Still in chains

What does the word slavery remind you?

Probably you would think about the ancient slaves forced to build the Pyramids. Or maybe you would think about the Romans and those who they conquered and submitted.

In the Middle age there were thousands of serfs who entirely depended on the will of their lords.

If we think about a closer time, you surely would image an African kidnapped from its land and deported to one of the cotton plantations in the US.

In any case, when we think about slavery, our imagination brings us to the past times. Slavery is something that happened in the past, something that now does not exist anymore.

What if we are completely wrong about this issue? What if I can assure you that slavery exists and is only become modern?

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In the modern world there are many ways to be a slave. Slavery is not anymore represented by chains and bonds; it is represented by forced marriages, debt bondage, commercial sexual exploitation, early and force marriage, and labors exploitation.

Modern slavery is not different from the previous one. It is always about the exploitation of one human being on another human being. Around the World more than 35 million are trapped in a modern form of slavery.

The Walk Free Foundation (WFF), an Australia-based NGO, through its global slavery index, clearly shows that from the previous year there is a 23% increase in slavery.

Although this phenomenon is present in all the countries, these five nations represent more than the 60% of the total value: India (14.29 million), China (3.24 million), Pakistan (2.06 million), Uzbekistan (1.2 million) and Russia (1.05 million).

However, if we take a look on the percentage of the population in chains, Mauritania leads the ranking with 4% of its own population in slavery. This nation is followed by Uzbekistan (3.97%), Haiti (2.3%), Qatar (1.36%) and India (1.14%).

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Although it may be shocking, the data above can be more frightful if we see them in an economic point of view.

In the past an average slave in the US (1850 ca.) cost the equivalent of $40,000 in today’s money; Nowadays a slave costs an average of $90. $90 is enough to decide the life and wills of another person.

Before it was difficult to capture a slave. A war was necessary and the transportation from one part to another was difficult. Today, millions of economically and socially vulnerable people are potential slaves. These people can be forced to work, can be exploited and violated in their own land. They are part of what we call World Economy.

This consistent human supply of paupers makes slaves cheaper than they have ever been. As a slave is considered “cheap”, it is an investment easily to get rid of. If the slave becomes sick, old or he protest, he would be abandoned to himself or simply killed.

What can we do to tackle and eradicate slavery?

First of all, we need to support research to assess the scale of slavery in order to identify measures to end it. We need to know our enemy if we want to beat him.

Secondly, we have to educate the public about the realities of slavery and campaigning for its end. Before doing some researches about modern slavery, I did not know how widespread and brutal this phenomenon was.

Finally, we should lobby governments and intergovernmental agencies to make slavery a priority issue. Rules, laws and rights are the only things which can help a slave to be finally free.

Moreover, only governments can control and prevent the enterprises from exploiting slaves in the business.

The leaders in the fight against modern slavery are: Australia, Austria, Georgia, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK and the US. However, only Australia, Brazil and the US are making great efforts to address the issue in government debate and in the businesses.

Francesco Stefani


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