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  Field Notes From
21st-Century Slaves

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21st-Century Slaves On AssignmentArrows

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From Photographer

Jodi Cobb

21st-Century Slaves On Assignment

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From Author

Andrew Cockburn

In most cases these accounts are edited versions of a spoken interview. They have not been researched and may differ from the printed article.

Jodi Cobb is available for lectures. For more information visit the National Geographic Speakers Bureau.

Photographs by Mark Thiessen


21st-Century Slaves

Field Notes From Photographer
Jodi Cobb
Best Worst Quirkiest
    While this story exposed me to the darker side of life, it also showed me the best of human nature. In almost every country where there is a human trafficking problem, there are also people who have dedicated their lives to finding a way to stop it.
    I met one woman in Mumbai, India, who has devoted herself to helping the children of prostitutes in brothels. She's part of a group called Apne Aap (On My Own), who are getting them into school and showing the young girls that there are other options in life so that the cycle can be broken. It was gratifying to meet people like her.  They stood out as true heroes.

    There were several times when I felt frightened or threatened while working on this story, but none compare to the time I spent in Bosnia. The gangs who traffic women are especially brutal and violent, so I found it particularly nerve-wracking when my car kept getting followed. Luckily nothing happened, but I was happy to get out of there all the same.

    It outrages me that an international slave trade can be happening in this day and age. It's right under our noses, but we just don't see it or know the circumstances of the Asian woman working in a massage parlor, for example, or the maid in your neighbor's home. I wasn't aware of the scope of the problem and how seemingly isolated incidents that surface in the media occasionally are part of a huge, global, underground economy that's increasing all the time. Then I came across a blurb in the Washington Post about the passage of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act 2000, which ensures that slaves will not be deported if they testify against their former owners. I read that and thought, Wow, I've worked in 50 countries in my life and have been clueless about this whole issue.
    That's why I decided to do this story. I knew there were a lot of other people who didn't realize the extent of this problem either.

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