11 December, 2013

You thought slavery was history? Slavery still exists

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Category: European Action Day, Opinion
Aileen Donegan
9 am

11 December 2013

by Lusine Ghazaryan

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

– Article 4, Universal Declaration of Human Rights

The global phenomenon of slavery dates back from the early ages of history. It is known to be an ‘ancient’ practice. And today as well there is a perception that practices like slavery only occurred in the past and are a part of the history we have been learning in schools, colleges or universities.

Recently the first Global Slavery Index 2013 has been published. Here the statistics are different. There are an estimated 29.8 million people enslaved around the world now.

What does this mean? Does this mean that all the Declarations and Charters, Conventions and Agreements of abolition of slavery have not been able to combat slavery in an effective way? Or does this mean that prohibiting slavery and actually ending it are two different things? Or maybe we do not really know what slavery is?

While not excluding any of the concerns noted above, one fact we should face now is that there are currently more slaves today than at any time in the history of humanity.

The problem comes from the very basis, i.e. understanding the notion of slavery. Modern slavery is poorly understood. Nowadays slavery takes various forms and human rights violations, sometimes including forms we might have never thought about, while the ‘classic’ type of slavery we all learnt from history is different.

Human trafficking, forced labour, other slavery-like practices, such as debt bondage, forced marriage, sale or exploitation of children, using children in military and other similar acts are considered to be different forms of modern slavery. Moreover, sometimes psychological acts can also be considered as forms of slavery. For example, in certain cases intimidation, deception, isolation, fear, which can be used to keep a person against his/her will can also be considered slavery.

This comes to prove that the acts of slavery are not always apparent. Sometimes they are simple to recognise, but sometimes they are complicated and demand thorough analysis of peoples and relationships involved. This is why it is of the utmost importance for you and me to understand  the notion of slavery in order to recognise it in our neighborhoods, in our countries. We need to spread the word about the existing problem of slavery and to raise public awareness of the human rights violations that result from the acts of slavery.

Now, as you are aware of the problem, here we present some tools, developed by anti-slavery campaigns, which will help you to recognise the possible risks of enslavement in your community.

If you know a person who:

— is working or being held against his/her will
— is not free to change employers
— is unable to move freely or is being watched or followed
— is afraid to talk in the presence of others
— has been assaulted or threatened for refusing to work
— has been cheated and forced to pay off ‘debts’ upon arrival
— has had his/her passport or other documents taken away,

…then you may be witnessing an act of slavery.

If so, do not be indifferent; raise public awareness about human rights violations resulting from different acts of slavery.

 You are born free and equal, with dignity and rights and there is no one in the universe that has the legal right to interfere with your freedom by any possible means.

Resources used:

Free the Slaves Campaign

Global Slavery Index Report 2013


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