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A global call to action to end modern slavery

A global call to action to end modern slavery
A global call to action to end modern slavery

Modern slavery, a multifaceted and persistent issue, continues to affect millions of individuals worldwide, depriving them of their fundamental rights and freedoms. According to the Global Slavery Index 2021, there are an estimated 50 million people living in slavery on any given day. This is 10 million more than in 2016.

1 IN 4 are children

54% are women and girls

27.6M are in forced labour

22M are in forced marriage

What is modern slavery?

“Modern slavery takes many forms and is known by many names. Essentially, it refers to situations of exploitation that a person cannot refuse or leave because of threats, violence, coercion, or deception.” Walk Free*

Modern slavery is a broad spectrum of forms of exploitation of people, including:

• Forced labor: People are forced to work under threat of violence or punishment, with little or no pay.

• Human trafficking: People are bought, sold, or tricked into situations of exploitation.

• Debt bondage: People are forced to work to pay off a debt that they cannot realistically repay.

• Sexual slavery: People are used for sexual exploitation.

• Forced marriage: People are forced to marry against their will.

"Slavery is not just a shame for those who are in it, but also for those who allow it." - Frederick Douglass, American abolitionist and statesman.

Contemporary slavery exists in every country and every region, but how it manifests itself inside a country varies based on a variety of factors, such as the quantity and composition of vulnerable groups within the population and the government's attitude to these groups.

For example, rules that forbid women from inheriting land or do not require that an individual must be eighteen years old to be married frequently result in forced marriages. These are just a few instances of how patriarchal views fuel discrimination and gender inequality. Particularly in countries with substantial immigrant populations and weak labor laws safeguarding them, forced labor can be widespread. Forced labor is a common practice in many countries, leaving victims with little options for legal action.

"Modern slavery is not just an issue in far-off countries, it is an issue that affects each and every one of us. We must all come together to eradicate this horrific practice." - Pope Francis, head of the Catholic Church.

Where is modern slavery prevalent? The Global Slavery Index 2023 presents a country-by-country breakdown of this estimate and provides an assessment of the level of action governments are taking to address the issue.

Modern slavery is found in all regions of the world, but it is most concentrated in Asia and the Pacific, where 64% of all slaves live. This is followed by Africa (27%) and Latin America and the Caribbean (5%).

Slaves are used in a wide range of industries, including:

• Agriculture: Slaves are forced to work on farms, plantations, and in fisheries.

• Construction: Slaves are used on construction sites, including infrastructure projects.

• Domestic work: Slaves are used as servants in the homes of wealthy people.

• Manufacturing: Slaves are used in factories, mines, and other industrial settings.

• Service industries: Slaves are used in the sex industry, restaurants, hotels, and other service establishments.

Victims of modern slavery encompass a diverse group of individuals, often targeted due to their vulnerable circumstances. Migrants, in particular, are frequently ensnared by human traffickers as they leave their home countries in search of improved living conditions. This group is at high risk due to their unfamiliarity with new environments, legal systems, and the absence of social networks.

Children also form a significant portion of modern slavery victims, given their inherent inability to protect themselves and their susceptibility to manipulation and coercion. Women are disproportionately affected by sexual slavery and forced marriages, reflecting broader gender inequalities and the specific targeting of women for exploitation.

Additionally, people with disabilities are at heightened risk of exploitation due to their increased dependence on others for care and support, making them more susceptible to various forms of abuse and manipulation.

Millions of people around the world live in slavery. It is a disgrace to our time, and we must do everything in our power to change it." - Nelson Mandela, the first black president of South Africa and freedom fighter.

What can we do to combat slavery?

Tackling modern slavery is a complex challenge that requires a comprehensive approach. Here are some actions we as a global society can take:

• Support organizations working to end slavery: There are many organizations dedicated to freeing slaves and helping survivors. You can contribute by donating money, volunteering your time, or simply raising awareness about their work. You can also support individual initiatives, like Fernando Morales-de la Cruz, Founder of Cartoons For Change. This journalist and anti-child labor advocate personally attended the G7 summit in 2022 to advocate for immediate action to protect children's rights. He wrote a letter to the Prime Minister of Norway demanding they stop profiting from the exploitation of millions of vulnerable children through the Norwegian Pension Fund's investments in corporations with unethical and illegal practices.

• Raise awareness about the issue: The more people know about modern slavery, the more likely we are to eradicate it. You can talk to your friends, family, and colleagues about the issue, and share information on social media.

• Support ethical businesses: Buy goods and services from companies that adhere to ethical principles and do not use slave labor.

• Pressure governments: We can urge our governments to enact stronger laws against slavery and ensure their enforcement.

Everyone is born free and equal in dignity and rights. No one shall be held in slavery or servitude.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1948.

*Walk Free is an international human rights group focused on the eradication of modern slavery, in all its forms, in our lifetime.


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