- Politics and Social Issues
Slavery; Alive and Thriving in Modern Society
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.
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.
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
If you'd like to be a part of making a difference, please visit these sites for more information and ways in which you can help: