Sample History Paper on How Modern Day Slavery Works

How Modern Day Slavery Works

Whenever someone hears about the word “slavery,” the thing that immediately comes to mind is the images of people in shackles crammed inside ships and transported across the Atlantic Ocean. Such a depiction seems to belong to the distant past. Article 7(2) (c) of the Rome Statute defines slavery as “the exercise of any or all of the powers attaching to the right of ownership over a person and includes the exercise of such power in the course of trafficking in person, in particular women and children.”  Slavery is represented by four states of servitude, as given under the 1956 Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery, the Slave Trade, and Institutions and Practices Similar to Slavery: debt bondage, servile marriage, exploitation of children, and serfdom, which is given.

Although slavery ended in the 19th century and is prohibited globally, there is a perverse and sinister form of slavery still being practiced. The difference between the old form of slavery and the modern form of slavery lies in execution. The ancient form of slavery was literally about people having ownership rights over other people (slaves), just like how somebody can own property. On the other hand, modern-day slavery involves trapping people and holding them against their will for some form of service such as labor, sex, etc. People in modern-day slavery are forced to work against their will and are owned or under the tight control of the exploiter (“employer”). The modern-day slave is usually dehumanized, kept under limited freedom of movement, and sold as property when the need arises.  Globally, the modern form of slavery is a highly profitable business generating as much as US$150 billion. Indeed, researchers estimate that the modern slave traders earn up to 30 times more than the 18th and 19th-century counterparts. Furthermore, the contemporary form of slavery is conducted using modern technology, which significantly lowers the overheads involved. The modern migration and flow of people mean that many vulnerable and exploitable people are tapped into global supply chains in agriculture, fashion, beauty, and sex industries.

Some of the recent studies undertaken by the International Labour Organization (ILO) (a United Nations (UN) body) estimate that there about 40.3 million people who are in some form of modern slavery. This number is more than three times the number of people who were captured and sold as slaves between the 15th and 19th centuries. Human rights organizations estimate tens of millions of people who toil in debt bondage in Asia, forced labor in the Gulf States, or child workers in agricultural fields in Africa and Latin America. Furthermore, the studies show that women and young girls make about 71% of all the victims of modern-day slavery and that children account for 25%, that is about 10 million of all the slaves in the world. The abolitionist’s group, Anti-Slavery International, estimates that more than 50% of the 40.3 people living as modern-day slaves, 24.9 million are working against their will (in other words, under forced labor), and 15.4 million are living in forced marriages.

The number of people predisposed to modern-day slavery has significantly increased over the past 30 years due to the worldwide increase in violent conflict. The private sector holds a significant number of those who are working against their will. The modern-day slave clean houses, work in textile factories, pick fruit and vegetables, works in fishing vessels, works in mines and construction jobs, among many others. According to the Global Slavery Index, which keeps track of country-by-country rankings on modern slavery figures, Africa, Asia, and the Pacific region have the highest number of people living as modern-day slaves. The modern form of slavery in these parts of the world is exacerbated by recurrent and protracted spates of armed conflicts, which in turn lead to state-imposed forced labor as well as forced marriages. The recent reinvigoration of the mining industry, especially in the Africa continent, has led to the increasingly widespread and resurgence of the pervasive forms of modern slavery. In these countries, the opportunities for debt bondage and depletion of resources through unauthorized, poorly monitored, and rudimentary illicit mining are enhanced by the raging poverty and civil conflict, ruined post-conflict economies, low income, poor health, and lack of education. The recurrent and protracted bouts of armed conflict, especially in countries with fragile peace and are grossly underdeveloped, have intensified widespread state-imposed forced labor and forced marriages which are the primary culprits of enslavement.

Conflicts have given rise to armed groups and terrorists turning to human trafficking to prove that they have control over the community, either recruiting child soldiers or rewarding sex slaves for their recruitment. But this is not to say that those countries that are developed and free from conflict are not experiencing slavery. Another widespread and abusive form of modern-day slavery is the case where women and girls are lured using promises of employment but later trafficked and exploited as sex workers.

Many international conventions and treaties prohibit the use of forced or compulsory labor and call for individuals to freely choose their means of gainful employment. Article 4 of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights prohibits forced labor which could entail any element of ownership which may constitute slavery. However, many forms of servitude persist and often involve forced labor exploitation, forced sexual exploitation, and state-imposed slavery. For example, in Mauritania, individuals become the property of their master, and the master exercises total ownership over his human ‘property and their descendants. The slave population in Mauritania is believed to be around 155,000. In this country, it is common for a slave to be inherited by family, bought, sold, or rented out, and given away as gifts.

States and corporate entities are the main perpetrators of modern slavery despite various international conventions to stop the practice. They are often complicit in the crime of modern slavery because they help maintain and uphold a system of political and economic domination and sustained structural inequalities inherent in the global economy. Moreover, the mass movement of people from conflict-afflicted regions or war zones provides the perfect ground for the perpetuation of illicit labor. In this situation, the vulnerable and at-risk populations engage in organized networks of smugglers and traffickers to profit from the human tragedy. Also, the mass movement of people leads to a fresh supply of either forced or unforced labor, which provides the perfect conditions for exploitation.

Poverty, discrimination, and lack of protection by the law are other factors that increase people’s vulnerability to the modern form of slavery. In most instances, the people who live in abject poverty are discriminated against, and people who are not protected very well by law are very prone to exploitation. For example, some societies practice the caste system whereby people in the lower caste don’t enjoy full rights, are discriminated against, don’t have opportunities for jobs, and are not protected by law. These people end up being exploited in industries under extreme conditions of labor.

Debt bondage is another widespread practice in Southeast Asia, contributing to the modern form of slavery. Debt bondage happens when whole generations of people and, by extension, entire generations of families become indebted to someone for ages. As time goes, these people (families) inevitably lose control over the debt. In the meantime, the employer keeps control over the debt and constantly adds interest on top. The people become entrapped and are unable to come out of this cycle of exploitation. Debt bondage is also common among human traffickers, whereby people who look for jobs abroad have to pay for recruitment and travel costs. In many instances, the job seekers are often destitute and have to borrow money from the traffickers. In the process, the traffickers gain control over these vulnerable people and exploit them at the destination.

Unfortunately, slavery is still very rampant, yet it is illegal in every country in the world. Data from the Global Slavery Index show that by 2018, some 122 countries out of the 170 that had made public commitment to eradicate slavery had criminalized human trafficking in line with the UN Trafficking Protocol. Only 38 countries had outlawed forced marriages. Between 2012 and 2016, the identification of victims of modern slavery increased by 40% to a modest figure of 24,000. In Europe, despite the global increase in the number of victims of slavery, the conviction rates for the crime dropped by as much as 25% in 2016 from the 2011 levels. This low conviction rate reflects a failure by countries to recognize victims. It might also indicate the difficulties governments face when building cases under new trafficking and modern slavery laws. There is a need to enact and strictly enforce regulations and laws to prevent and mitigate human trafficking, forced labor, and human rights abuses. Governments and corporate entities should be held accountable whenever they fell short of their commitments to eradicate the opportunities for exploitation of human beings. Corporate entities should make the fight against modern slavery an integral part of their corporate social responsibility practice. In other words, it is crucial that all should fight the war against the modern form of slavery and must not be left to the government alone.