costa reported that the number of slaves will be likely to increase during this global economic downturn. Mr. Kara’s analysis, which shows the correlation between global economic expansion and the ascent of human trafficking, might suggest otherwise. What is clear, however, is that even in times of economic crisis, governments should not relinquish efforts to combat modern slavery. This book serves as a stark reminder of the barbaric forms of exploitation that will persist if states fail to do their part. There are still slaves today, even though slavery is illegal in every country in the world. By my calculation, there were 28.4 million slaves in the world at the end of 2006. These slaves were in three primary categories: 18.1 million debt bondage/bonded labor slaves, 7.6 million forced labor slaves, and 2.7 million trafficked slaves (slaves who were coerced or deceived then transported into a forced labor or debt bondage situation). Of these trafficked slaves, 1.2 million were sex slaves. For reasons I discuss in my book, there will assuredly be more slaves in the world today than at the end of 2006, with the highest growth in the trafficked slave category. Sex slavery is the first form of slavery I (consciously) encountered.

The first stage in the contemporary abolitionist movement was to reignite awareness of the fact that slavery still exists, most effectively achieved by Dr. Kevin Bales and his 1999 publication, Disposable People. However, awareness and outrage must be harnessed into effective action, which has for the most part eluded the global community thus far. The second stage of the contemporary abolitionist movement is to equip this outrage with a granular understanding of the global economic forces that unleashed modern slavery, and the microeconomic forces that allow it to thrive in nearly every corner of the world.

This book has been conceived as an attempt to unify outrage with economics, based on the premise that the economic analysis will provide the insight through which to design a more effective global response to this brutal crime against humanity. Only after understanding how sex trafficking functions, as a profit-driven business, can a more effective abolitionist movement be deployed that will attack the business by dismantling its fundamental premise: the exploitation of a vast supply of potential slaves to meet the demand for ever-greater profits in the worldwide commercial sex industry. Author says “When I began my research in the summer of 2000, few people knew what sex trafficking was, so I decided the only way to find out was to go straight into the field and learn for myself. I used money saved from my business career and took three separate trips to more than a dozen countries. I walked into brothels, massage parlors, and sex clubs to see for myself how the industry functioned. I journeyed to the villages and towns from which the victims originated to understand the conditions that gave rise to their exploitation. I traveled to numerous borders to understand how the movement of victims was accomplished. I interviewed victims of trafficking for purposes other than sexual exploitation, and I interviewed over two hundred individuals in other forms of contemporary slavery.”

The last part of the book is a strong suggestion for the government to formulate a definite policy to end the sex trafficking from the world. Sex Trafficking is certainly not the first book to bring attention to this horrifying and heartbreaking reality. Although Kara’s book elicits moral outrage, what sets it apart is the author’s decision to put forth a series of policy proposals based on his economic analysis of the business. “Understanding the market forces that gave rise to the contemporary sex trafficking industry and the implications that these forces have for the industry’s trajectory reveals the optimal interventions required to erode or abolish sex trafficking,” he writes. As such, the book is chock full of tables and graphs that detail the intricacies—from price lists to balance sheets—of the global sex-slave trade, which, Kara concludes,  has become big business.


Satish Kumar
MMH College, Meerut University, Ghaziabad – 201001, (U.P.), India