Human Trafficking and Other Forms of Modern-Day Slavery
While there exists a common misconception that the issue of slavery was nixed with the Emancupation Proclamation and the last Portugese slave ships spotted off the coast of Africa in the late 1800s, it is still alive and well throughout the world. The slavery covering the pages of our history books has been reincarnated into an international monster, taking various forms and ruining countless lives. In the shadows of the 13th Amendment, the League of Nations’ 1926 adoption of the International Slavery Convention, the 1956 Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery, the Slave Trade, and Institutions and Practices Similar to Slavery, and various international legislation, slavery hangs prevalent in the distance, reminding us of the basest of human evils. It exists in 6 main forms: bonded labor, human trafficking, child labor, forced labor, early/ forced marriage, and slavery by descent. In these forms, slavery has managed to survive on a worldwide level until today.
One of the most prevalent forms of modern slavery in the 20th century is bonded labor. Bonded labor occurs when a person has to pay back a debt or loan through service to another. While the idea may seem innocent, and maybe even logical, at first glance, most people are not aware that this payback labor is performed under horrid conditions. People are held at gunpoint and chained to machines, worked until they are entirely physically fatigued, and treated like
animals. In addition, they often suffer physical and emotional abuse at the hand of their "employers." This problem is prevalent throughout the world, as evidenced by the attached map, and is fueled by the issue of poverty throughout the world. You see, continual economic deficits create the need for continual loans and, consequently, their eventual payment through bonded labor. This type of slavery is also horrible because it often contributes to the issue of child labor, since families of debtors are often forced to also work towards the repayment of loans. A prime example of this issue in action is the case of the shackled laborers of Pakistan, laborers bonded in order to repay landowners’ loans.
This leads to a second, but equally severe, form of slavery: child labor. When we call child labor a form of slavery, we are not referring to the average teenager getting a local job and being paid minimum wage; we are speaking of the literal enslavement of children to perform physically exhausting work for little or no pay at all. Children throughout the world are forced to work as domestic servants, sex slaves, agricultural slaves, and soldiers. Children feel they have Whether it be in the form of the aforementioned bonded labor, or through any of the 5 other forms of modern slavery, child labor is plaguing today’s world. Not only inhumane, it encourages illiteracy and intellectual stagnation in the children (due to the withholding of education), puts them in constant physical danger (from over exerting tasks and job placements), and physically and emotionally traumatizes them for life (in terms of abuse by captors and living conditions that are barely livable). A prime example of child labor is the case of the child "carpet slaves" of India, taken when they are as young as five to work in captivity making rugs for food, a problem which is egged on by the caste system of that nation.
A third form of slavery that prevails until today is human trafficking. Trafficking is, by definition, "the movement of people through violence, deception or coercion for the purpose of forced labour, servitude, or slavery-like practices." Trafficked people are forced into either labor or sex. This issue affects people from every walk of life, though women and children are most commonly victimized in this type of slavery. Especially terrible is the trafficking of children, as has occurred most notably in Albania (where children are forced to perform labor abroad), throughout the rest of Europe (where girls are commonly utilized as sex slaves), West Africa (through the cocoa industry), and even in the United States (e.g. a Berkeley, CA man who forced girls into sexual slavery and domestic service in his restaurant). Since this is such a large-scale problem, governments must tackle it head-on before it is too late.
The other three types of slavery- forced labor, early/forced marriage, and slavery by descent- are just as problematic in today’s world. Forced labor occurs when people are illegally recruited to perform work for individuals or groups under various threats of abuse, and is probably most exemplified by the case of the cane-cutters of the Dominican republic, Haitians illegally forced into labor in sugar cane fields by the Dominican army with the support of the State Sugar Council (a.k.a. the CEA). While early/forced marriage doesn’t make the headlines as commonly as the other types of slavery mentioned in this essay, it is still alive and well in today’s world. In these marriages, women and girls are forced into abusive relationships of lifelong service. Finally, slavery by descent is a problem very much aggravated by the caste and social systems of countries like India, where one’s birth-class dictates their permanent standing in society. Since one’s opportunities for advancement are also limited to the borders of their class, those born into the slave caste or class have no chance to move up in society, and, so, there is basically no chance of escape, due to social stigma attributed to disregarding one’s predestined future.
So, what can be done to halt the dreaded problem of slavery in today’s world? While the United Nations is constantly working to aid those affected by slavery and to persuade nations to outlaw it in all of its forms, private organizations such as Anti-Slavery International and Amnesty International fight this issue through funding and humanitarian efforts in affected areas, such as Darfur and India. We, as private citizens, can also make a difference, however unlikely it may seem. By writing to our local leaders and making slavery a national issue, we can bring attention to a long-ignored problem. In addition, we can also tailor our consumer habits so that they in no way benefit slave owners by buying only ethically traded and fair trade goods. If we take the time to review this incredibly complex issue and make significant efforts to do something, we can help to eliminate slavery completely so that it won’t be here for a single century more.