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A tipping point in the fight against "Modern Day slavery"?

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There are more people in slavery today than at any time in human history - but campaigners think the world is close to a tipping point and that slavery may be abolished in the next 30 years.


The estimated number of people in slavery - 27 million - is more than double the total number believed to have been taken from Africa during the transatlantic slave trade.


Ship records make it possible to estimate the number of slaves transported from Africa to the Americas and the Caribbean, from the 16th Century until the trade was banned in 1808 - and the figure is about 12.5 million people.


The figure of 27 million slaves today comes from researcher Kevin Bales, of Free the Slaves - who blames the huge figure on rapid population growth, poverty and government corruption.

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Many people still think of slavery as a thing of the past, but it exists in many forms, on every continent - ranging from sex and labour trafficking, to debt bondage where people are forced to work off small loans.


"I often think about a quarry slave from North India," says investigative journalist Ben Skinner, who has travelled all over the world documenting cases of slavery.


"I could go in at night and interview him, so I asked him why he didn't run away. It was because he feared the extraordinary violence of the quarry contractor who held him to a miniscule debt.



Not all slaves were from Africa. Slavery existed among some Native American groups and in some Asian countries, and Europeans were sometimes enslaved by Muslims in the Ottoman Empire.


Russian serfdom can be seen as a variant of slavery. At the time of emancipation in 1861, there were more than 22 million serfs.


Slaves were common in the ancient world - the Greeks, Romans and, Egyptians all held slaves.

Professor Peter Kolchin, historian


Skinner says that many of the slaves he met in India had never known a free life. They came from extremely isolated communities, and were not aware of their basic universal rights.


But while developing countries have the highest number of slave labourers, developed countries with strong human rights laws "fail to resource the law enforcement to deal with the problem in comparison to virtually any other law", says Bales.


Barack Obama recently painted a portrait of contemporary slavery.


"It's the migrant worker unable to pay off the debt to his trafficker," he said. "The man, lured here with the promise of a job, his documents then taken, and forced to work endless hours in a kitchen. The teenage girl, beaten, forced to walk the streets."


The US government spends billions on tackling homicide, Bales argues, but only a fraction is spent on slavery "even though we know there are many more slaves than homicides in the US".


In Europe too, victims of slavery cannot always rely on the law to protect them. Anti-trafficking charity Stop the Traffik cites a case where a girl was returned to Hungary after being trafficked abroad. Upon her return to supposed safety, she was raped and returned to her traffickers.Continue reading the main story



_63320767_18960gettyimageshultonarchive3278553.jpg As well as being transported out of Africa during the transatlantic slave trade, slaves were also captured and sold within Africa


But the International Labour Organization (ILO) - whose figure of 20.9 million people worldwide in forced labour does not include bonded labour - believes slavery can be completely eradicated.


The momentum has been growing for the last 10 years, says the ILO's Beate Andreas, pointing to a "growing movement and growing leadership on the part of key countries to take action".


Slavery in the British Empire

  • The British Empire outlawed slavery in 1833, but it never really went away, emerging in different forms such as child labour, says Dr Richard Huzzey from the University of Liverpool's Centre for International Slavery.
  • "In the early 1840s, the British declared slavery in India was over as part of the 'kindness' of British rule, but what in fact happened, was that definitions changed - people were called labourers or servants rather than slaves."


She compares this struggle to the battle against HIV, where it took a number of years to generate the momentum and the commitment needed to overcome the epidemic.


Slavery is already illegal in every country in the world.


"We have not quite reached the tipping point, but it's much more difficult for countries and companies to get away with forced labour nowadays," Andreas says.


"There is reason to be optimistic. We have seen a sweeping change in recent years in terms of legislation and better regulation.


"There's a clear sign that more companies are becoming aware, and more governments are willing to take action. If we have the critical mass of leaders ready to take action, then it can be eradicated."


Bales says there was a time when law enforcement agencies knew how to deal with a truck full of drugs, but lacked clear procedures for dealing with a truck full of people. This is changing, he says.


The UN's anti-trafficking protocol talks about the "three Ps" - prosecution, protection and prevention.



How much is a human life worth?



  • An average slave today costs around $90 (£56) according to Free the Slaves
  • They calculated it would cost $11bn (£6.8bn) over a 25 - 30 year period to get everyone out of slavery and keep them "slave proof"
  • In 1850 a slave cost the equivalent of $40,000 (£25,000) of today's money
  • In the 18th Century, metal bracelets called manilas were brought to West Africa. They were used to barter for slaves and are now only worth around $8 (£5) each



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As long as undevolped nations exist, slavery will continue to as well. Sadly, as a country we can't to much that would be productive.

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What really saddens me is the amount of trafficking in the sex trade, in Africa as well as South America.


It is especially a problem in East and South Asia as well as Eastern Europe. People who click on porn sites featuring women trafficked over from such countries oversees and the like are endorsing human trafficking and slavery to this extent that it's disgusting, actually inhuman and wicked. Do they even realize to the extent these poor girls are physically and sexually abused?


Then we have the slaves on the cocoa farms in the Carribean islands and South America which stilll exist to this day. And major companies such as Nestle are doing nothing about it. Nothing, just giving the bare minimum.


This is just my personal viewpoint. People have a right to view whatever they please on the net even if its Hustler or Twisty's or whatever. That's not something for me to judge a person by in itself.


I'm just highlighting the face that people are still being abused in the human trafficking and slave trade more then we may even realize. Even in the states there is the problem with "wage slavery", in which chains such as Walmart and Home Depot endorse. I can tell you stories....


Don't kill the messenger....

Edited by realizm

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Slavery is far worse than the obvious examples show. There's is more than one way to be a slave besides providing unconditional free labor. "Wage slavery" is one of them.

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