What is Slavery?

What is modern slavery

Modern slavery is defined as, ‘a human rights violation that has severe consequences for the health and wellbeing of survivors. It is an exploitative crime that impacts on physical and mental health and has public health implications.’[1]

Someone is in slavery if they are:

  • forced to work, through threats and coercion;
  • owned or controlled, through abuse which can be mental or physical or the threat of abuse;
  • dehumanised, treated as a object or bought and sold as ‘property’;
  • Restricted in their freedom of movement or physically restrained.

It is easy to imagine that the brutality and immorality of slavery ended with abolishment in the 19th Century. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. Slavery has evolved and adapted and continues to take away liberty and destroy the lives of people all over the world.

There are an estimated 40.3 million people in modern slavery around the world. This includes children, women and men.

History books depict slavery as ‘ownership’. One individual has ownership over another. In a modern slavery context, this is misleading. Modern day slavery is more subtle.

Examples of modern slavery include; young girls forced to marry older men against their will, children made to work in unsuitable environments in unlawful and exploitative ways, women forced into prostitution or men forced to work in under paid or completely unpaid work, whilst someone else benefits from their labour. They have no free choice.

Modern day Slavery examples

There are six forms of modern slavery.

  1. Forced labour – this involves people being made to work against their will.
  2. Debt bondage – this form of slavery is widespread and involves manipulation over debt. People borrow money they cannot afford to pay back and then become locked in a situation whereby they become indebted and lose control over their options.
  3. Human trafficking – this involves moving and treating people; men, women and children, as commodities for the purpose of exploitation.
  4. Descent based slavery – in some cultures, children born of ancestors who were enslaved, become slaves themselves, by descent.
  5. Child slavery – this is the exploitation of children for someone else’s gain. It can include the ‘buying’ and ‘selling’ of children, child marriage and domestic slavery.
  6. Forced and early marriage – if the marriage is not mutually consensual.

Modern slavery does not just affect one group of people, a particular gender, race or age. But they are generally vulnerable one way or another. They may be living in poverty, have no future prospects. Or they may live in a culture which positively encourages early marriage or where being born into a particular family means you are owned from birth and this is socially accepted.

Where Does it Occur?

It would be easy to imagine that if slavery does occur, it is not something that happens in the UK. Again, unfortunately this is incorrect. Every country experiences instances of modern slavery. In Britain the Government estimates there are tens of thousands of people in modern slavery.

Being able to spot signs and identify instances of modern slavery is essential for all individuals and companies, regardless of the industry. Every large company has a responsibility under the Modern Slavery Act 2015 to publish a statement about what it is doing to prevent slavery in its business and supply chain, so any small organisation supplying larger ones and government organisations are likely to have to do the same to maintain business.

An eLearning course will help your workforce understand how to identify and report the signs, be business compliant and fulfil a positive role in preventing this illegal and morally unacceptable practice. You can view our Modern Slavery online training course here

[1] https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/modern-slavery-and-public-health/modern-slavery-and-public-health