WHAT IS MODERN SLAVERY?
Slavery did not end with abolition in the 19th century. Slavery continues today and harms people in every country in the world.
Women forced into prostitution. People forced to work in agriculture, domestic work and factories. Children in sweatshops1 producing goods sold globally. Entire families forced to work for nothing to pay off generational debts. Girls forced to marry older men.
There are estimated 40.3 million people in modern slavery around the world, including:
• 10 million children
• 24.9 million people in forced labour
• 15.4 million people in forced marriage
• 4.8 million people in forced sexual exploitation
Someone is in slavery if they are:
• forced to work – through coercion, or mental or physical threat;
• owned or controlled by an ’employer’, through mental or physical abuse or the threat of abuse;
• dehumanised, treated as a commodity or bought and sold as ‘property’;
• physically constrained or have restrictions placed on their freedom of movement.
Slavery has been a disgraceful aspect of human society for most of human history. However, Anti-Slavery International has refused to accept that this bloody status quo should be allowed to persist (Aidan McQuade, former director).
Forms of modern slavery
Purposes of exploitation2 can range from forced prostitution and forced labour to forced marriage and forced organ removal. Here are the most common forms of modern slavery.
• Forced labour – any work or services which people are forced to do against their will3 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. Whilst4 child labour is harmful for children and hinders5 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.
Many forms of slavery have more than one element listed above. For example, human trafficking often involves advance payment for travel and a job abroad, using money often borrowed from the traffickers. Then, the debt contributes to control of the victims. Once they arrive, victims cannot leave until they pay off their debt.
Many people think that slavery happens only overseas, in developing countries. In fact, no country is free from modern slavery, even Britain. The Government estimates that there are tens of thousands people in modern slavery in the UK.
Modern slavery can affect people of any age, gender or race. However, contrary to a common misconception6 that everyone can be a victim of
slavery, some groups of people are much more vulnerable to slavery than others.
People who live in poverty7 and have limited opportunities for decent work are more vulnerable to accepting deceptive job offers that can turn exploitative. People who are discriminated against on the basis of race, caste, or gender are also more likely to be enslaved. Slavery is also more likely to occur where the rule of law is weaker and corruption is rife. Anti-Slavery International believes that we have to tackle8 the root causes of slavery in order to end slavery for good. That’s why wepublished our Anti- Slavery Charter, listing comprehensive measures that need to be taken to end slavery across the world.
(Adapted from https://www.antislavery.org/slavery-today/modern-slavery/)
1. sweatshop – a factory where workers are paid very little and work many hours in very bad conditions
2. exploitation – abuse, manipulation
3. will – wish, desire
4. whilst – while
5. to hinder – obstruct, stop
6. misconception – wrong idea/ impression
7. poverty – the condition of being extremely poor
8. to tackle – attack