Still Many Slaves Are In The World Today.

micheleT BN-O 2011/03/09 19:44:51

By Manav Tanneeru, CNN.

Slavery still exists. Of that there isn’t much dispute, if any. But how widespread is what many experts call modern-day slavery?

Estimates range from about 30 million, according to policymakers, activists, journalists and scholars.

The International Labour Organization, an agency of the United Nations that focuses on, among other things, labor rights, put the number at a “minimum estimate” of 27 million in a 2005 report.

Kevin Bales, a sociologist who serves as a consultant to the United Nations and has authored several books about modern-day slavery, estimated the number was 27 million people in his book “Disposable People: New Slavery in the Global Economy.” The book was published in 1999.

There is yet another estimate. Siddharth Kara, a fellow on trafficking at Harvard University and also an author, recently told CNN that his calculations put the range between 24 million and 32 million. That number was current as of the end of 2006, he said.

There are several reasons behind the variance in numbers, said Ben Skinner, who published a book about modern-day slavery – “A Crime So Monstrous: Face-to-Face with Modern-day Slavery.”

“There are two big problems with the count,” Skinner, a Senior Fellow at the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University, said during a telephone interview. “The first is that the people we are counting are, by definition, a hidden population.

“The second problem is more of a theoretical one where the definitions are not in place. We don’t have a common definition still as to what slavery is.”

‘A hidden population’

Slave labor has been a part of civilization for much of history. It was practiced openly and its legality wasn’t much of a question. During the height of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, its scale was carefully documented.

Today, slavery is illegal in every country. Yet it persists, in secret, exploiting the poor and the marginalized – which poses immense challenges for legal authorities, activists and experts working to track the problem.

Skinner recounted a conversation he had with John Miller – the former State Department ambassador at large on modern slavery from 2002 through 2006 during the George W. Bush administration – about the inherent difficulty of counting a population that is difficult to find.

“These are not people that stand in line, raise their hands and wait for the census to be taken,” Miller told Skinner.

And, even when found, they may not want to be identified, Skinner said. “They are victims of a crime and that is still oftentimes missed as a crime,” he said.

The enslaved may be involved in prostitution or might be in a country illegally as a result of trafficking – activities that could land them in trouble with the law. So, they’d rather keep quiet about their condition, Skinner said.

“They are individuals who will be seen as perpetrators of a crime against the state rather than victims of a crime against humanity,” he said. “They are aware of that so they don’t self-identify.”

It also isn’t the easiest thing for observers to get data from countries about how big of a problem slavery is within their borders.

For example, South Asian countries will acknowledge problems with sex trafficking because of a perception that it’s not just a South Asian issue, Skinner said, echoing a theory from John Miller.

However, they may not be as forthcoming about their problems with debt bondage – when someone has to pay off a loan through work and may be trapped in the situation because the amount earned is too little to pay off the amount of money borrowed.

“There’s a self-perception that debt bondage is a rather embarrassing part of the continuing underdevelopment in parts of their countries,” Skinner said.

Definitions and divisions

Before you can count something, you have to define it, and a broadly accepted definition of what modern slavery encompasses has been elusive.

In 1926, a treaty signed in Geneva under the auspices of the League of Nations, the precursor to the U.N., defined slavery as “the status or condition of a person over whom any or all of the powers attaching to the right of ownership are exercised.”

The ILO, in 1930, used the terms "forced or compulsory labor" to describe “all work or service which is exacted from any person under the menace of any penalty for which the said person has not offered himself voluntarily.”

Roger Plant, who worked at the ILO from 2002 through 2009, said during a telephone conversation that forced labor is “when you get into work or service without the freedom of choice and you can’t get out of it without punishment or the threat of punishment."

Kevin Bales offered this description: “To me slavery means one person who is completely under the control of another person, that they use violence to maintain that control, they exploit them, make money out of them, and that the person just can’t walk away.”

There is, then, the term “human trafficking,” which is sometimes used interchangeably with the word “slavery.” According to the U.S. State Department, “human trafficking” describes “activities involved when one person obtains or holds another person in compelled service.”

The State Department says the term includes sex trafficking, forced labor and bonded labor. It also includes, among other things, the use of child soldiers and forced child labor.

The terms and their meanings seem straightforward, but the divisions come to light when legislators try to reconcile the definitions with their country’s situation.

“Within the trafficking community, there really isn’t a consensus on what slavery means,” Skinner said. “That’s harmful, that’s detrimental.”

The biggest consequence of incorrect data, not knowing the full scope of the problem or where it’s concentrated can lead to poor decisions on where to focus resources and how best to solve the problem, Skinner said.

“Slavery, on its face, is monstrous,” he said. “I think it’s important to be motivated by emotion but to, very quickly, come to the point of getting to the cold, hard business of figuring how best to free as many slaves as possible.

“Part of that is understanding how many slaves there are and understanding where they are."

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  • Matt 2011/03/10 20:50:42
    I have personally witnessed it in Northern Africa. It goes on here also. Illegal aliens are routinely exploited, often by our politicians !
  • Bogie 2011/03/10 20:14:45 (edited)
    I have seen slaves working in the tony homes of rich people in New York City. Usually the owners are from India or Asia, etc. and the people enslaved in their homes and apartments are purchased in Bangladesh, India, etc. There aren't many cases of European extraction Americans doing this but among the very rich it does happen especially children bought for horrific reasons. One of the slave owners I met was a high ranking UN official. So how do you expect those people to convict themselves when it is a practice they enjoy? We had a call from one of my wife's relatives in Afghanistan (he lives in San Diego) offering us a slave from the region of Pakhtiar. There is little to no political will to do anything as it isn't a priority for American interests just as human rights violations in China and Saudi Arabia are eclipsed by the desires of US special interests need for business and cash flow. I went to the FBI who said they could not do anything unless the slave came forward and made a complaint and then it is hard to prove a case of slavery even if they do as it is usually handled as an illegal immigrant where the slave gets deported, likely to be sold to someone else.
  • Theresa Bogie 2011/03/10 23:25:56
    Yes I know exactly what you are talking about! I have witnessed this same thing here and elsewhere in the world!
  • SimpleAmerican BN-0 2011/03/10 17:16:11
    SimpleAmerican BN-0
    It's actually pretty horrible in some countries I have been in and witnessed the slavery. There is this hidden population out their, some not even slaves, but treated as such without a voice.

    Yet, we piss and moan about things here in the US! God help the human race, all of us!
  • michele... SimpleA... 2011/03/10 17:30:09
    micheleT BN-O
    Thank you...
  • SimpleA... michele... 2011/03/10 18:01:26
    SimpleAmerican BN-0
    You're welcome Ms. Ohio!
  • Theresa SimpleA... 2011/03/10 23:26:44
    The problem is that those ways are being imported into the USA!
  • bettyboop 2011/03/10 15:29:39
    There’s a self-perception that debt bondage is a rather embarrassing part of the continuing underdevelopment in parts of their countries,”...........Hello debt bondage happens right here in the good ol' U S of A!!! And it's called prison. Were prisoners counted in this survey???
  • michele... bettyboop 2011/03/10 15:40:03
    micheleT BN-O
    No, they were not, but that is a very good point.
  • Matt M 2011/03/10 05:29:40
    Matt  M
    The purpose of outlawing prostitution is to make most people feel moral. Since this policy results in enslavement, misery, and death for a large number of decent innocent women, I don't really see the morality in it.

    Frankly, outlawing prostitution is disgusting.
  • whitebear62 2011/03/10 02:05:30
    Slavery is not enforced by simple force alone. Addiction and economics also play a considerable part in worldwide slave markets. It is arguable that a good part of the American population are "economic slaves".
  • Theresa 2011/03/10 01:27:10
    Mostly from the statistic I have seen it would be closer to 100 million in slavery even though most of them will be killed almost as soon as they become one!
  • michele... Theresa 2011/03/10 11:44:14
    micheleT BN-O
    I think you are right.
  • bags 2011/03/10 00:20:49
    Far and away larger than just the massive sex trade, modern day slavery exists and thrives, both quite literally and figuratively (as in 'wage slaves'). We've had it exposed in the Greater Boston area in the past year. Frightening, isn't it.

    And it's not illegal in Burma.......it's open.
  • HistoryBuff92 2011/03/09 21:54:15

  • Ron Hanforth 2011/03/09 21:41:15
    Ron Hanforth
    an awful practice. Just heard a CNN report on it, where a 5 year old girl is indebted from her parents debt. They had her working as brick maker. Made me sick.
  • michele... Ron Han... 2011/03/09 22:10:02
    micheleT BN-O
    Very true, it is going on all over the world. Horrible. Some little girls are even sold as sex slaves.
  • seadog6608PWCM 2011/03/09 21:33:27
  • Pedro D... seadog6... 2011/03/09 23:04:45
    Pedro Doller ~Inc.
    They are called TCNs.

    They have to pay a broker in India or Pakistan, sign over title to land, or more (obligate their kids), then when they get to Arabia, their master takes away their passport. They don't get paid by their company for 6 months or maybe never. The company finance departments are Sub-Continentals just like them. Mumbai Mafia is headquartered in Dubai. The Arab owners and Mumbai Mafia conspire to defraud them. They are defrauding westerners now also.

    They can't go home, no passport. They can't send money home, they don't get paid.

    The Arabs don't get good work out of them either. One Million times zero equals zero. They are just bodies, with 15 kids, with blank stares, never been to school. They are first exploited by their own then by the Arab companies (with mostly Indo-Paki Sub-Continental employees). Everybody looks the other way. The Indo-Paki culture is all about cheating, stealing and robbing. The Arabs like anything cheap, even if it is worthless.

    One of the TCNs favorite ways to make money is to run out in front of a car going 60mph. When the car kills them, the driver has to send $10,000 to their family.
  • michele... Pedro D... 2011/03/09 23:12:26
    micheleT BN-O
    That is horrible!!
  • seadog6... Pedro D... 2011/03/10 16:08:51
  • Pedro D... seadog6... 2011/03/10 23:03:24
    Pedro Doller ~Inc.
    I worked in Saudi, Bahrain and Abu Dhabi. Because of my job I was exposed to some of the inner workings. The company (an Australian company) in UAE still owes me a pile of money. Their finance department short changed everybody (they were Indians and Paki Mumbai Mafia) - they then had to split that money with the Aussie Mngr and the UAE sponsor. They didn't pay the TCN's for months or never. The TCN's would go around the office and then steal what they could. Next, when they bid on contracts they have to essentially buy the contract. Through their Finance People (Mumbai Mafia members), they would get a percentage of the payoff.

    In Saudi they took away passports, TCN's and other Arabs & Palestinians had to make money hanging around parking lots to wash cars.

    Bahrain seemed to be the most straight.
  • seadog6... Pedro D... 2011/03/11 12:48:17
  • JCD aka... seadog6... 2011/03/10 10:29:54
    JCD aka "biz"
    1) There are around 200 million Arabs.
    2) Ever heard about the courageous Arab people who got rid of their corrupt dictators in Tunisia and Egypt, and trying to overthrow Gaddafi in Libya?
  • seadog6... JCD aka... 2011/03/11 12:45:34
  • JCD aka... seadog6... 2011/03/11 13:03:39
    JCD aka "biz"
    Several times, yes. Lebanon, twice, Egypt, twice, and non-Arab countries too, Turkey and Iran. And the protesters are indeed VERY courageous.
  • seadog6... JCD aka... 2011/03/11 16:13:32
  • Rore73 2011/03/09 21:06:36
    The UN spends millions of dollars that we contribute, researching and collecting truck loads of information, but it has little affect on freeing people from oppression. Perhaps they should spend some the money they get on actually buying people's freedom and stop shuffling the money into their private accounts..
  • michele... Rore73 2011/03/09 21:08:26
    micheleT BN-O
    I totally agree with you.
  • Theresa Rore73 2011/03/10 01:29:29
    The reason is the UN is not interested in freeing anyone just enslaving more!
  • BlueMax372 2011/03/09 21:06:26
    Thanks for this post, Michelle. All too few people are even aware that this practice is still thriving today!
  • michele... BlueMax372 2011/03/09 21:08:02
    micheleT BN-O
    Thank you for answering it. More people need to learn about it.
  • Theresa michele... 2011/03/10 01:30:13
    I know all about it from first hand experiences!
  • Minarchist 2011/03/09 20:36:33
    After the wars in Iraq and Afganistan all nations now have a central bank. Unless one is completely off the grid, everyone is a slave now, except the owners.
  • bob 2011/03/09 20:36:24
    So by definition all Kings are slaveholders.
  • bob bob 2011/03/09 21:33:19
    The queen and king of england are still supported by the backs of the british people. The brit Royality still refer brits as their subjects.
  • DanaR 2011/03/09 20:30:23
  • michele... DanaR 2011/03/09 20:31:09
    micheleT BN-O
    As usual.
  • BlueMax372 DanaR 2011/03/09 20:55:42
    So, unfortunately, does the U.S.
  • DanaR BlueMax372 2011/03/09 22:17:27

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