After the British slave trade was abolished in 1807, Thomas Clarkson, and others focused on the abolition of slavery itself. Finally in1833 Parliament made slavery in Britain, and throughout the British Empire, illegal. In 1839 the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society was created, with Thomas Clarkson as its first President. Anti-Slavery International, as it is known today, is the oldest human rights organisation in the world.
Despite the fact that slavery is now illegal in every country in the world there are now more slaves than ever - an estimated 27 million. That is more than twice the total number of people taken from Africa during the 400 years of the Atlantic slave trade.
One of the main reasons for this is the global market and our demand for ever-cheaper goods. Yet that same global market gives consumers power. If we choose to, we can use that power to end slavery by buying, for example, Fairtrade marked chocolate.
Slavery today exists in many different forms around the world. But these forms share two key characteristics that distinguish them from slavery in the past: slaves today are cheap and they are disposable. An average slave in the American South in 1850 cost the equivalent of £40,000; today a slave costs only about £60.
|Old Slavery |
Legal ownership asserted
High purchase cost
Shortage of potential slaves
Ethnic differences important
|New Slavery |
Legal ownership usually not asserted
Very low purchase cost
Very high profits
Glut of potential slaves
Ethnic differences less important
There are three types of modern slavery that are common enough to have their own names.
Chattel slavery is closest to the old form of slavery. A person is captured, born, or sold into slavery, and ownership is often asserted. The slave's children are normally treated as property as well. Most often found in North and West Africa and some Arab countries, chattel slaves are now relatively few in number.
Debt bondage is the most common form of slavery in the modern world. A person pledges himself/herself against a loan, but the length and nature of their work is not defined, nor does their work reduce the debt. The debt can be passed down, enslaving offspring. Ownership is not normally asserted, but there is complete control over the slave. Debt bondage is most common in the Indian sub-continent.
Contract slavery occurs when a contract is offered for employment, perhaps in a workshop or factory, but the worker is then enslaved. The contract tricks them into slavery. The slave is under threat of violence, has no freedom and is paid nothing. This is the most rapidly growing form of slavery and probably the second largest form today. Contract slavery is often found in South-east Asia, Africa, some Arab states and some parts of India.
Other types of slavery exist that account for a smaller number of slaves, for example war-related slavery, domestic slavery and Religious slavery.
For further information on modern slavery and what action you can take contact Anti-Slavery International, Thomas Clarkson House, The Stableyard, Broomgrove Road, London SW9 9TL. Tel: (020) 7501 8920 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org