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Modern day slavery: when will the torture end?

We should all be familiar with the racial persecution that took place against black people, also known as “the slave trade”, for many years up until the 1800’s. Although this abolition of slavery was a miraculous breakthrough, modern day slavery still takes place in certain regions around the world. Most people think of slavery as a phenomenon of the past, but there are approximately 46 million people enslaved around the world today. This contemporary slavery is often portrayed as work labour, but in reality, it is forced labour.

Modern day slavery is closer than you think; modern day slavery is very much present in the UK, the National Crime Agency stated that it’s “much more prevalent than previously thought”. The “anti-slavery” organisation revealed how the number of people identified as victims of slavery increases each year, as over 10,000 people were referred to authorities in 2019. Despite this being a large amount, the real number of people trapped in slavery is estimated to be much higher, due to those who are suffering in silence. This is further suggested in an article by Sky News from 2018 that reported how “the UK could have up to 136,000 modern slaves”. It’s usually hard to detect when an individual is being exploited and in other words, used a slave.

This is because, modern day slavery can come in many different forms, such as forced sexual exploitation aka. Sex trafficking, domestic slavery, or forced labour on farms, shops or in any other occupation. The United Nations define human trafficking as “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring, or receipt of persons by improper means (such as force, abduction, fraud, or coercion) for an improper purpose.” Therefore, it is important that individuals are informed about this in order to identify when this type of oppression is taking place.

For the past twenty years, progress made in the field of anti-trafficking and anti-slavery has been limited, if not blocked due to conflicts over accurate definitions of what slavery, and human trafficking actually is, and the lack of a shared approach to measuring the scale of the problem. It has been argued by an organisation called Freedom United, that “the idea of defining a criminal act which does not include the perspective of victims of that crime seems inadequate.” The lack of agreement between the power and influence of the different laws on anti-slavery like, the Modern Slavery Act 2015, generates a lack of theoretical clarity when confronting activities that may, or may not be considered within the wider category of trafficking/slavery. This is also demonstrated through courts which have previously issued rulings that either set down divergent definitions, or they have interpreted the same definition very differently.

The implication is that nobody truly knows how to resolve the issues in order to eradicate modern day slavery. Although there’s a large amount of ambiguity, there is still some hope that the torture will end. In 2007, Kevin Bales’ book “Ending slavery” offered ideas and insights that might finally lead to slavery’s end. The book argued that we were at a tipping-end, as Bales emphasised how “no industry or big corporation, no political party, no state or country or culture is dependent on slavery.” This is very much true, because together we can shape and adopt new solutions for the next decade of this antislavery movement.

By Irene Madanhi

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