Slavery was never abolished – it affects millions, and you may be funding it

October 18, 2018 by Catherine Armstrong, The Conversation
Nail bars are havens for modern slavery. Credit: shutterstock

When we think of slavery, many of us think of historical or so-called "traditional forms" of slavery – and of the 12m people ripped from their West African homes and shipped across the Atlantic for a lifetime in the plantations of the Americas.

But is not just something that happened in the past –- the modern day estimate for the number of men, women and forced into labour worldwide exceeds 40m. Today's global slave trade is so lucrative that it nets traffickers more than US$150 billion each year.

Slavery affects children as well as adults

Debt bondage often ensnares both children and adults. In Haiti, for example, many children are sent to work by their families as domestic servants under what's known as the Restavek system – the term comes from the French language rester avec, "to stay with". These children, numbering as many as 300,000, are often denied an education, forced to work up to 14 hours a day and are sometimes victims of sexual abuse.

Slavery is not always race based

Then, as now, race is not always the main reason for enslaving someone. In the past, those who were living in poverty, who did not have the protection of kinship networks, those displaced by famine, drought or war were often caught up in slavery.

In the UK, nail salons, restaurants, music festivals and farms have all be found to have people working in slavery. Victims of human trafficking come from all parts of the world and all walks of life. There isn't just one type of modern day slavery, it takes many forms.

Your gadgets could be to blame

The demand for certain types of goods has propelled slavery's numbers. In the past, the desire for sugar drove the growth in slavery. Now, the global consumption of electronic goods has exacerbated slavery in the Coltan mines of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Many slaves or trafficked victims are often exploited in mining for gold, coltan, molybdenum, niobium, tin – which can be used in electronic goods sold around the world.

According to Save the Children, 5,000 to 6,000 young children work in the Coltan mining industry, surrounded by armed guards to prevent their escape. Much of the profit from this trade goes to fund ongoing militia warfare in Central Africa.

Slavery is a daily reality for 10m children around the world. Credit: Shutterstock
Traditional slavery still exists

Chattel slavery (where one person is the property of another) is illegal but still exists especially in the West African country of Mauritania – where abolitionists' efforts to stamp out the practice have been in vain.

The organisation Fight Slavery Now says that today at least 90,000 Mauritanians are the property of others, while up to 600,000 men, women and children are in a bonded labour situation – up to 20% of the population.

India has most number of slaves globally

India has the highest number of slaves in the world, with estimates ranging from 14m to 18m people. In India many people work as slave labour in the brick kiln industry – this includes women and children.

Now, as in the past, not all slaves are forced into slavery. Historically, some experienced such severe poverty that they had no choice but to sell themselves to be bound to another person. And similar cases still happen around the world today.

It involves global movement

Long distance movement is common in slavery of the past and the present. For West Africans in the pre-modern era, the journey across the Atlantic must have been unimaginable.

Today, labourers move around the world freely looking for work, but some end up caught in slavery-like situations. They are promised a good job with decent conditions and wages, but instead are trapped in a cycle of debt and despair, where they are bound to their employer with no chance of escape.

Many of the workers constructing the stadia for the Qatar World Cup in 2022 come from South Asia. Amnesty International says these workers often have their meagre wages docked unjustly, their passports seized and are forced to work in life-threatening conditions.

Brick kiln workers in India are incredibly vulnerable to slavery. Credit: Shutterstock
Slave soldiers fight in wars

One similarity between historic and modern slavery is the use of enslaved labour, especially children, in armies.

In recent years, at least 30,000 children have been abducted and forced to labour in the Lord's Resistance Army led by Joseph Kony, in Northern Uganda.

Over four centuries ago, Christian children were valued as soldiers in the army of the Ottoman Empire. The children were taken from their homes, forced to convert to Islam and put to work in the military.

Slavery was never abolished

Today, an active abolition movement still exists. It applies lessons from the earlier abolition movement that ended the transatlantic slave trade – which recognised the importance of victim stories as a powerful tool to raise awareness.

Just as Africans such as Olaudah Equiano became part of the abolition movement in 18th-century London when they talked about their lives as slaves, so today, the benefit of encouraging survivors to share their stories is recognised.

In the 1790s, to persuade the British government to end slavery in the British Empire, female abolitionists organised boycotts of sugar that had been produced using slave labour and instead bought "fair trade" produce. Similarly, today, manufacturers and growers recognise that guaranteeing a product as fair trade – and free from slavery – will help their goods sell.

Slavery still exists in many forms today, and the impacts it has on millions of people are no less devastating than they were in the past. Yet ordinary people can use their power as consumers to combat , simply by paying attention to what they buy, and raising awareness among their friends, family and colleagues.

Explore further: 'Underworked' victims of modern slavery endure extra exploitation

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2.6 / 5 (5) Oct 18, 2018
The article shows how little many people know about slavery.
Among other things, it's right when it says many if not most Americans define it solely as involving blacks and having been ended at the Civil War. They don't know it's still practiced. They don't know the forms it takes. In a comment on how much people aren't told about The Old South, I mentioned that many signed themselves into slavery when jobs became scarce and many tried to say I didn't know what I was talking about.
A reason for this seems political. Buying black votes, the Democratic Rackets has played up slavery as only involving blacks and no one else. They don't want to dilute the engineered pity. In that way, then, modern slaves are enslaved at least partly by American blacks and the Democratic Rackets scheme to buy votes.
It should be mentioned, by aiming at those without familial ties or involved in droughts, slavery can be seen as a way to save many people from starvation.
3 / 5 (6) Oct 18, 2018
The article shows how little many people know about slavery.
Among other things, it's right when it says many if not most Americans define it solely as involving blacks and having been ended at the Civil War. They don't know it's still practiced. They don't know the forms it takes
-And they dont know that its principally caused by religion.

The surviving religions were simply more successful at outgrowing and overwhelming than their now extinct counterparts. The human race had always had severe problems from overpopulation due to its tropical repro rate in conjunction with technologies that systematically eliminated all restrictions on growth. but religions were conceived to maximize this growth rate in order to survive. And because of it, they now endanger the world.
2.7 / 5 (7) Oct 18, 2018
One of the many consequences of this religious mandate is hordes of excess people with nothing to do, nowhere to live, and nothing to eat. This turns people into commodities. Slavery happens to be the most efficient way of moving them from where they are liabilities to locations where they can be assets.

In africa it was usually chieftans eager to end inter- and intra-tribal violence who 'ripped subjects from their homes' and sold them to moslem and xian slave traders. Many glorious tales of lively competition between the knights of malta and the moslems over markets around the mediterranean.

Religion reinforces the tribalist perception of 'us vs them', and the notion that the other tribe is always a little less human than yours. One of the reasons slavery was so difficult to end in the west is because it is condoned and encouraged in the bible.

So the unfortunate truth is that, in order to completely end slavery in this world, we are going to have to end religion.
2.3 / 5 (6) Oct 18, 2018
Your religion dehumanizes not only outsiders but xians as well. It wants them to believe that they are all born sinners, and they all bear the responsibility for both the original sin and of murder of christ on the cross. Religion makes believers slaves to superstition and guilt. It terrorizes people with threats of eternal damnation. 'Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me'... the rod being the instrument of punishment and the staff of direction.

No human is free as long as they believe in a god who demands both their love and their fear.
1 / 5 (2) Oct 18, 2018
And being forced to work for a living and earn money (bits of paper) so you can afford access to basic necessities of life or life saving medicine is NOT slavery?

The entire socio-economic system is slavery.
5 / 5 (2) Oct 18, 2018
And being forced to work for a living and earn money (bits of paper) so you can afford access to basic necessities of life or life saving medicine is NOT slavery?

The entire socio-economic system is slavery.

Well, you could venture off into the wild and then choose not to work for a living.

And then promptly die because you have nothing to eat and no shelter. One way or the other, you have to work to remain alive.

The "socialist" fallacy is that everyone is entitled to their welfare. That's not actually true. If you don't fully sustain yourself and the means of your sustenance, i.e. the society, who sustains you? That person who does, should be properly called your slave.
Oct 18, 2018
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
2.4 / 5 (7) Oct 19, 2018
And being forced to work for a living and earn money (bits of paper) so you can afford access to basic necessities of life or life saving medicine is NOT slavery?

The entire socio-economic system is slavery.
says deksman2

Nobody is "forced" to work for a living to earn money. But if you don't work, you don't eat, unless you are a perpetual taker and professional busker or panhandler. But too many of them are mentally ill, and some prefer to be homeless. But the thing that they all have in common is that they depend on those who DO work to earn their pay and pay the taxes that goes toward providing welfare for those who don't want to work for a living.

So, it is really the people who work for a living and pay taxes that are the "slaves" of the shiftless, lazy and often demented who live on the streets. Those who use the welfare money for housing are little better off. Jobs are plentiful now under the Trump administration for those who want to work.

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