7 Shocking Truths about Slavery in 2015 – Part 1

What is Slavery?

Slavery dates to the beginning of time. When we realize that it still exists today, we wonder…How can such an obvious injustice continue to plague this world? Why is such a heinous practice continuing in both the developing AND the developed world?

Just as the problem is not as simple as it seems, neither is the answer. So what does slavery look like today? In this first installment of a seven-part series is an overview of the definition of modern day slavery and the types existing today.


Truth #1

Trafficking, Slavery, and Forced Labor

Many people, upon hearing the word “trafficking,” think immediately of sex trafficking and modern day slavery. While “trafficking” and “slavery” are often used interchangeably, they are not identical in a legal sense. Most situations of trafficking and slavery are covered by the International Labour Organization (ILO) under the term “forced labor.” According to ILO, “Forced labor refers to situations in which persons are coerced to work through the use of violence or intimidation or by more subtle means such as accumulated debt, retention of identity papers or threats of denunciation to immigration authorities.”

Another misconception is women and children are the only people involved in trafficking, whereas men can be just as vulnerable. People can be exploited in many ways; the most concerning sectors, according to ILO, are domestic work, agriculture, construction, manufacturing, and entertainment. Other ways are through begging/criminality, marriage, and organ removal.

It is important to understand that a person’s entrance into the world of slavery is complicated and usually caused by living in a cycle of extreme poverty. Victims worldwide, from sex trafficking to bonded labor, did not end up there by desire.


Truth #2

Sex Trafficking

In many cases, sex trafficking occurs when a person – adult or child – is coerced, forced, or deceived into prostitution. Children subject to prostitution in the global commercial sex trade experience especially devastating consequences.

The U.S. Department of State reminds us, “Sex trafficking can also occur within debt bondage, as women and girls are forced to continue in prostitution through the use of unlawful ‘debt’ purportedly incurred through their transportation, recruitment, or even their crude ‘sale,’ which exploiters insist they must pay off before they can be free.”

While sex trafficking is a major issue in today’s world and gets a lot of media attention, it is important to acknowledge that it is only one part of the problem.

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Truth #3

Bonded Labor/Debt Bondage

This is the most deceitful type of slavery as it happens to people without their realizing. Therefore, it is also the most common.

A family in extreme poverty accepts a loan through which they are tricked into working for very little or no pay. They work long hours, seven days a week, in conditions that prevent them from ever paying off the debt. Migrant workers are often some of the most vulnerable to this type of slavery.

Illiteracy is a major factor in this cunning trap. Unable to read, the “employer” takes advantage and the worker suffers.

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Truth #4

Child Slavery

Just like adults, children are vulnerable to all types of slavery, including sex trafficking, commercial or domestic labor, and many other destructive activities which involve little to no pay. In fact, as many as 33% of the nearly 21 million people worldwide lured into slavery are children.

Additionally, some children are recruited or abducted into military groups, putting them into dangerous situations, while girls are exposed to rape and sexual abuse.

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Truth #5

Early and Forced Marriage

Weaving through cultural loopholes of dowries and other ancient marriage traditions, women and young girls barely into puberty are forced into marriage by their families – even their current husbands – for an attractive price under the false pretense that they will be living in the lap of luxury. According to UNICEF in their 2014 report, “Among women aged 20-24 worldwide, about one in three were child brides.”

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Truth #6

Descent-based Slavery

Though a taboo topic in places like India, this form of slavery is surprisingly alive and well in the world. Essentially, these people are born into slavery or a very low social class/caste. Chained by acceptance of the majority in power, oppression beats down even the strongest man or woman. Even when the law is on the victims’ side, discrimination can hold firm the chains.

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Truth #7

Slavery Prevention

While we can celebrate the many commendable organizations devoted to rescuing the enslaved, we can’t forget the millions who remain vulnerable to becoming trapped in slavery’s vicious grip. Since the most vulnerable are also entrapped in the deepest cycles of poverty, those cycles must be reversed.

Villagers living in extreme poverty in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East are becoming empowered through slavery awareness and prevention lessons alongside their Transformational Community Development journey.

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