According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) 20.9 million men, women and children around the world are in slavery. In the 21st century people are still sold like objects, forced to work for little or no pay and at the complete mercy of their ’employers’.
There are many different characteristics that distinguish slavery from other human rights violations, however only one needs to be present for slavery to exist. Someone is in slavery if they are:
- forced to work – through mental or physical threat;
- owned or controlled by an ’employer’, usually through mental or physical abuse or the threat of abuse;
- dehumanised, treated as a commodity or bought and sold as ‘property’;
- physically constrained or has restrictions placed on his/her freedom of movement.
Sudan: There is considerable evidence that slavery is still practiced in a large scale in Sudan — an estimated 14,000 people have been abducted since 1983. However, the existence of slavery is denied by the Sudanese government. Some western religious groups have attempted to buy freedom for individual slaves. Unfortunately, this has become counterproductive. It increases the profitability of enslavement as a commercial enterprise, and results in more slaves being created.
United Arab Emirates — Child trafficking: Although it is illegal to employ a child under the age of 15, hundreds of boys between four and ten are trafficked from South Asia to the UAE.
India, Nepal and Pakistan — Millions of men, women and children are used as forced and bonded labor in these countries. Most are dalit or from a low caste, or are from indigenous or minority groups. Laws against the caste system and against bonded labor exist but are not enforced.
Indonesia — Forced labor and exploitation of migrant workers. “Poverty and lack of opportunity in Indonesia have increased the number of Indonesians seeking work in Asia. Indonesia’s lack of protection and the Government’s existing system for women migrant domestics exposes them to trafficking and slavery.”