Haggadah: Part 3, Slavery Today, Slavery Everywhere (except Iceland and Greenland)

15 Apr

I used to a know a slave, though I’ve forgotten her name. She cooked many of my meals when I spent a summer in Nepal. A pretty teen from a poor rural family, she was married off to man who lived with his large family just outside of Kathmandu.

In her new home she wasn’t allowed to continue her education, but few women in Nepal (and much of the world) can ever expect to get a high school diploma. Nor was her lack of choice in husbands far out of the global norm. These two facts are shameful, but they don’t, I think, make her a slave. After all it sucks to be a woman on this planet, but we don’t throw just around the ‘S Word’.

At one point that summer she was out of the house. The cooking, cleaning and washing (as well as much of labor done in the rice patties and veg garden) returned to the husband’s mother, who had till then gotten off light on the housework front (though hardly as light as her son). It was explained to me that she had run away, back home. She was homesick, tired and upset that her mother In-law was unkind to her.

After a few weeks she came back. Her family told her to. As far as I know she was never hit. There may even have been reconciliation between her and the mother, and a more equitable distribution of labor in the home. But she couldn’t go home or anywhere else. She was a slave.


As we recline and remember the captivity of our past while celebrating our subsequent freedom lets not forgot that 27 million people (and billions more in other respects) have yet to make it to Question #4.

Any of the following may make a good addition to your Haggadah (as always other links would be greatly appreciated in the comments or by email):

It is estimated that there are over 27 million enslaved persons worldwide, more than double the number of those who were deported in the 400-year history of the transatlantic slave trade to the Americas… The 27 million victims of the modern slave trade are more invisible to the world’s eye than were the 10 million to 12 million Africans who were forcibly sent to the Americas during the sixteenth through the nineteenth centuries. How do we account for this fact in this age of media and communications overload and transparency?

  • From NYT’s Nicholas Kristof

The 21st Century Slave Trade

Anyone who thinks that the word ”slavery” is hyperbole when used to describe human trafficking today should meet Meena Khatun. She not only endured the unbearable, but has also shown that a slave trader’s greed sometimes is no match for a mother’s love.

Human trafficking is the big emerging human rights issue for the 21st century, but it’s an awful term, a convoluted euphemism. As Meena’s story underscores, the real issue is slavery.

Follow the link for the full story. 

For the more multimedia-minded seder hosts:

  • With $50 and a plane ticket to Haiti, one can buy a slave…

Listen to the story from NPR here (sorry I couldn’t embed).

From Migrant-Rights.Org


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