6 year old Soni’s (name changed) was sent to live in a rich family’s house in the city, because her parents couldn’t afford to feed or educate her. The family promised to feed and educate the young girl in exchange for babysitting. Sadly, Soni never went to school, instead she was forced to cook, clean and look after their two children, aged 3 and 1, when she was still a child herself! If this wasn’t enough, her parents couldn’t refuse because they were indebted to the family.
Millions of children from across South Asia, Africa and South America share the same story as Soni.
Every year on 2nd December, people put up posts on social media commemorating International Day for the Abolition of Slavery. But, dare we actually say that slavery doesn’t exist anymore in today’s world?
Sadly, we cannot! Slavery has had a stronghold over human society since ancient times and people have tried to abolish it several times, but it still exists. Slavery today is no more people in shackles, forcibly uprooted from their homes and mass-transported in large ships to be sold. Today’s version of slavery, modern slavery, is a much more scarier version because its not defined by law!
What is modern slavery?
Modern slavery is exploiting humans for personal or commercial gain and the victim cannot refuse or leave because of abuse of power, coercion, threats, violence and deception. It is an umbrella term, which encompasses forced labor, child labor, forced marriages, child marriage, trafficking, sexual exploitation, domestic servitude etc.
Why does modern day slavery occur?
You would think that with all the stringent laws and policies in place, education and social change, slavery wouldn’t exist! Slavery has been abolished since the 1800s, so the question that arises is what causes modern day slavery?
It all goes back to hunger, poverty, vulnerability and equality. People in power abuse their power to exploit other more vulnerable people for personal or commercial gain. Globally, women and children remain the most vulnerable to exploitation.
Reports suggest that over 50 million people worldwide are affected by modern slavery. The COVID-19 pandemic has been a significant contributor to these numbers because the number of forced marriages, child marriages and child labor increased during this time.
Why is modern day slavery scary?
Modern day slavery is threatening the world and what makes it scary is the fact that it is not recognized as a crime.
Things that are slavery but aren’t considered to be slavery
These examples of modern slavery are often not considered to be slavery and overlooked.
- Child actors and influencers: Enjoy watching kid influencers conversing like adults, whipping out sophisticated lines on everything from voting to dating on social media? Do you know that this is a form of modern slavery? These children don’t get a choice and are often too young to know better. There’s no law to protect these children’s rights and the parents aren’t bothered when the money is so good!
- Forced marriages: Women and young girls are still forced into marriages, often with men much older than them in several countries. These women often fall into a dark spiral of physical, mental, economical and sexual exploitation that they never can escape from.
- Domestic servitude: Millions of women and young children, especially girls are forced into domestic servitude every year. Duped by agents, they end up enslaved, with their passports seized and often sexually exploited too. These victims live in deplorable, slavery-like conditions with little to no pay.
- Forced migrant labor: Qatar’s stadiums for the FIFA World Cup 2022 look wonderful but the abuse and death of migrant workers during construction has left the country deep in controversy.
- Sweatshops: Love brands like H&M, Adidas, Nike etc? Do you know their products are created in sweatshops, which force workers to work in unhealthy and oppressive conditions for very low wages.
The lack of proper laws to stop modern slavery means all those abusing their power get away with their crimes. Let’s stop supporting these brands and enablers of modern day slavery and campaign for stringent laws and policies to bring about social change.