In my introductory blog on human trafficking I stated some pretty staggering numbers. Approximately 27 million people are in slavery today. Up to 4 million are moved into slavery every year. Half of these are children.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the numbers. Rather than focusing on them, let’s breakdown human trafficking and the movement of people into slavery. Let’s look at how slavery exists in our world today and understand how people are becoming enslaved.
The most dominant form of slavery that exists today is bonded labour which is also known as debt bondage. Individuals are moved into this type of slavery when they are unable to pay a loan they have taken from a local moneylender. Sometimes these loans are taken to pay for medical care or other times for food or farm supplies. When the loan is not repaid the lender demands the borrower repay with labour. At this point the borrower and/or the borrower’s family are moved to the location where they will work. The lender undervalues the borrowers labour and often charges additional fees for accounting and lodging. The value of the borrowers work is invariably greater than the original sum of money borrowed but the lender will not make this known. Individuals vulnerable to this type of slavery are the poor and illiterate. They are unable to access credit from financial institutions and therefore secure funds through local moneylenders. These borrowers are easily exploited because they are unable to read the agreements or understand the calculations being made. They are also unaware of their human rights and the laws in place surrounding bonded labour. For an unpaid debt as small as $14 an entire family could enter bonded labour for many years.
A second form of slavery that exists today is labour. This differs from bonded labour as there are no debts involved. This type of slavery affects people who are illegally recruited by individuals, governments or political parties and forced to work – usually under threat of violence or other penalties. This includes nannies and domestic workers as well as illegal immigrants recruited into agricultural work and then given little or no pay. The diamond trade also harbours thousands of individuals trapped in slave labour.
Organ & Tissue Black Market
The organ and tissue black market continues to thrive with a kidney receiving the highest price at over $250,000 CDN. Similar to bonded labourers, many individuals are moved into this type of slavery by taking out loans they are unable to repay. The lender will then demand that the debt be repaid with the removal of an organ or tissues. Though illegal this remains prominent in Pakistan and parts of India. In other countries like Nigeria, young women become trapped in baby mills and forced surrogacy where they birth children who are harvested for their organs.
Victims enslaved in the sex trade can be in bonded labour or slave labour. However, we will look at it separately because of the size of the industry and its connection with human trafficking. Approximately 25% of young women and children that end up in the sex trade are trafficked by a parent, family member or close family friend. Up to 60% are deceived through false job offers, education opportunities, and marriage prospects and then forced into sex work. Others move into this type of slavery because of poverty and desperation.
This type of slavery affects women and girls who are married without choice and are forced into lives of servitude often accompanied by physical violence.
Born into Slavery
This is also known as slavery by descent. People are moved into this type of slavery when they are born into a slave class or are from a group that society views as suited for slave labour. Children born to bonded-labourers are also born into slavery and will join their parents to pay off the debt owed. The daughters of prostitutes born in brothels also experience slavery by descent as they are expected to take up the profession themselves when they reach a certain age and have little or no ability to choose an alternative path.
Human trafficking and human slavery are heavy and difficult subjects to discuss. Yet in the midst of this deep darkness there is hope and light. In the next human trafficking blog post we will begin to look at how Partners International Canada is protecting people from human trafficking and moving people out of slavery back into a place of freedom and safety.
This is part 2 of a 4 part blog series we will look at how people are moved into slavery today, how people can be moved out of slavery, how human trafficking can be prevented and how Canadians can educate themselves and become part of the solution.
You can check out other posts in this series here: