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Slavery; Alive and Thriving in Modern Society

Updated on January 14, 2015
Slaves in Egypt building the Pharaoh's pyramid.
Slaves in Egypt building the Pharaoh's pyramid. | Source

And Ageless Crime

The practice of slavery has been around since the beginning of recorded history. Ancient societies used enslaved people, usually prisoners of war and residents of conquered territories, for tasks of all kinds, from construction and agriculture to domestic duties such as cleaning and child rearing.

From history we learned that slaves built the Egyptian pyramids, mined minerals in Ancient Greece, and tilled the lands of Western Europe. While these societies produced some of the greatest marvels of the ancient world, these feats were established on the backs and at the hands of people who worked against their will, without any rights or privileges.

Modern people now know that forcing a person or people to labor against their will is a violation of human rights, and a crime against humanity. What most modern people do not know, is that while slavery is seen as a sin of the past, it is still very much alive in our society today.


The life of a slave on a US plantation, mid-1800's.
The life of a slave on a US plantation, mid-1800's. | Source

Slavery was abolished in England in 1838, in the United States in 1865 by the passage of the 13th Amendment, and globally in 1956, when the U.N. passed “The Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery, the Slave Trade, and Institutions and Practices Similar to Slavery.” This convention held that all countries should work to the fullest extent of their abilities to end slavery, debt bondage, and all other forms of forced work.

The convention of 1956 defined slavery as “the status or condition of a person over whom any or all of the powers attaching to the right of ownership are exercised.” Despite all of this legislation, people are still being forced to perform services without compensation, and sometimes under the harshest of conditions.

The Slaves in Today's World

Anti-Slavery International, a human rights group, has estimated that there are approximately 27 million people laboring as slaves today. According to this organization, slavery is a greater crime than most other human rights violations, since it degrades a person to being little more than property, an expendable resource used to produce goods for a small ‘maintenance’ cost. Like products or appliances, human beings are bought, sold and traded. They are constrained to the location where they work, and are not allowed to move about freely.

With 27 million people being forced to live under such conditions, why is this atrocity not seen or heard of more frequently? The answer is, slaves of ancient times primarily worked manual labor or domestic duties. Today, people are used to work in all areas of life, from harvesting crops, to housecleaning, to working as modern-day concubines.

The Slaves Of Today

Many people are tricked into slavery with promises of a better life in another country or city, only to have their identification taken away, leaving them to think that they are stranded in this life. Often, the alleged ‘employers’ will sever all their slaves' contact from the outside world, and use or threaten to use physical violence to ensure they will not run or try to find help.

Slavery is most prevalent throughout almost all of Africa, where people are either forced to work domestically, or are bought and sold to wealthy buyers from other countries, usually under the radar of international security agencies. In areas ravaged by civil war, such as Sudan, slave traders prey on villages and people affected by the conflicts.

Through force or coercion, these criminals are able to kidnap displaced people and sell them abroad to fund their cause, or force their victims to work for their kidnappers’ benefit.

History teaches that the 18th century saw some of the greatest numbers of exported slaves from Africa, with an estimated 13 million people being shipped to the United States and other western colonies to provide cheap labor while these new societies were being established. Despite this horrific number, the U.N. has stated that there are actually more slaves today than there have ever been at any time in history.

Terrifying facts regarding modern-day slavery
Terrifying facts regarding modern-day slavery | Source

Free At Last?

The legislation is already in place that outlaws these crimes against humanity, but the slave industry is still thriving. Activists and organizations around the world are working to help people escape this life of servitude, but while they have rescued many individuals and groups of people, the difficulty lies in finding and shutting down the sources of the slave trade.

Anyone can help this cause, most importantly (and perhaps most easily) by bringing attention to this issue, through contacting politicians and organizations, or participating in anti-slavery campaigns, or writing to government officials to put this human rights issue on the top of their political agenda.

In our modern world of smart phones and iPads and all sorts of modern conveniences, it is important to remember that there are people in the world struggling just for the ability to walk freely during the day, and sleep without fear of abuse at night. These people may be in factories in Asia, plantations in Africa, or right down your street, in a neighbor’s home. Until we can stop this atrocity and end slavery forever, can we as a society safely say, that we are free ourselves?

How You Can Help

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    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 2 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Very interesting and good of you to bring more light to this atrocious behavior of man.

    • KMSplumeau profile image
      Author

      KMSplumeau 2 years ago

      Thank you for your feedback, I know there must be more we can do to try to fix this problem in our society.

    • profile image

      Fire8storm 2 years ago

      KMSplumeau, I was really very unaware of just how extensive slavery still is in our modern world and I am shocked to read there are more slaves now than there ever were. Great Hub, informative and interesting, thank you for sharing.

    • KMSplumeau profile image
      Author

      KMSplumeau 2 years ago

      Thank you for your feedback. Yes it was very difficult to research this article, especially when I found anecdotal stories of people who had suffered through this inhuman experience. We all should spread the word of this atrocity and keep our eyes open to injustice. Thank you for your readership, I look forward to reading more of your articles as well.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 2 years ago from Southern Illinois

      As long as we have greedy politicians running countries around the world, this practice will go on. Some people are weak and easily led into situations, like spousal abuse, trafficking sex trade, etc. Education is the key to exit poverty, the leading cause of inhumanity around the world. I give to the Clinton foundation which works for betterment in Africa and others around the globe, plus the foundation itself gives the same amount as you give. I've found there are many organizations out there, but they rake off a high percentage before it gets to the people. I'm so glad you wrote this hub. We still need to be reminded that slavery exists today..Thank you..Tweeted

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 2 years ago from The Caribbean

      Thanks for dealing with a topic that should affect each of us. Thanks also for the links. Voted Up!

    • Fred Arnold profile image

      Fred Arnold 2 years ago from Clearwater, FL

      You deleted my comment... And here I was about to follow you!

      Good day.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 2 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      It is sad that slavery is still an ongoing issue in society at this time of life. A very interesting and thought-provoking hub. Thank you for following me.

    • KMSplumeau profile image
      Author

      KMSplumeau 2 years ago

      Thank you Ms. Dora and DDE for your feedback! I agree it is important to remember that this is still going on in our society.

      And I'm so sorry Fred Arnold, I never delete any comments - is it possible this was a technological error? Or perhaps I just didn't see it - either way you are welcome to repost your previous comment if you wish. Again sorry if there was an error.

    • Say Yes To Life profile image

      Yoleen Lucas 2 years ago from Big Island of Hawaii

      Thanks for bringing this issue to light! The September 2003 issue of National Geographic describes slavery in the 21st century.

      I'd like to add a few more facts, if I may:

      1) In the past, slaves were shacked with iron manacles; today, it's more likely to be drug addiction. The streetwalkers you see in the inner cities of America are victims of human trafficking. They often are runaways who get taken in by the pimps, treated better than they ever have been in their lives, and given all the drugs they wish to try for free. Once they're hooked, they risk their lives out on the streets to make the pimp rich. They can't leave because they need medical attention to kick the drugs. Kids need to think about that before they try drugs, because not all these kids are runaways.

      2) Females are more likely to be used in prostitution, while males are more likely to work construction (though they can be used in prostitution as well). In the case of prostitution, an underage person can be tending bar, get arrested, and the employer bails her (or him) out. Then she has to prostitute herself to pay off the debt she incurred. Once that debt is paid off, the employer sells her to someone else, and she has to work off that debt. And so on, and so on. Think about that before you do something illegal!

      3) Slave migrant workers in the US are paid a wage, then immediately forced to turn it over to the local store for minimal food and substandard housing. Those who try to escape are shot, or worse. Bringing attention to their plight, and raising the cost of food slightly (a penny per pound for tomatoes, for example) will double their wages, making life much more bearable. I understand Taco Bell has already addressed the matter, without passing on the cost to their customers.

      Again, thanks for the insight!

    • KMSplumeau profile image
      Author

      KMSplumeau 2 years ago

      Thank you so much Say Yes! I wasn't aware of much of this information. It's terrible how much these people are taken advantage of in this modern age. Thanks for providing these facts ! I look forward to more of your comments and viewing your hubs!

    • Iris Draak profile image

      Cristen Iris 2 years ago from Boise, Idaho

      This is a topic very dear to my heart. It's a global problem that must be stopped.

    • vkwok profile image

      Victor W. Kwok 2 years ago from Hawaii

      Although we're now in the twenty-first century, there is still slavery and that astounds me. I hope the plugged is pulled permanently on slavery one day.

    • KMSplumeau profile image
      Author

      KMSplumeau 2 years ago

      Yes Iris and vkwok, I couldn't agree more. We all need to bring light to this issue and try to eliminate this problem. Thank you for your readership!

    • Jacquelyn fuller profile image

      Jacquelyn fuller 2 years ago from Woonsocket, Rhode Island

      WOW... I did not realized slavery is still going on especially in other countries. I know in America we have what they call industrial slaves meaning people working less than minimum wages and living in poor housing.

      It is sad how people continuously mistreat others and use their power to dominate and control. All I can just like God delivered the children of Israel out of Egypt.... He will once again deliver his people again and the enemy will be destroyed this time...

      Thanks for this article and thanks for following me ... Hope I encouraged your heart...

    • Harishprasad profile image

      Harish Mamgain 2 years ago from India

      It is a shame on the modern civilization that this most pernicious virus named slavery still survives and thrives on so brazenly in almost every part of the world in one form or the other.

      This hub is a sad story about the reality of the poor persons who have been subjugated and degraded by the sly humans shamelessly, just for the sake of monetary gains ! I think the whole humanity is responsible till even a single guy is forced to live in such apathetic conditions, like a slave !

    • Romeos Quill profile image

      Romeos Quill 2 years ago from Lincolnshire, England

      A very useful Hub KMSplumeau and thanks for the follow; pleased to make your acquaintance on here.

      An additional fact which isn't particularly well known ( but perhaps you may already be aware of ) is that between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries, there were approximately one and a quarter million white European slaves traded in the Barbary slave trade on the North African coast; surprised me when I found out.

      Thanks for the educational and sharing.

      Kind Regards;

      R.Q.

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 2 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      There is one other thing we can do to help combat this awful and filthy trade and that is when you go to buy that next thing ask the sales assistant what the conditions were in the factory?

      If they can't answer the tell them you'll be back to buy when you find out.

      Believe it or not the big multinational companies are paying a lot of attention to this and even when they don't thevretailers are and when they see business walking out the door they change quickly (much faster than when political pressure is applied)

      Really awesome hub

      Lawrence

    • KMSplumeau profile image
      Author

      KMSplumeau 2 years ago

      That's a great idea! I've look into some companies which I've heard don't use very ethical resources or labor, but going straight to the source is a great idea! Thanks!

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 2 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Actually the idea came from a major retailer here in NZ. A few years ago there was a building collapse in Bangladesh and it turned out a lit clothing manufacturers were getting their high end stuff made in 'sweat shops '

      In of NZ's biggest retailers came out and said they had strict rules where they bought from and refused buy from sweat shops. They encouraged the public to ask about the source and even used it as an ad campaign!!

      The amazing thing is they sell the 'budget ' stuff!!

    • Kiss andTales profile image

      Kiss andTales 2 years ago

      Like many holes in a bucket slavery would be one hole , the bucket has has failed to hold its water. It needs to be replace by a brand New one with no leaks.

      I think of this example because while people are patching it seems fixed ,the problems of something greater is present , more problems leak, All things will be New soon , but the heart is the key to motivate people in the right direction and actions, we must all get along in peace ,

      Notice Isaiah. New World Translation

      Isa 2:4 He will render judgment among the nations And set matters straight respecting many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares And their spears into pruning shears. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, Nor will they learn war anymore.

      New World Translation

      2Pe 3:13 But there are new heavens and a new earth that we are awaiting according to his promise, and in these righteousness is to dwell.

      This is when the bucket has been replaced

      New World Translation

      Re 21:5 And the One seated on the throne said: “Look! I am making all things new.” Also he says: “Write, for these words are faithful and true.”

    • KMSplumeau profile image
      Author

      KMSplumeau 2 years ago

      Wow, I really like your analogy of the problem being like holes in a bucket, and how patching one hole still doesn't fix the problem. This is a very powerful message, and I really enjoyed your comment, "the heart is the key to motivate people in the right direction and actions, we must all get along in peace." Thank you so much for your inspirational feedback.

    • Kiss andTales profile image

      Kiss andTales 2 years ago

      Thank you for your important subject to comment on, thank you for allowing me a voice on the subject I appreciate your support.

    • KMSplumeau profile image
      Author

      KMSplumeau 2 years ago

      I'm more than happy to give my support to anyone who feels strongly about stopping this kind of injustice. Thanks again.

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