Posted by: constantinakatsari | October 29, 2012

The new face of slavery

When browsing the internet for ideas as to what to write this blog post on, one thing I found interesting was that every culture and civilisation on Earth that has ever existed, almost without exception, appears to have practised slavery in some form or another. Its difficult not to wonder then why it took over 3000 years from the first documented cases of slavery in China for enough people to view slavery as wrong to allow world wide abolition. It is somewhat remarkable then that despite slavery being no longer allowed by all international laws how little slavery has changed from ancient times. Despite this international outlawing of the slave trade it still persists in all corners of the world (though some notably more than others) and in many different forms, but all unmistakably slavery. It doesn’t go by that name in many cases due to its current illegality, but the tactics used have remained unchanged. One of the most widely used forms of enslavement is that of debt bondage, where a person is forcibly made to work off a debt, sometimes with their children and grandchildren inheriting the debt and thus insuring you get generation after generation of workers. Whilst some may indeed be legitimate there are many cases of the debt being little more than an excuse, such as one story of a man whose Grandfather borrowed 62 cents, and he was still paying it off under threats of violence. This method has existed throughout history, as far back as Ancient Rome, as a method of enslavement. Other methods too haven’t varied much over the centuries, with forced marriages, forced labour, being born a slave and trafficking all being tried and true ways of enslavement, the only major difference being the number of slaves involved.

Somewhat ironically, the estimated number of slaves in the world currently is the highest in recorded history according to the International Labour Organisation, approximated to be roughly 21 million. Admittedly that number is in light of the skyrocketing population present in the recent centuries, and when you view it as about 0.3% of the worlds population it seems less dramatic. Treatment of slaves is as bad as ever, perhaps in many cases even worse due to being out of the public eye out of necessity. Child slavery statistically hasn’t changed much either, with there still being roughly the same proportions of child slaves, but if you include all of the child labourers in the world who technically get paid and thus work for a living rather than being indentured  that number climbs sharply.

I believe that it is perhaps because of the illegal nature of the business that makes slavery today so much more terrifying. When slavery was not only legal but a part of life there were many kinds of people involved in the process, both who can be considered good and bad, and yet today due to the illegal and morally dubious nature that slavery is now associated with the only people who are likely to be involved in any stage of slavery are those who care little for human lives or livelihoods, and only see people as a commodity. At least as a slave in the America’s or Ancient Rome you had a chance for freedom; today you should be free regardless of circumstance and if that’s taken away from you it is a much heavier sentence than in “less civilised times”.

Harry Owen


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