Modern slavery represents a reality in which individuals are exploited and deprived of their fundamental rights, often in conditions similar to historical slavery, but in contemporary social, economic and legal contexts.
Interesting notes on modern slavery
- Almost every country in the world had abolished slavery by the end of the 19th century, with Brazil trailing in 1888. However, the last country in the world to formally abolish slavery was Mauritania in 1981;
- In 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 4 of which states “No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms”;
- Yet, according to the report Global estimates of modern slavery: Forced labour and forced marriage, there were 50 million people living in modern slavery in 2021.
One naturally associates slavery and the slave trade with history lessons and thus with a past that has nothing to do with our present world. Yet, there are tens of millions of people living in a condition defined as modern slavery. The two basic components of the concept of modern slavery are forced labour and forced marriage. These people are not formally and legally identified as slaves, but live in conditions of absolute deprivation of their rights and freedom. We might think that this phenomenon is residual and in sharp decline, but this is not the case. In 2021, there were 10 million more people in modern slavery compared to 2016’s global estimates.
Modern slavery is present in almost every country in the world and most strongly affects already vulnerable groups, including women, children and migrant workers. These phenomena are linked to the persistence of customary patriarchal structures, historical and structural inequalities and the invisibilisation of migrant people. These are structures that are difficult to dismantle, but which we cannot accept if we want to achieve sustainable and equitable development. The aforementioned report Global estimates of modern slavery: Forced labour and forced marriage also proposes a number of recommendations to end modern slavery, such as strong labour laws and inspections; tougher measures to combat forced labour in companies and supply chains; more extensive social protection and stronger legal protections, including raising the legal age of marriage to 18; and decisive opposition to trafficking and forced labour for migrant workers.