Millions of men, women and children around the world are forced to lead lives as slaves. Although this exploitation is often not called slavery, the conditions are the same. People are sold like objects, forced to work for little or no pay and are at the mercy of their ’employers’.
Slavery exists today despite the fact that it is banned in most of the countries where it is practised. It is also prohibited by the 1948Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the 1956 UN Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery, the Slave Trade and Institutions and Practices Similar to Slavery. Women from eastern Europe are bonded into prostitution, children are trafficked between West African countries and men are forced to work as slaves on Brazilian agricultural estates. Contemporary slavery takes various forms and affects people of all ages, sex and race.
Common characteristics distinguish slavery from other human rights violations. A slave is:
- forced to work — through mental or physical threat;
- owned or controlled by an ’employer’, usually through mental or physical abuse or threatened abuse;
- dehumanised, treated as a commodity or bought and sold as ‘property’;
- physically constrained or has restrictions placed on his/her freedom of movement.
WHAT TYPES OF SLAVERY EXIST TODAY?
Bonded labour affects millions of people around the world. People become bonded labourers by taking or being tricked into taking a loan for as little as the cost of medicine for a sick child. To repay the debt, many are forced to work long hours, seven days a week, up to 365 days a year. They receive basic food and shelter as ‘payment’ for their work, but may never pay off the loan, which can be passed down for generations.
Early and forced marriage affects women and girls who are married without choice and are forced into lives of servitude often accompanied by physical violence.
Forced labour affects people who are illegally recruited by individuals, governments or political parties and forced to work — usually under threat of violence or other penalties.
Slavery by descent is where people are either born into a slave class or are from a ‘group’ that society views as suited to being used as slave labour.
Trafficking involves the transport and/or trade of people — women, children and men — from one area to another for the purpose of forcing them into slavery conditions.
Worst forms of child labour affects an estimated 126 million** children around the world in work that is harmful to their health and welfare.