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  • Writer's pictureKety


Slavery has existed for thousands of years. Even though it is illegal nowadays there are more slaves than there were at any other time. According to the statistics around 13 million people were enslaved between 15th and 19th century. Today the numbers are shocking - 40.3 million people are living in some form of modern slavery, according to the latest figures published by the UN’s

International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Walk Free Foundation. An additional 15.4 million people are estimated to be living in forced marriages.

Modern slavery occurs when people are forced to work against their will; are owned or controlled by an exploiter or “employer”; have limited freedom of movement; or are dehumanized, treated as a commodity or bought and sold as a property (Anti-slavery International).

Some of the forms of modern slavery:

Forced labour – any work or services which people are forced to do against their will under the threat of some form of punishment.

Debt bondage or bonded labour – the world’s most widespread form of slavery, when people borrow money they cannot repay and are required to work to pay off the debt, then losing control over the conditions of both their employment and the debt.

Human trafficking– involves transporting, recruiting or harbouring people for the purpose of exploitation, using violence, threats or coercion.

Descent-based slavery – where people are born into slavery because their ancestors were captured and enslaved; they remain in slavery by descent.

Child slavery – many people often confuse child slavery with child labour, but it is much worse. Whilst child labour is harmful for children and hinders their education and development, child slavery occurs when a child is exploited for someone else’s gain. It can include child trafficking, child soldiers, child marriage and child domestic slavery.

Forced and early marriage – when someone is married against their will and cannot leave the marriage. Most child marriages can be considered slavery.

Modern slavery in numbers –

  • 40.3 million people are in modern slavery across the world10 million children are in slavery across the world

  • 30.4 million people are in slavery in the Asia-Pacific region, mostly in bonded labour

  • 9.1 million people are in slavery in Africa

  • 2.1 million people are in slavery in The Americas

  • 1.5 million people are in slavery in developed economies

  • 16 million slavery victims are exploited in economic activities

  • 4.8 million people are in forced into sexual exploitation

  • 99% of people trafficked for sexual exploitation are women and girls

  • 4.1 million people in slavery are exploited by governments

  • US$150 billion – illegal profits forced labour in the private economy generates per year

Statistically, modern slavery is most prevalent in Africa, followed by Asia and the Pacific, according to the Global Slavery Index, which publishes country-by-country rankings on modern slavery figures and government responses to tackle the issues.

How does slavery happen?

Modern slavery can affect people of any age, gender or race. However, most commonly, slavery affects people and communities who are vulnerable to being taken advantage of. It can be someone living in poverty and having no real prospects for a decent job, who will accept a good sounding offer of a job abroad that turns out something else that what was promised. It can be someone from a community heavily discriminated against. It might be a young girl who happens to live in a society where early marriage is completely acceptable, who will have no choice over marrying an older man. Or it might be someone who happens to be born to a mother coming from a ‘slave’ cast, literally owned by their masters from the day they are born.

Slavery is also more likely to occur where the rule of law is weaker and corruption is rife. It can also happen to groups of people who are not protected by the law, for example migrants whose visa status is irregular are easy to blackmail with deportation.

Many people think that slavery happens only in developing countries. In fact, no country is free from modern slavery. Slave traders today make a return on their investment 25 to 30 times higher than their 18th- and 19th-century counterparts.

The first move to eradicate slavery was made in 1833, when the British parliament abolished it, 26 years after outlawing the trade in slaves. Nonetheless, at least twice as many people are trapped in some form of slavery today as were traded throughout the 350-plus years of the transatlantic slavery industry.

While slavery two centuries ago involved lengthy, expensive journeys and high mortality rates, the modern slave trade is producing higher profits per victim thanks to quick and inexpensive modern transportation and lower risk. Huge global migration flows are producing a ready and easily exploitable supply of victims who can be fed into a large number of industries linked to the global economy such as fashion, beauty, seafood and commercial sex.

Next time when you are buying clothes that you don’t need, just remember how many kids have suffered just to please your fashion fads.

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