We like to think that we put an end to slavery one hundred and fifty years ago. But it's alive and well -- all over the world. Crawford Killian writes:
Slavery doesn’t include just forced labour. According to the Global Slavery Index, “modern slavery covers a set of specific legal concepts including forced labour, debt bondage, forced marriage, slavery and slavery-like practices, and human trafficking.”
The Index estimates “An estimated 40.3 million men, women, and children were victims of modern slavery on any given day in 2016. Of these, 24.9 million people were in forced labour and 15.4 million people were living in a forced marriage. Women and girls are vastly over-represented, making up 71 percent of victims.”
And that’s likely an undercount: “The Global Estimates comprised two sub-estimates: an estimate of forced labour and an estimate of forced marriage. The sub-estimate of forced labour was then further broken down into three categories: forced labour in the private economy, forced sexual exploitation, and state-imposed forced labour.” It doesn’t include organ trafficking and child soldiers.
Slavery has changed since the days of the American Civil War. And we have our own version of it here:
We do have slaves. According to the Index, “on any given day in 2016 there were 17,000 people living in conditions of modern slavery in Canada, a prevalence of 0.5 victims for every thousand people in the country.” That includes domestic human trafficking of Canadian citizens, “primarily for the purpose of sexual exploitation.” It also includes seasonal farm workers and foreign caregivers. Forced marriage (with lifelong unpaid labour) is another form of Canadian slavery, with girls and young women the vast majority of cases.
More than that, we benefit from slave labour elsewhere:
We mostly benefit from slave labour through the pipeline supplying cheap goods from slavery-friendly countries. In the great tradition of supporting our sweet tooth with forced labour, we import a quarter-billion U.S. dollars’ worth of sugar cane from Brazil and the Dominican Republic. Slavery in the cocoa-growing countries of Africa is so common, some chocolate bars are marketed as slavery-free.
We also buy over US$4.5 billion worth of clothing produced by slaves from Argentina to China to Vietnam, US$1.5 billion in slave-dug gold from Peru, and almost half a billion dollars’ worth of slave-caught fish from at least eight different countries.
We tout our democratic principles. But those principles are applied selectively -- very selectively.
Image: The Tyee