It has been 151 years since the United States abolished slavery with the 13th Amendment, and 68 years since the U.N. established their Universal Declaration of Human Rights, prohibiting slavery and the slave trade in all its forms. With that logic, slavery was a problem of the past. We’ve come much farther since then. Right?
Wrong. It is the dismal, horrific truth that more people in the world are enslaved now, than there ever has been in our history. With 45.8 million people currently held in various forms of slavery via underground economies and illegal activity, this problem has escalated past any and all attempts at containment. As the population has grown, the economic conditions worsened, and government corruption has become more rampant, modern day slavery has grown out of control. (Not that it would even be ethical if it was in control in the first place.)
And, yes. I mean real slavery. I mean real people, human beings, around this Earth that are held against their will in order to perform jobs for no wages, or minimum wages that are re-seized by the slave owner upon disbursement. Human trafficking and the slave trade is currently the third largest illegal market in the world, behind drugs and arms dealing -- a source of income for some of the most corrupt and despicable people and corporations that have ever existed. (Including terrorist organizations.)
These forms of slavery aren’t that much different from the one we Americans are most acquainted with: the enslavement of the African race for hard labor and personal services since the birth of our country. Once again, it is the most vulnerable, most impoverished, and most excluded in society that fall victim to it -- a majority of which are women and children.
It makes no difference how a modern slave got there, whether he or she was forced into labor through intimidation, or in order to pay off a debt, or because they were born into it, or trafficked.It makes no difference if a modern day slave is working domestically, in factories, in fields, or whether they are in the middle of the ocean on a boat fishing. It makes no difference if a modern day slave is doing hard labor, being exploited sexually, being forced into a child army, or being forced to marry (and produce children) against their consent. Modern day slavery is still slavery, and it’s no better than it was supposed to be over a century ago. In fact, the scariest aspect is that most slaves don’t even exist on paper -- therefore making it impossible to know the severity of the exact numbers.
Why should you care? Well, besides the existence of a basic human right to autonomy, you should care because it can happen to anyone. According to an organization called WalkFree, most victims are trafficked by people they have grown to know and trust. Additionally, it’s a growing problem-- which means it will be even more dangerous for our children, and our children’s children, and so on, and so forth.
Unless we do something about it.
There are ways you can help. The first is to become aware and become educated about the issue at hand. Check out the Global Slavery Index, and groups like EndCrowd and WalkFree. Find programs in your area that help teach the red flags of modern slavery by contacting the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, and take the time to find information for reporting tips and potential victims in a way that will protect yours and their safety. Boycott items that are known to be produced by slaves, and encourage companies to eliminate any human trafficking from their suppliers. Find out your Slavery Footprint. Ask local government how they are fighting human trafficking in your area, and even start or join your own organization. Push curriculum in schools to identify the same, since school-aged children are among the most vulnerable and the most targeted populations.
And donate. For the love of God, donate to the organizations working hard to save modern day slaves every day.
Whatever you can give to help, give. Whatever you can say to help, say. Whatever you can do to help, do. It may feel small, and it may not affect your life, but in the life of a modern day slave, it makes the world of difference.