Matthew Friedman | Human Trafficking & Modern Slavery

The horrific reality of it all...

More Slaves In 2023 Than Ever In History

According to Matthew, there is more slavery in our world today, than there ever has been before.

This is an unbelievable statistic and made even more harrowing by the fact that everyone’s got a smartphone. I thought that the ubiquitous ability to record and uncover would have made the conditions for slavery impossible, but it turns out that those same forces are actually enabling it further.

People are being so consistently lied to and misled and scammed and frauded out of their money and in the worst cases, their lives.

Matthew talks about Pig-Butchering, this horrible Cambodian scam house that is stealing people away and forcing them into a medieval servitude via modern devices. Matthew talks about coming face to face with this criminal underworld. His experiences working with the UN to then contrast his experiences working in the private sector.

This podcast, #152 of ‘The Curious Worldview Podcast’ with Matthew Friedman, walks us through the modern landscape of human trafficking and modern slavery. This is a horrible episode, but don’t look away. This is a powerful episode, just read the opening exchange in the transcript excerpt below…

Forward this email or share this podcast episode with someone who might be affected by Matthew’s first hand testimony…

Here is a transcript of the opening exchange from the conversation…


All right, Matt. So this career started for you over 30 years ago. You were working as a health officer in Nepal. Can you explain your trajectory from there to then working with the UN?

Matt Friedman

So I began my career working in Nepal for US-AID.

I was a public health officer and my job was basically to translate resources into healthier people.

At that time we were finding girls 12, 13 years old who were HIV positive, couldn't understand what was going on. So we went to go and interview these young women and we heard pretty much the same story over and over again. How a human trafficker would go into a village, say he's looking for a wife, find a young girl, marry her and then take her to Mumbai, India to the brothels. And then he'd basically sell her to the brothels.

She'd be gang raped until she agreed to basically have sex with 10, 20 guys a day every day for a couple of years until she got sick and nobody wanted her anymore and they threw her out on the street. And so as a result of this process, we were hearing this story over and over again from those who made it back to Nepal. But for me, I didn't really understand the evil of it until I actually went to those brothels. I was invited by the Indian government to do public health checks. Had a police officer with me, went into one of the brothels and

year old trafficking victim. This girl saw this Caucasian guy, saw an opportunity, literally ran up to me, wrapped herself around me and said, save me, save me, they're doing terrible things to me. I looked down at this child who was hysterically crying, turned to the police officer and said, we need to get this girl out of here. He said, we can't do that. So what are you talking about? You're a police officer. He says, if we try to leave, we'll both be killed. To make a long story short, we left, we came back with a lot more police, but of course she was gone. Now I tell

because I wasn't one of those 15 year olds that said, you know, when I grow up, I want to be an activist. In fact, I did everything I could not to be an activist. But everyone said while in life we're tested. That was my big test. I failed miserably after that. I couldn't eat. I couldn't sleep. And eventually did what most activists do, surrender to the fact that now that I've been exposed to this, this is what I'm going to be doing with my life. And 30 years later, here I am talking to you. So I spent eight years in Nepal and I went to Bangladesh. I was there for five years focused on looking at both sex traffic in forced labor. There was a lot of forced labor into manufacturing and fishing boats and agriculture and so forth. Then I went to Thailand and ran the US government's kind of regional programs related to human rights and human trafficking. After a while decided I needed a change. So I took on one of the largest counter trafficking programs in the world run by the United Nations. Had offices in China, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, and Myanmar. Did that for six years and then felt like

taking place. It was too slow, it was too bureaucratic, so I decided that I wanted to work with the private sector. And the reason why I made this choice is because private sector has banks, private sector has, you know, supply chains and manufacturing and hospitality that all have the potential of a nexus between human trafficking and the private sector business that we're focusing on. And so the thing about the business world is if they find an issue or a problem, they'll

it immediately because it's a reputation of risk. There's a vulnerability there. And so we were able to get quick action. So I set up an organization called the Mekong Club. The Mekong Club basically works with the private sector in a positive, supportive, non-naming and shaming way. And what we do is we raise awareness, we give them the tools, the means, the training, everything they need in order to ensure their business is not associated with anything related to human trafficking or modern slavery vulnerability. And as a result of that,

protect the world through the private sector response.


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