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More slaves than ever: Global Slavery Index shocks with its report

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
October 17th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The Global Slavery Index has issued its latest report on slavery and human trafficking and the numbers are appalling. There are presently around 30 million people living in bondage, which is to say more than at any time in history.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) At its height in the United States, slavery included almost 4 million people living in bondage. Today, 30 million people, mostly women and children, live and work as slaves. Primary occupations include forced labor and the sex trade.

The Global Slavery Index issued its "List of Shame" to highlight the worst countries. The country of Mauritania, in West Africa, has 10 to 20 percent of its people living as slaves. The practice there has been technically outlawed since 1981 but has become so entrenched as a social norm, it persists even today. Slavery in that country wasn't even a crime until 2007 and is never prosecuted.

Slavery in that country is still based on race. The masters are descendents of lighter-skinned Arab Berbers and the slaves are the darker-skinned descendants of natives. Slaves in that country are born into their condition and it isn't questioned. Slaves aren't bought or sold, but are given as gifts and it is always for life.

Other countries have high percentages of people living in slavery. According to the report, the list includes:

Mauritania, Haiti, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Moldova, Benin, Cote d'Ivoire, Gambia, and Gabon. In these countries, one will find the highest percentages of people living as slaves. However, there are countries where slaves form a smaller proportion of the population, but have a higher aggregate number of slaves.

The countries with the most slaves are, India, China, Pakistan, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Russia, Thailand, Democratic Republic of Congo, Myanmar, and Bangladesh.

Counted among the slaves are people forced into marriages against their will and debt bondage. The definition of a slave used in the report is, "the possession and control of a person in such a way as to significantly deprive that person of his or her individual liberty, with the intent of exploiting that person through their use, management, profit, transfer or disposal. Usually this exercise will be achieved through means such as violence or threats of violence, deception and/or coercion."

Countries have various, culturally influenced forms of slavery. In Haiti, children of poor families are often sent to live with other more affluent relatives who house, feed, and educate them in exchange for domestic labor. Naturally, these children often encounter abuse and may not be educated properly.

Halfway around the world, young girls are forced into marriages in Pakistan. Pakistan has as many as 2 million slaves. Young girls across much of Africa also fall into slavery. Boys are put to work in various industries, many of which are hazardous. This is most prevalent in India.

Trafficking in humans is also common between these regions as children are kidnapped to provide forced labor.

Women are trafficked across India, and Southeast Asia for the sex trade. The sex trade also snares millions of women in Eastern Europe and Russia. These victims often go missing as teenage girls and never return home, either lured away by deceit or kidnapped by force.

Many of these women do not survive long into adulthood as they are beaten, starved, drug addicted and eventually discarded once their value as sex slaves diminishes. A few manage to work for a very long time. Disease is rampant and none live normal or long lives. A smaller, yet significant proportion of boys and men are also forced into this industry.

Slavery is very pervasive and exists in every country. In the UK, for example, children are trafficked in from Southeast Asia and forced to work in basement pot farms, growing marijuana for illegal sale on the street. In the United States, a disturbing trend includes the trafficking of children for prostitution by organized criminal street gangs. The gangs say child prostitution is even more lucrative than money generated from drugs and gangs.

While organizations exist with the intent of abolishing slavery, the work is very dangerous and expensive. Buying slaves from bondage only fuels the practice. Rescuing slaves requires legal and sometimes military aid, which is in sparse supply around the world.

Meanwhile, poverty and demand for cheap and illicit goods as well as sex keeps the practice growing. Ultimately, the beneficiaries of slave labor are consumers, who normally without realizing it are buying goods that have at some point been produced by slave labor. As long as we ignorantly (or knowingly) purchase the cheap products of slave labor, slavery will persist.

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