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 ahmed saaed bafaraj on Thu, 02/12/2021 - 06:51


I learned from this article, what Islam taught us to treat others in the way we like to be treated.


Submitted by Verna Budi Amanda on Wed, 24/02/2021 - 11:49

I think it is kinda hard for us to look for where do our products that we buy come from, i mean we all know people nowadays want everything which is 'instant' (like the most important is i got what i need, this sounds so egoistic but this is what happened), except someone has blown it up..

Submitted by PARIMALA MADIAZHAKAN on Tue, 16/02/2021 - 15:19

From this article I learned that slavery still exist in this era of modern and every Educational System must give priority about slavery among coming generation. It is important because coming generation must know how to respect other human being without any discrimination. Educational system emphasize humanity among coming generation does not threat a human as a slavery. Future generation should know about the slavery that exist in poor countries such as South Afrika and take some efforts to prevent slavery in this era of technology.

Submitted by Thinthinmyoe on Sat, 19/12/2020 - 13:53

From this article, we should learn about slavery and raise awareness of modern slavery through Education to save our nationalities as well as people all over the world.

Submitted by Laliaf on Fri, 11/12/2020 - 15:28

Although I did not learn about modern slavery at school,I watched several documentaries that highlighted the extent of brutality has been practised on domestics and construction workers who displaced from poor countries .

Submitted by Murat on Wed, 09/12/2020 - 21:17

The fact that is seems that awareness is changing nothing.
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Submitted by danisep on Mon, 07/12/2020 - 15:44

This article reminds us of a huge unfair reality, when I think of those people living forced to do something that they don't want or hate to do, private of free lives. It is really sad and make me think that I can help, changing some common habits. If we avoid to consume certainly products or services we can stop this injury to our society.
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Submitted by Rafaela1 on Mon, 14/09/2020 - 14:25

A prosperous urban society owns to ‘the other side of society’ ... :|
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Submitted by OlaIELTS on Mon, 01/06/2020 - 18:05

I learnt raising awareness of modern day slavery through education.

Submitted by Kariri on Wed, 11/12/2019 - 11:22

When words like '' slavery '' mention it came to my mind the previous generation, and I believe it couldn't exist until I read this article. the modern shape of modern slavery is more harmful than in the past because some people control other people in a harmful way and sees this as a working system these days and most of the people didn't notice that.