Anti-Slavery.org - History o f Modern Slavery
What is modern slavery?
For many people, this is the image that comes to mind when they hear the
word slavery. We think of the buying and selling of people, their shipment
from one continent to another and the abolition of the trade in the early
1800s. Even if we know nothing about the slave trade, it is something we
think of as part of our history rather than our present. But the reality is
slavery continues TODAY.
Millions of men, women and children around the world are forced to lead
lives as slaves. Although this exploitation is often not called slavery, the
conditions are the same. People are sold like objects, forced to work for
little or no pay and are at the mercy of their 'employers'.
Slavery exists today despite the fact that it is banned in most of the
countries where it is practised. It is also prohibited by the 1948 Universal
Declaration of Human Rights and the 1956 UN Supplementary Convention on the
Abolition of Slavery, the Slave Trade and Institutions and Practices Similar
to Slavery. Women from eastern Europe are bonded into prostitution, children
are trafficked between West African countries and men are forced to work as
slaves on Brazilian agricultural estates. Contemporary slavery takes various
forms and affects people of all ages, sex and race.
What is slavery?
Common characteristics distinguish slavery from other human rights
violations. A slave is:
forced to work -- through mental or physical threat;
owned or controlled by an 'employer', usually through mental or physical
abuse or threatened abuse;
dehumanised, treated as a commodity or bought and sold as 'property';
physically constrained or has restrictions placed on his/her freedom of
What types of slavery exist today?
Bonded labour affects at least 20 million people around the world. People
become bonded labourers by taking or being tricked into taking a loan for as
little as the cost of medicine for a sick child. To repay the debt, they are
forced to work long hours, seven days a week, 365 days a year. They receive
basic food and shelter as 'payment' for their work, but may never pay off
the loan, which can be passed down through several generations.
Forced labour affects people who are illegally recruited by governments,
political parties or private individuals, and forced to work - usually under
threat of violence or other penalties.
Worst forms of child labour refers to children who work in exploitative or
dangerous conditions. Tens of millions of children around the world work
full-time, depriving them of the education and recreation crucial to their
personal and social development.
Commercial sexual exploitation of children. Children are exploited for their
commercial value through prostitution, trafficking and pornography. They are
often kidnapped, bought, or forced to enter the sex market.
Trafficking involves the transport and/or trade of humans, usually women or
children, for economic gain using force or deception. Often migrant women
are tricked and forced into domestic work or prostitution.
Early and forced marriage affects women and girls who are married without
choice and are forced into lives of servitude often accompanied by physical
Traditional or 'chattel' slavery involves the buying and selling of people.
They are often abducted from their homes, inherited or given as gifts.
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