For Anti-Slavery

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Modern Slavery

Domestic Work, Servitude And Slavery

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimates that at least 52.6 million men and women work as domestic workers across the world, as well as 7.4 million children below the age of 15. Women and girls make up the majority. Many are migrant workers. The work they do is not respected and in many cases, not paid.  This is work which is especially open to slavery such as forced labour, trafficking, and bonded labour, since servants are invisible inside a private household. There is little legal protection. For some, their work amounts to forced labour. In many cases, employers have locked them up, are not paying them wages, using violence or threats, confiscating their passports, stopping them from calling family, or lying about their rights in order to make them work. This may well be happening in your city, not just far away.

Forced Labour

The International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates that there are at least 20.9 million forced labour slaves worldwide.  This figure means that, on any day of the year, around three out of every 1,000 persons worldwide are working against their will under threat of some form of punishment, without being properly paid, if at all. These slaves are present in the following industries worldwide:

  • Agriculture and fishing (for instance, the Thai prawn industry)
  • Domestic work (servants)
  • Construction, mining, quarrying and brick kilns
  • Manufacturing, processing and packaging
  • Prostitution and sexual exploitation (sex slaves)
  • Market trading and illegal activities (crime)

In the vast majority of cases forced labour is used by private individuals who want money from the exploitation of other people.  In around 10% of cases, it is the military or the state which is responsible for this kind of enslavement.

Trafficking (Slaving)

People trafficking and people smuggling are different. People smuggling is the illegal movement of people across international borders for a fee paid to the smugglers. Upon arrival in the country of destination the smuggled person is free, while trafficking is transporting that person for the purpose of enslavement. There is no need for an international border to be crossed, since someone can be trafficked even within a country’s borders and sold on as a slave. The International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates that worldwide, at any moment there are some 2.5 million people who have been trafficked and are now sex slaves or forced labourers. This is a big and profitable business for the traffickers, who sell people. Another name for them is slavers. These slavers work just as well in the US and the UK as anywhere else, providing farm, domestic, sweatshop and sex slaves to a ready market.

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Bonded Labour

Bonded labour is the most widely used enslaving trick.  A person’s labour is demanded to repay a loan. The person is then conned or trapped into working for very little or no pay, often for seven days a week. This pay or unpaid work is never enough to repay the original debt. Often the debts are passed on to the children of the debt slave. Force is used to make sure they stay. In many cases they are guarded, sometimes locked up. Today the International Labour Organisation estimates a minimum 11.7 million people are slaves in the Asia-Pacific region. The majority of these are in debt bondage or ‘debt slavery’ with no way to buy themselves and their families out of it.

Child Slavery

The International Labour Organization (ILO) estimated that there are some 8.4 million children in slavery or practices similar to slavery (ILO,2002).

These child slaves are:

*  Children who are exploited for profit, often through violence and threats, in prostitution or pornography and crime, such as forced begging, pickpocketing, and  drug pushing;

*  Child slavery in agriculture, factories, the building industry, brick kilns, mines, bars, restaurants or tourism.

*  Child soldiers. This also includes children serving as beasts of burden, or underage girls taken as “wives” for soldiers and militia members. There are about 300,000 child soldiers involved in over 30 war zones worldwide, some even younger than 10 years old. Children involved in war often suffer from Post Traumatic Shock Syndrome (PTSD), a crippling disorder.

* Child household slaves, many of whom work long hours, in dangerous conditions, violently punished, for little or no pay, and often far from home.


Slavery And What We Buy

Many of the products we buy today in Britain have been made by slaves. There is evidence of slave labour having been used from the production of raw materials, for example cocoa and cotton farming, to manufacturing goods such as hand-knotted rugs and even at the final stage, when these goods reach the shops. Children and adults worldwide are forced to work in factories and sweatshops producing goods for the global supply chains of giant corporations, with little or no pay, often under lock and key. Abuse of all kinds and even suicides are not at all uncommon in these places. Sweatshop buildings are often dangerous and catch fire, or collapse on the workers within. Profit is the only motivation of these operations; forget about human rights and worker welfare. So next time you buy chocolate or anything made of cotton, find out – is this Fair Trade? If not, it may have been made by a slave. The same goes for rugs, cheap clothing of any kind, even some luxury goods such as expensive trainers and gems…

Descent Based Slavery

Descent-based slavery usually exists in countries that have strict class systems or caste systems. Slaves and their descendants are at the very bottom of the pile and are devoid of any social status. Typically people born into slavery are not allowed to own land or inherit property, are denied an education and are not able to marry outside of the slave caste. Any children born are automatically considered ‘property’ of the masters and can be given away as gifts or wedding presents. Even though slavery is forbidden by international law, descent-based slavery can be so traditional in its society that even getting people to question it is very difficult. This kind of slavery predominantly exists in West Africa. The countries where this type of slavery takes place are:


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You Me

THE UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS  signed in 1948 arose directly from the experience of the Second World War and represents the first global expression of rights to which all human beings are inherently entitled.  It says in Article 1.

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

This isn’t happening. Appallingly, 2million men women and children are traded into slavery every year.

Go to and watch their campaign videos. Buy a T-shirt and help Anti-Slavery International’s fight to end slavery.


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Stop and Think

Despite the preamble to the universal declaration of human rights which says:

Now, Therefore THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY proclaims THIS UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.

It says as well in Article 4

No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.

Despite being abolished in 1833, unbelievably slavery is alive, well and happening in a place near you.

Go to to see Anti-Slavery’s campaigns. Buy a T-shirt and help Anti -Slavery International’s fight to end slavery.


Helpful Links:

Supermarket prawns linked to slavery in Thailand

Stop slavery in Thai fishing industry

Child slavery in cocoa production

Act now to end slavery in chocolate production

Cotton slavery in Uzbekistan

Demand end of cotton crimes from government of Uzbekistan

Protect the rights of domestic workers

Victim protection campaign (could be someone near you)


For further information, or to buy a T-shirt, visit: 


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