This planet is an awful place to be. We’re in 2013, looking for different ways to cure breast cancer and prevent Alzheimer’s. We try and invent AI programs that conform with our daily needs. We isolate ourselves from reality as much as possible only to be trapped in the virtual loop. All this is happening while slavery is still considered a major, worldwide problem. As we are sitting here, each one of us doing whatever he/she is supposed to do, thirty million people of the world’s population are held in slavery.
According to the inaugural Global Slavery Index published by the Walk Free Foundation (WFF) on Thursday, thirty million people are enslaved, the highest percentage being in South Asian countries (India, China and Pakistan). Ten countries account for 76% of the total estimated 30 million slaves, these countries are: India (with the highest percentage of slaves: 14.7 million modern-day slave), China (2.95 million modern-day slave), Pakistan (2.1 million modern-day slave), Nigeria, Ethiopia, Russia, Thailand, Democratic Republic of Congo, Myanmar (Burma) and Bangladesh.
With human trafficking believed to be the main source of slavery, the new study states that most of these slaves are actually enslaved in their own countries. Whole families are “owned” by other families in the exact meaning of the word. Before we continue, let us take a look at the definition of slavery in the international law, commonly accepted and taken from Article 1.1 of the 1926 Slavery Convention negotiation under the auspices of the League of Nations:
“Slavery is the status or condition of a person over whom any or all of the powers attaching to the right of ownership are exercised”
This definition was broadened to include forced or compulsory labor in 1930. As for the WFF’s study, slavery also includes debt bondage, forced labor, forced marriage and the sale or exploitation of children.
The index contained statistics from 162 countries. Even the first world countries like the United States, Canada, France and Britain had a considerable percentage of slaves. The percentage was much lower than in South Asian or South African countries but still it indicated that the Western world is also part of the slavery crisis.
The percentage in India is far greater than other countries due to the contribution of the Indian government to the problem by exploiting citizens through debt bondage and bonded labor.
Slavery crisis is not just like any other crisis. It deprives the person of the subtlest and most vital right: to exist as a person. We are all born free, yet there are children in Africa and Asia are born to find their lives and well-being owned and controlled by somebody else. When interviewed, some of the families in China were found totally unaware of a life where they were free. Their ancestors had been enslaved and the family has a history of slavery just like any normal family in the first world would have a history of coronary heart disease or diabetes.
Normal families in the first world also enjoy products coming from large slavery farms and mines. When a westerner drinks a cup of coffee or wears a cotton T-shirt, a small percentage (2%-3%) of such product has been at least touched by a slave. This small percentage has been taken from that slave’s freedom.
On the bright side, however, slavery can be easily eradicated from the modern-world. According to Kevin Bales, Walk Free Foundation researcher and professor at the University of Hull, in the U.K, slavery has no economic value to the planet. Slaves contribute with a tiny fraction to the global economy and thus it is easier to gather forces to put an end to it, with minor (almost null) losses in terms of the world economy.
Think about it. With all the horrors and shame we felt for our nations being part of the slave industry in the past, can we still live in peace with the fact that 30 million brothers and sisters are still enslaved? Slavery is an abhorrent crime and should be on our leader’s priorities when they are claiming to maintain “World Peace”.
Written by: Jaylan Salah