The topic of slavery has become quite the buzz of late, considering the releases of high-profile Hollywood dramas such as “Django Unchained” and “12 Years A Slave.” Although many people rightfully focus on the African Slave Trade and the Middle Passage, there exists a modern version of slavery that is pervasive and increasingly dangerous.
While slavery was supposedly abolished by law in the 19th Century, the specter of that sweeping human rights violation looms heavily in our world today. While it may appear different from the slavery of times past, today’s practices prove that there are insidious forces at work attempting to keep the old ways intact.
According to figures reported by the International Labour Organisation, 20.9 million persons worldwide are living in slavery. These include individuals who are employed by a brutal and controlling supervisor, those who are forced to work for under fear of physical harm or mental manipulation, those who are bought and sold like cattle, and those who are placed under physical restraint.
Human trafficking, which commonly involves sexual slavery and forced labor, has been featured frequently in the news in recent times. Trafficking is big business, with the illegal international trade of people smuggling earning the crooks billions of dollars.
Human traffic and modern slavery is, without doubt, prominent in developing countries and impoverished nations. But thanks to efforts of activists such as Michael Cory Davis, it is slowly being revealed that the United States has its own share of the global criminal network of smuggling people for illegal labor and slavery needs.
Via his non-profit organization, Artists United For Social Justice (AUSJ), Davis has used his profile as an actor to create a series of films focused on human trafficking and forced child sex workers. The “I Stop Traffic Awareness Campaign” has been active in informing the public about the crime and offers resources for those who wish to aid in its eradication.
Also alarming is the distinction that Georgia is ranked by the F.B.I. as one of the top states responsible for the highest incidents of child prostitution. According to the Youth Spark organization, over 200 girls are sold into sex work by pimps to men twice their ages. There are even agreements between parents and these pimps to make money off the girls, not unlike what happens in other countries.
Watch President Barack Obama address human trafficking as modern slavery in this 2012 speech
Across the globe in some nations, people are born into “slave castes” (or class}, or part of an ethnic group that so-called upper class people view only fit to serve as laborers. Forced marriage and forced childbirth is also another prominent form of modern slavery prevalent outside domestic confines.
In child slavery, reports state that over 5.5 million children are forced into slavery and sex work. And in Southeast Asia, bonded labor finds that individuals in those situations are legally bound to work for an employer without promise of payment or freedom. Oftentimes, the debt is passed off to the children, who then work in service of the employer.
There are several anti-slavery and anti-human trafficking organizations around the world. Groups such as End Slavery Now, Anti-Slavery International, the Not For Sale Campaign, the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, and Slavery Footprint take great measures to educate the public on modern slavery and human trafficking.
The Anti-Slavery International looks at global incidents, including the practice of large organizations using poor workers and placing them in unsafe conditions.
The Not For Sale Campaign releases quarterly reports that lists the impact the organization is having regarding its efforts. Slavery Footprint is an interactive website that highlights the scope of modern slavery, and the virtual footprint of individuals via an online survey. The Freedom Center hosts an exhibit in Cincinnati that focuses on slavery in the 21st Century.
These organizations take up the bold fight in addressing this horrific crime and eliminating the spread of the practices both domestically and globally. Although the numbers are indeed staggering, there is a unified effort to eliminate slavery in all of its forms one step at a time.
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