The introduction of Not for Sale opens with these words:
Twenty-seven million slaves exist in our world today. Girls and boys, women and men of all ages are forced to toil in the rug loom sheds of Nepal, sell their bodies in the brothels of Rome, break rocks in the quarries of Pakistan, and fight wars in the jungles of Africa.
Go behind the facade in any major town or city in the world today and you are likely to find a thriving commerce in human beings. You may even find slavery in your own backyard.
Should you read this book?
That depends. If you want to keep on living in comfortable ignorance, while 27 million of your fellow human beings are living in what can only be described as “living hell,” then no, you shouldn’t read this book. (Let me be the first to admit that I have lived for years in “comfortable ignorance” to some degree.)
The facts and personal stories of the individuals that Batstone introduces us to are not an exhaustive account of modern slavery and human trafficking, but they are enough to shake us to the core and forever alter what we might have thought was a more-or-less unshakeable worldview.
A few pages into the introduction we meet Kru Nam and other abolitionists.
Kru Nam is irrepressible. She does not have a large organization standing behind her; a skeletal staff of three assists her, and she receives modest funding from a tiny nongovernmental agency based in Thailand. What she does have is a burning passion to rescue young boys and girls so that they do not fall into the treacherous control of slaveholders.
Kru Nam does not know Lucy Borja, who rescues girls and boys forced into the brothels of Lima, Peru, nor has she met Padre Cesare Lo Deserto, who steals trafficked girls away from the mafiosi of eastern Europe. But she shares a special calling with these characters whose stories are featured in this book. Not one of them went out looking for slavery. Each simply reached out a compassionate hand to a refugee in need or a homeless street child, and it exposed him or her to the ugly undercurrent of human trafficking. Their passage from a single act of kindness to fighting for justice on a grander scale is the quintessential story of the abolitionist.
In Batstone’s words, this is why he wrote the book:
This book aims to be a handbook for the modern-day abolitionist. As such, it does not pretend to be an exhaustive study of global slavery in the twenty-first century. Rather, it follows the trail of a select group of extraordinary abolitionists into their respective settings. We get a feel for the people around them who have fallen into captivity. We delve into the historical antecedents and social forces that frame their time and place. We learn how the slave traders they resist use power and violence to exploit the weak. And we gain an insight into the specific strategies these abolitionists deploy to bring about emancipation for the captives.
These stories make it clear that modern-day abolitionists are not cut from the same mold. The women who embrace the child soldiers of Uganda move in a different universe from those abolitionists in Los Angeles who confront forced labor in garment factories. A Swiss-born entrepreneur launches business enterprises for ex-sex slaves in Cambodia, while an American-born lawyer uses the public justice system to free entire villages in South Asia. Some abolitionists rely on their faith in God, while a dedication to love and justice inspires others.
Despite their unique bearings, these abolitionists do share a common sense of their moment in history. They recognize that human freedom stands poised at a crucial crossroads in our time. Powerful forces aim to turn human beings into commodities that can be bought and sold like any other piece of property. To declare “not for sale” affirms that every individual has the inalienable right to be free, to pursue a God-given destiny.
To inspire others to join their movement is my overriding purpose for writing this book. The abolitionists featured herein are truly extraordinary, but they cannot win the fight alone. They are overwhelmed and beleaguered. Although Kru Nam is brave and resourceful, she cannot single-handedly stop sex trafficking in Thailand. The size and scope of her project is about the norm for abolitionist organizations. They sorely need reinforcements, a new wave of abolitionists, to join them in the struggle.
And that’s where you and I come into the picture or step onto the stage, as it were. But this is not art nor is it acting. The people are real. The pain is real. The horror is real.
In the next six chapters Batstone cracks open a door to shed some light into the darkness that is human trafficking and slavery in its many forms. I’ll let the chapter titles speak for themselves:
- Shining Light into the Sexual Darkness: Cambodia and Thailand
- Breaking the Chains of Bonded Laborers: South Asia
- Rescuing the Child Soldiers: Uganda
- Undermining the Sex Syndicate: Europe
- Sheltering the Lost Children: Peru
- Building a New Underground Railroad: USA
The warning on the back of the book reads, “Advisory: This book deals with mature subject matter.” And it does. But it needs to be told.
The title of the Conclusion is “Ending the Slave Trade in Our Time.” In this section Batstone gives a variety of ideas for ways you and I can get involved and do something in this abolitionist movement. The final pages of the book list many links to organizations that are doing something about human trafficking and slavery. I’ve reproduced that list with links on this page.
Should you read this book? Yeah, you should. But be warned, you will not be the same person after reading it as you are now. But that’s okay. That’s called “growth.”