Modern-day slavery

Modern-day slavery

December 2 is the United Nation's International Day for the Abolition of Slavery. Did you know that slavery still exists today and is probably much closer to you than you realise?

Do the preparation task first. Then read the article and do the exercises.


Blood and Earth

In his book Blood and Earth, Kevin Bales speaks with Ibrahim, a 23-year-old slave who has worked in a gold mine since he was nine. He is dying. His lungs are filled with liquid caused by the dust and bacteria in the mine. As their conversation ends, Ibrahim turns to Kevin Bales and says, 'I want to be remembered. When my story is written and your book is ready, will you send me a copy? I want to show it to others, to show them that I am not completely useless. I just want to show that something good can come out of my life.'

So what's the connection to you? As you read this article, you are probably using a smartphone, tablet, or laptop. Each device requires minerals – including gold. Perhaps the gold in your electronic device was mined by slaves.

Slavery today

According to the Global Slavery Index 2018, over 40 million people are victims of modern slavery, and of these, 15 million are in forced marriage. Slavery involves violence, physical or psychological, and control – often in the form of threats in order to generate profit. To quote Kevin Bales, 'Slavery is when one person controls another, uses violence to maintain that control and exploits them economically.' This violence may be physical and/or psychological, and the control may be verbal threats – but at the heart of slavery is exploitation and 'ownership' of another human being for profit. Forms of modern slavery include forced labour, human trafficking, commercial sexual exploitation, domestic servitude and forced marriage.

You might be surprised to see forced marriage included above. Sadly, forced marriage involves the same lack of choice, power imbalance, coercion and labour exploitation as other forms of slavery. This also includes forced child marriage – usually of girls, of 17 years or younger.

Slavery behind closed doors

Another form of slavery is domestic servitude. Across the globe, domestic workers, mostly women, migrate abroad to support their families back home. Employment agents in their country of origin promise a generous salary and good working conditions with a caring host family. This, however, may be far from reality. Domestic workers are sometimes forced to work long hours and their passports and mobile phones are taken away. In extreme cases, behind closed doors of private homes, they are locked up, starved, deprived of sleep and often physically and sexually abused. They are trapped, scared and unfamiliar with their new surroundings. Domestic servitude happens globally, including in the UK.

The power of consumer choice

Every item we buy has a back story. From electronics to textiles, from handmade carpets to coffee, tea and chocolate, each of these products might include child or adult slavery. Consider a product as innocent as chocolate. While the chocolate bar itself may have been produced in your country, the cocoa in the chocolate probably came from West Africa, where 60 per cent of the world's cocoa is produced. As you read this, thousands of children and adults live in slave-like conditions on cocoa farms. Unknowingly, your purchase might support slavery. However, consumer demand for ethically-sourced products and services can send a powerful message to producers. Imagine if we all refused to purchase goods that have a back story of slavery. Company sales, and therefore profits, would fall. Look around at items in your home and workplace and ask yourself the simple question, 'Where did this come from and who made it?'

Why didn't I learn about modern slavery at school?

Did you ever learn about modern slavery at school? History lessons may have included the horrific practice of slavery, however, it was probably considered something that was very much 'in the past'. But slavery still exists and it is the everyday reality for millions of people. It takes brave educators to raise awareness of the difficult, upsetting and invisible reality of modern slavery.

The good news is that thousands of individuals and anti-slavery organisations are taking action. One such organisation is The NO Project, which focuses specifically on the education of youth and young adults. 'Youth are the next generation of corporate leaders, policy makers and consumers,' says the founder of The NO Project. 'How we choose to spend our money says a lot about who we are. So, the question is – who are we? And remember, another time, in another place, that enslaved human being could be you.'


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Submitted by parisaach on Wed, 02/10/2019 - 12:09

The thing that I learned from this article is exact meaning of the word 'slavery', I always used word 'slavery' when some one has unfair authority over other people, but I didn't recognise these matters really include slavery. I observe different kind of slavery around, some of these cases are more closer to me, for example I always see the children who sales some thing or do other jobs in streets. They are definitely victims of modern slavey. In some cities in my country little girls are forced to marry a grown-up or even old man, actually their father sell them. I think the meaning of slavery should be even vaster than that, I think when we forced to live in bad economic situation.
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Submitted by iso on Fri, 08/03/2019 - 15:58

Reality in the poor countries are bad environment than I think.I realize that slavery exists in some countries that provide us food such as banana ,fish.Firming ,cutting tree don't make enough money for their lives.According to another article in this site using the internet is 55 per cent currently.It mean only 55 per cent people experience modern lives.

Submitted by preet on Sun, 10/02/2019 - 07:59

It's a very sad reality as the world is becoming more and more materialistic.
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Submitted by eirini1984 on Tue, 29/01/2019 - 14:48

I have leaned that nowadays slavery exists even in developed countries like the UK..Also if we want to stop this situation, we have to be more consious consumers and the teachers have to raise awareness of modern slavery.

Submitted by TatsianaBaravik on Sun, 27/01/2019 - 12:55

I am leaving in Middle Eastern country and unfortunately, modern slavery is very common here. Many people come here to seek a better life, but you never know what type of trap you can fall in.

Submitted by Josep Anton on Tue, 15/01/2019 - 18:27

Hi, I learned that still the slavery is near us, and that we could improve this situation if we take conscious of this problem if we do a ethic purchase for example, for know where the things are made and in what labor production conditions are made. And if raw material come from polluting sources.

Submitted by Andreza Hiller on Sun, 06/01/2019 - 17:28

At the country where I live there are lots of cases of slavery and unfortunatly the rencent elected president intends to end with the only Government organism that works against slavery. The organism is the Labour Ministery and the country is Brazil. The most sad thing about it is the population’s blindness about it!
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Submitted by AAhmadukumo on Sat, 05/01/2019 - 20:51

I don't support any type of slavery.
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Submitted by Shan on Sat, 05/01/2019 - 16:46

This topic can open the eyes of many peoples who is unawre of modern salvery including.i appreciate those org who has taken intiatives to abolish slavery of different kinds.every one has right to live his/her life on their choices..let me mention another form osfslavery which is trying to keep everyone happy we should avoid this concept becoz with its impossible to make everyone happy but ruin our lives.we need peace from within which only come when we try to keep ourself happy and satisfy all the time

Submitted by Farrukh Maqsood on Fri, 04/01/2019 - 14:02

It is really a debate able topic, i myself is suffering from one such kind of slavery, writer of this article mentioned well that we do not get educated in schools about that. In fact, i think our degrees are playing same role for owners of companies as rope to captive a slave. Only way to redue this factor is entrepreneurship. Try to build your own business.