Slavery isn’t a topic that many individuals believe currently affects the world today; many citizens of the US view it as a problem of our past. Adopted after the Civil War, the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution states that “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”
In the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 4 states, “no one should be held in slavery or servitude, slavery in all of its forms should be eliminated.”
A new report by the Walk Free Foundation, an Australian-based human rights group, states that nearly 36 million people around the world live in modern slavery. The report on Monday listed Mauritania, Uzbekistan, Haiti, Qatar and India as the nations where modern-day slavery is most prevalent.
The index of 167 countries found India had by far the greatest number of slaves. Up to 14.3 million people in its population of 1.25 billion were victims of slavery, ranging from prostitution to bonded labor.
Mauritania was the country where slavery was most prevalent by head of population while Qatar, host of the 2022 World Cup, was listed as the fourth-worst country by percentage of the population.
“From children denied an education by being forced to work or marry early, to men unable to leave their work because of crushing debts they owe to recruitment agents, to women and girls exploited as unpaid, abused domestic workers, modern slavery has many faces,” the report said.
“It still exists today, in every country—modern slavery affects us all.”
The index defines slavery as the control or possession of people in such a way as to deprive them of their freedom with the intention of exploiting them for profit or sex, usually through violence, coercion or deception.
The definition includes indentured servitude, forced marriage and the abduction of children to serve in wars.
The index showed that 10 countries alone account for 71 percent of the world’s slaves.
After India, China has the most with 3.2 million, then Pakistan (2.1 million), Uzbekistan (1.2 million), Russia (1.05 million), Nigeria (834,200), Democratic Republic of Congo (762,900), Indonesia (714,100), Bangladesh (680,900) and Thailand (475,300). The Walk Free Foundation also estimates that about 60,000 slaves exist in the shadows of American society.
The index rated governments on their response to slavery. It found the Netherlands, followed by Sweden, the United States, Australia, Switzerland, Ireland, Norway, Britain, Georgia and Austria had the strongest response.
At the opposite end of the scale, North Korea, Iran, Syria, Eritrea, Central African Republic, Libya, Equatorial Guinea, Uzbekistan, Republic of Congo and Iraq had the worst responses.
Every country in the world apart from North Korea has laws that criminalize some form of slavery, yet most governments could do more to assist victims and root out slavery from supply chains.
Citizens of the world who are able to enjoy their freedoms, unlike the tragic 36 million forced into labor, should openly fight and demand that these unfortunate individuals be treated with dignity and respect.
It is astonishing that there are 60,000 slaves here within the US—the leading nation of the free world, and a country that stands for independence and autonomy.
Those of us, like myself, who are able to live life as a free human being should stand up to the equal treatment of all people, and demand that our government do more to stop the horrific treatment of these individuals. It’s our responsibility to raise our voices for those who cannot do so themselves.