Lydia Cacho is a Mexican journalist, feminist and campaigner for human rights. Her first book exposed a nationwide child pornography ring involving leading businessmen.
She also runs a shelter for victims of sexual exploitation. Cacho’s investigations have led to her being wrongly imprisoned and tortured. She is currently in hiding.
Lydia Cacho’s investigations into sex trafficking have led to her being wrongly imprisoned and tortured. She is currently in hiding.First published in 2010, Slavery Inc.: The Untold Story of International Sex Trafficking is now available in English. Slavery Inc. details a journey around the world’s hidden pockets.
Cacho begins in Turkey, where Eastern European women are unwittingly lured into sexual slavery with the promise of a better life.
Further east, in war-torn Israel and Palestine, prostitution is illegal, and most human rights organisations deny the existence of sex trafficking.
Nonetheless, the presence of soldiers sets a high demand for commercial sex, and most exploitation and violence against women takes place in refugee camps.
Cacho then moves to Tokyo, where a young American woman arrived to begin her dream career as a nightclub singer. This dream culminated in a vicious gang rape by members of the Yakuza, Japan’s infamous crime syndicate.
Faced with a struggling economy, Cambodia favours investment from companies in China, despite evidence of links to Chinese criminal organisations, or Triads.
In Burma, trafficking is a lucrative business run by the military state. “Burma is effectively a concentration camp for women,” writes Cacho. In Argentina, a line of brothels and lap-dancing clubs are owned by a former intelligence agent.
Cacho uses the term ‘mafia’ to describe criminal organisations. ‘The mafia does not necessarily manage the sex industry directly,’ she writes, ‘but it provides protection.’
She believes that a ‘feminist boomerang’ has allowed the sex industry to modernise itself, supported by liberal ideas of sexual freedom. Sex tourism is flourishing, favoured by Western men in search of more submissive – and often very young – women.
Globalisation has created unlimited supply and demand, Cacho argues. Noting the many similarities between drug trafficking and the human slave trade, she suggests that it may yet overtake the business in narcotics.
Visiting the Adult Entertainment Expo in Nevada, Cacho finds that anyone who questions the link between mafias and the sex industry is dismissed as a fantasist. Nonetheless, commercial sexual exploitation is the world’s most documented form of human trafficking.
An interview with a former US soldier who witnessed the rape of women by fellow officers in Iraq reflects the enduring link between sexual violence and war.
Pimping, not prostitution, is the oldest profession, Cacho writes, showing how pimps manipulate vulnerable women. Many refuse to see themselves as victims, as this would further erode their self-esteem.
Campaigns against sex trafficking generally focus on encouraging women not to be ‘fooled’, which increases their sense of shame. Christian rescue agencies promote traditional moral values, while temporary shelters cannot prevent victims from being sold again.
Until equality is achieved on a worldwide scale, Cacho concludes, women will always be at risk of violence and exploitation. Written in a pacy style, Slavery Inc. uncovers a global tragedy that has been largely secret.
The fearless Cacho addresses her subject with a cool head, raising questions that won’t be brushed aside.