This image serves as a striking symbol for the reality of the modern slave trade. It’s sometimes hard to picture slavery as a reality, but with the image of a tattooed bar code, it becomes easy to understand that HUMANS are sold throughout the world as PRODUCTS, like food in a grocery store or electronics at the local tech store.
However, what if this isn’t just a symbolic image? What if this actually were a real tattoo?
Meet a real life situation, where a symbolic image becomes and inescapable means of literal slavery:
The World Post published a news article a couple of years ago about a group of pimps in Madrid, Spain that literally tattooed bar codes and prices onto the skin of their unwilling slaves.
Spanish police have arrested 22 alleged pimps in connection with a prostitution ring in Madrid — and some even allegedlytattooed
women they forced into prostitution as a sign of “ownership,” the Associated Press reports.
The Daily Mail
notes one 19-year-old woman held against her will had a bar code
and an amount of money tattooed on her wrist by her pimp. Sex workers were allegedly inked with the distinct marks after escape attempts to denote their “owners” and how much money they owed their pimps, the paper writes. The freed woman claims to have been whipped, chained to a radiator
and having had her hair and eyebrows shaved off as punishment from her illicit proprietor, according to the AP.
Police are referring to the gang as the “bar code pimps
,” according to reports, and 22 suspected pimps have been arrested, all of Romanian nationality. In addition to the arrests, police seized more than $185,000
in cash, illegal firearms, swords, machetes, gold jewelry and luxury vehicles, CNN notes.
One of the ring leaders, by the name of Iancu T
., was also wanted in his country for crimes related to prostitution, La Razón
reports. Iancu allegedly made false promises of legitimate work to women to ensnare them, only to force the women into prostitution in various clubs throughout the community of Madrid as well as along Calle Montera, a street in central Madrid. According to Spanish newspaper ABC
, Calle Montera
holds an infamous reputation for hosting dozens of prostitutes at all hours in the heart of Spain’s capital.
AP reports sex trafficking
is a multi-billion dollar industry in Spain, where the legalities of prostitution fall into a legal grey area. Pimping is outlawed, while prostitution is not regulated. Most of Spain’s sex laborers are poor immigrants
from South America, Africa and Eastern Europe.