Photo: Joey Gale
Though slavery was abolished in the United States in 1865, sex slavery has become the second largest criminal industry in the world. Sex trafficking enslaves 27 million people worldwide, and 8.4 million of these people are children. These children are sold into prostitution and pornography as young as five years old, and once enslaved, it is nearly impossible for them to escape.
Last Friday evening, Beza Threads hosted a Project Ten launch party at Drake University with the goal of selling 3,000 scarves, which will save 10 girls. Beza Threads is a nonprofit organization that was started by three recent Drake graduates who spent a summer in Ethiopia working with the nonprofit group WinSouls. Together, the organizations work toward raising awareness and prevention of sex trafficking.
This event included different exhibits that provided facts and personal stories of girls who had been sold into sex slavery. Exhibits included a video presentation about the way the Western world sees the sex trade, a model of a typical shack that a prostitute would sleep and work in and a cost comparison exhibit. In addition to these exhibits, there were scarves for sale made by former prostitutes.
The scarves were made of beautifully woven fabric and sold for $20 each. For each scarf sold, $6 goes to the boys who wove the scarf, $4.50 goes to the former sex slaves that designed and hemmed the scarf and $1.50 goes to an orphanage that helps prevent children from entering the sex trade.
“I went to the event because I am really interested in the issue of sex trafficking,” first-year Raeann Langas said. “My aunt started a similar organization called ‘Free The Girls,’ and I did a lot of work with them in Denver. I bought three gorgeous scarves. I think it’s a really creative way to support a good cause.”
Beth Ann Deadmond is a 2010 Drake graduate who is an advocate on behalf of Beza Threads. During her time as a student at Drake, she made two trips to Ethiopia. She tutored a young boy that was rescued off the streets after being abandoned by his prostitute mother.
“Food in Ethiopia is hard to come by,” Deadmond said. “At snack time, the kids would grab their food and run to the corners, hiding while eating. By the end of the six weeks that I was there, he would come up to me and wanted to share his food with me.
“It is important to prevent the next generation from falling into this cycle,” Deadmond added. “The government does not want people to know about this problem because it puts them in bad light.”
Poverty is the number one reason people are drawn to prostitution. In many instances, girls are promised high-paying jobs in cities that would allow them to send money back to their families. However, once they arrive in these cities, they are drugged, raped and forced into the routine of prostitution.
These girls are not being sold for a high price. The value for humans has gone down as civilization has advanced. In the days of the African slave trade, the average slave would go for $40,000 at an auction. Today prostitutes are making their pimps approximately $250,00 each year.
“I think the most shocking fact that I learned was that the average sex slave is sold for only $90,” Langas said.
That amount is enough to purchase a pair of Birkenstock shoes, a college textbook or a Texas Instruments calculator. The cost of a Coach purse is the same as purchasing three slaves. As a whole, the industry brings in $32 billion each year, which is more than the gross profit of Apple and Walmart combined.
Sex trafficking is not just a problem in developing countries but worldwide. Girls are taken at young ages and forced into a routine where they are sexually and physically abused in order to make a profit for their pimps. Escaping sex slavery is extremely difficult, but the people at Beza Threads and WindSouls are working to prevent and rescue those that have been victimized. To become involved in the movement, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Did you know?
> There are around 1.8 million child sex slaves in prostitution or pornography around the world
> By selling 300 scarves in 9 months, Project 10 can get 10 women off the streets for a whole year
> Sam Bri and Mulu, the owners of Beza threads, were both sex slaves and have since started this organization to help prevent such acts