90 Dollars for a Human Life

As part of the WHU Speaker Series, Daniel Rentschler of the International Justice Mission spoke about modern slavery

The figures Daniel Rentschler had brought for his audience as part of the Studium Generale lecture series at WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management are frightening. As head of educational and community work at IJM Deutschland e.V., the 37-year-old joins some 1,000 like-minded people around the world in his commitment to putting an end to slavery. This is no easy mission, however. The trade in human life is booming, and in terms of profitability it ranks just behind dealings in weapons and drugs. “We speak of modern-day slavery when two factors come together," Rentschler explained at the outset of his presentation. It exists whenever people are treated like merchandise – are bought, resold and abused for any number of purposes under threat of or actual use of violence. In the year 2018, there are more than 40 million worldwide living in slavery. More than ever before. Trade in human life has long since become a business model. The criminals turn their largest profit with sexual exploitation. Sex work accounts for around 75 percent of the profit in international trafficking in human beings. With some 18 million persons affected, India is the country with the largest number of slaves, but this is not a distant problem. Traffickers in human beings earn more than 45 billion dollars each year – in North America and Europe alone. The majority of modern-day slaves in the Western world as well – nearly 70 percent – are victims of sexual exploitation.

Not only the number of victims is shocking, however; also appalling is the fact that the value of a human life has dropped dramatically. Whereas a trafficker in 1850 paid an average of 40,000 dollars for a slave, today that figure is just $90. The consequences are devastating: “If I have a worker who costs me 90 dollars, I won’t spend much time wondering whether to have him or her treated in a hospital for 100. I’ll simply let the person die,” Daniel Rentschler said.

The International Justice Mission (IJM) is a non-profit human rights organization that dedicates itself worldwide on behalf of the rights of people affected by violence and poverty. The focus of its work is on combating human trafficking, forced prostitution and modern-day slavery. The organization was founded in 1997 by human-rights attorney and former UN chief investigator Gary A. Haugen. Its headquarters are located in Washington, DC. There are currently more than 1,000 permanent employees working for IJM in 16 countries, carrying out projects with local partners in Africa, Asia and Latin America. The goal of these projects is to liberate and provide follow-up support to people who find themselves in a situation of human rights violations, and to bring perpetrators to justice, to show them the consequences of their actions, and to deter other potential offenders.