Thousand Pieces of Gold by Ruthanne Lum McCunn is a powerful biographical novel that tells a story about a tragic real life of Lalu Nathoy, a Chinese girl later known as Polly. Polly's father sold her to a bandit because of poverty, then she was smuggled into California, the United States, for sex slavery when she was very young. Through Polly’s unfortunate life, we can see that Polly is one of millions of “sex-trafficking” victims. State of California - Department of Justice website cites sex trafficking definition is “the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act". Sex-trafficking has been started growing since 1900s in the United States when a wave of Chinese immigration to California occurred. Even though U.S. government strive for protecting women and children rights by passing laws and legislation, sex-trafficking has been growing faster and bigger nowadays. This research paper is to demonstrate the fast growth of sex-trafficking in California from 1900s to these modern days, which is becoming a large criminal industry - sex industry, and to state the effort of the U.S. government to fight against this crime.
Sex-trafficking has been formed in California since a big wave of immigrants in 1900s. Majority of victims in California at that time were foreigners who sold to the traffickers and smuggled to California. They were women and children who were kidnapped or sold to be sex-slaves for the benefits of the "pimp or sex trafficking organizations" by threats, abuses, forces, and abductions. They were considered as profitable commodities for sales, thus they became a target for traffickers. Polly, a main character in Thousand Pieces of Gold, is a particular example. She was sold as a sex slave in order to save her family from debt. Because of poverty, Polly's father sells her to the bandits even though he considers his daughter as “thousand pieces of gold". He wretchedly begs, "‘She’s worth two bags of seed’” (Gold 50). Her family is one of many unfortunate ones in the beginning of 20th century, which obligate to sell their girls due to poverty. Polly as well as the other victims of sex-trafficking in the 20th century are considered as cheap commodities to trade.
According to Ronald Toshiyuki Takaki, in Strangers From a Different Shore, a famous historian and author, there was a wave of Chinese immigration to America at the end of nineteenth and beginning of twentieth century. They emigrated to America through San Francisco Bay, California, for gold rush. The mainstream of Chinese immigrants was as the flow of labor force for the mines, but only few of them were women. Therefore, there was a shortage of women supply for those labor men. This shortage resulted in the growth of prostitution surrounds the mines. Once there was a high demand, the supply increased correspondingly. The Chinese prostitutes grew rapidly, and the sex trade and trafficking in San Francisco became a profitable business.
In addition, Takiki finds that Chinese women who were prostitutes made up more than 60% of Chinese women in California. That figure illustrates that Chinese women were the main labor force of “prostitution industry” in California the 1900s-era. They were found “in mining outposts, railroad camps, agricultural villages and Chinatowns in Sacramento, Marysville and San Francisco”, where Chinese man labors worked (Takiki 122). Many of these Chinese women were lured to San Francisco under different circumstances. Some were hooked by seductions, some were sold by their impoverished families and some were abducted. Sex-trafficking became a lucrative business in San Francisco Chinatown run by pimps. These prostitutes made a lot of money per year for traffickers due to high demand in the bay. However, the victims were not paid or received earnings for their works. The traffickers treated them as sex-slaves and