On Oct. 17, CNN reported that nearly 30 million people around the world are currently living as slaves. The Global Slavery Index, published by the Australia-based Walk Free Foundation, ranked 162 countries based on three factors that include estimated prevalence of modern slavery, a measure of child marriage and a measure of human trafficking in and out of a country. Though it would be comforting to think that slavery is a relic of history, it remains a scar on humanity on every continent to this day. Recognizing its prevalence is imperative for the advancement of global society.
The survey’s index defines slavery as “the possession and control of a person in such a way as to significantly deprive that person of his or her individual liberty, with the intent of exploiting that person through their use, management, profit, transfer or disposal. Usually this exercise will be achieved through means such as violence or threats of violence, deception and/or coercion.”
Many are trapped in debt bondage to a local landowner or born into slavery because of caste, customary, social and hereditary obligations. Bonded labor, whether through debt or other forms of bondage of workers, is rife in stone quarries, brick kilns, construction sites and the mining industry. Sexual exploitation of Indian women, men, transgender people and children, is widespread. Thousands of Indian women are forced into different forms of slavery ranging from domestic service to prostitution. Women, largely from Nepal and Bangladesh, have been identified in situations of commercial sexual exploitation. Non-labor forms of modern slavery, including forced marriage, fraudulent adoption and organ trafficking have also been identified in such countries. More saddening is the fact that child and forced marriage are still prevalent and child protection practices remain weak.
According to the Walk Free Foundation index, there are 29.6 million people in modern slavery globally. India leads the world, followed by China, Pakistan, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Russia, Thailand, Democratic Republic of Congo, Myanmar and Bangladesh. These 10 countries account for 76 percent of the world’s modern slaves. These numbers reflect the chauvinistic nature of the countries.
The solution to this problem lies in awareness and enforcement. Nick Grono, CEO of Walk Free Foundation, believes publicizing this slavery index could help change the prevalence of modern slavery in the world. Widely published numbers carry a lot of weight and can influence public opinion.
The enforcement of laws criminalizing modern slavery is inconsistent, and corruption within law enforcement and government officials contributes to this problem. As a result, national and state-level responses are not benefitting those in slavery as much as they should, due to involvement of local officials and their avoidance of conflict with locally powerful slaveholders and traffickers. Moreover, the justice system can be slow in the countries most affected by slavery. Remedying these problems will create the much-needed change.
Many countries still function on antiquated belief systems that say it is acceptable to enslave others. Though the issue is deep and complicated, the coercion, manipulation, emotional and physical abuse exercised by fellow human beings is a threat to global peace and more must be done in terms of awareness and enforcement to abolish this hateful practice.
Ansh Bahri is a junior majoring in computer science.
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