Human Body as Currency

Lucie Amrhein’s mother was 22 years old when she responded to a “help wanted” ad for a nanny and left her home in Belgium to serve a family in the United States. Unaware of the need for a visa upon departure, she realized after arrival in her new country that she didn’t have legal status. The couple exploited the situation. They forced her to work long days and to remain on call 24/7. They took payment for her rent and food from her inadequate wages and psychologically abused her. Fortunately, she escaped the situation with help.

Lucie became passionate about human rights and helping people who were exploited. Putting together lessons from her mother and studies at American University, Lucie coined the phrase, “human body as currency.”

While the value of the human body can be viewed in numerous ways (the worth of its chemicals, how beautiful it is perceived to be, how much energy it can expend, etc.) the dark side of the human body as currency—a commodity that can be traded or exploited for someone else’s gain of money, goods, services or anything else of value—includes forms of human trafficking. For example:

  • A husband selling a wife for sex to support his drug habit.
  • An unscrupulous business owner trading substandard wages, food, and a place to live for a family struggling to survive loss after natural disaster or war, then keeping the next generation enslaved in debt bondage because of interest schemes that can never be paid back.
  • A broker arranging the harvest of a kidney from a poverty-stricken parent who cannot read a contract in order to made a handsome profit from a wealthy organ recipient engaging in medical tourism.

Lucie says she sees a need for a large-scale societal shift in attitudes about consent as one of many smaller solutions that will help end modern slavery/human trafficking. Throughout history, people have used and taken advantage of individuals because of their race, identity, vulnerabilities and different abilities, she continued, citing the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, early pornography, and recent labor trafficking cases and illegal organ trade. “Without true and informed consent, it’s exploitation,” Lucie asserted.

Please help stop the demand that fosters exploitation. Talk about full, true and informed consent for sex, business deals, medical procedures and other ways that use the human body for its value. Ask yourself: how do I view and use the human body as currency?

Written by Carol Hart Metzker.

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