Slavery. It’s an image that conjures up many images. For instance: candle light, ball gowns, and horse-drawn carriages for the privileged American southerners that owned slaves back in the nineteenth century. However, this shameful part of history hasn’t been entirely abolished — something that would have disgusted William Wilberforce, a leading opponent of slavery.
Today, there are approximately 40.3 million slaves across the world; more than originally recorded in the 1700s. The British Government estimates that there could be 10,000 slaves in the UK alone. The ‘industry’ has reached epidemic proportions and makes billions each year.
The problem of slavery has appeared multiple times in popular films and television programs. ‘Taken’ and ‘The Missing’ are just two examples. Sadly though, when slavery appears in the news it’s quickly dismissed. The question I want to ask is: are people aware of what’s going on? Can they fully comprehend just how awful modern-day slavery is?
But what is Modern-Day Slavery?
Every day people become victims of slavery. Traffickers kidnap or use lies to trap them. As a consequence, countless individuals are made to live in squalor, working in unimaginable conditions and are sometimes even drugged to keep them docile.
Modern slavery comes in many forms; human and sex trafficking, forced and bonded labour, child slavery, forced marriages and domestic or supply chain slavery. Some people are born into it. These types of slavery have many components. Exploitation is the most significant. This is the act of controlling someone and forbidding them from escaping, through various means of constraints — including imprisonment. Victims are dehumanised and treated as a commodity, to be brought and sold by traffickers. This paves the way for ill-treatment and violent indifference. Many slaves are coerced into working through the threat of physical, mental, and even sexual abuse.
Whom does it affect?
Modern-day slavery is first and foremost a crime. It affects people of all ages, genders and creeds. However, it usually seeks out those living in the most deprived communities. And takes advantage. This could be anyone living in poverty, desperate for a job, either at home or abroad. In some circumstances these individuals are migrants who want visas. Traffickers take advantage of this. Blackmailing them with deportation and the threat of having committed a punishable criminal offence. The Dalits in India — meaning ‘Untouchables’, who belong to the lowest social group in the Hindu caste system, are another example. These vulnerable people sometimes need financial support for medical treatment, protection from wealthy farmers, and fighting off crippling debt enforced by corrupt authorities.
Do anti-slavery charities still exist?
There are numerous organisations that work tirelessly to put an end to modern-day slavery. All people are entitled to have freedom and exercise it. Everyone should be able to enjoy equality and justice. One day I would like to raise a family and to bring them up in world without slaves or human trafficking. I want them to learn about slavery in history books, not on the news. Charities like Hope for Justice or IJM do absolutely fantastic work. But wouldn’t it be lovely if this was unnecessary?
People are not commodities to be bought and sold. They are human beings with families and dreams. It’s absolutely disgusting that individuals are still able to make large profits from stealing the freedom of others. Everyone was made to have an amazing life. And to be in control of their own decisions. This is non-negotiable.
So, how can you help?
Please look out for these indicators, created by Stop the Traffik:
- Individuals act as if instructed. And are forced to carry out specific activities
- They demonstrate signs of physical or psychological abuse. As a result, victims can experience mental health issues or physical pain.
- Individuals appear to be bonded by debt and money
- Has little or no contact with family or loved ones
- Is distrustful of authorities
- Have threats made against themselves or family members
- Last but not least, someone not in possession of their own legal documents
Be vigilant. You could help someone who is enslaved.