Slavery in Today's Society
When people think of slavery they think in terms of early American History, of slave ships and press-gangs. But slavery is a real problem even in this supposedly ‘enlightened’ society of ours. It may not be that we have people chained in our cellars, or living on scraps as a reward for a 16-hour work day but slavery is alive and, unfortunately, well.
Article 4The Human Rights Act 1998, which ratified large parts of the European Convention on Human Rights into our law, provides specific protection from ‘slavery and forced or compulsory labour’. Why would this be needed if slavery had already been abolished?
It was, and is still, needed to protect people in our civilised and prosperous western society from those who would exploit them. Sweat-shops do not just happen in Asia, they can be found in our major cities, usually employing migrant workers for a fraction of the normal pay rate.
The Global Slave TradeAs I have said, slavery is prevalent on our shores. Unscrupulous and violent people attract people to our country for the sole purpose of using them in illegal drug factories, on farms and in the sex industry. Men, women and children are used in the most heinous ways on a daily basis, and why? Because we allow it. We assume that these things happen only in other countries or at worst in isolated incidents in major cities.
It is an absolute tragedy that these people, who may have paid a lifetime’s salary to escape dictatorships, oppression and famine, are brought to our cities, towns, villages and farms to work as virtual prisoners. They came here with dreams of freedom, prosperity and a brighter future to be greeted with violence, depravity and filthy conditions.
What is a Slave?A slave is any person that is:
- forced to work through threat of violence, physical or mental
- ’owned’ or overseen by an employer, again usually through threat of abuse
- treated as subhuman and sold as ‘property’
- physically restrained or prevented from exercising their freedom of movement
Put aside any thoughts of your own job, it is easy to make light of it, but you could walk into work and quit if you wanted to. You aren’t going to be beaten, starved or punished.
Modern SlaveryHopefully by now you will be coming round to the idea that slavery does exist; what forms does it take?
That person in the field you drove past this morning could be a ‘bonded labourer’; they could have been tricked into coming here or coerced into taking a loan for something as fundamental as food for their child. They could be forced to work for hours and receive nothing more than basic food and shelter.
Equally that person could be a ‘forced labourer’, having been illegally recruited and forced to work under threat of violence.
Worse still, the children you saw in the corner shop could have been taken from their parents to be used as thieves, pickpockets and in the child-sex trade.
There are many other ways in which human beings, members of the human family, can be savagely used and abused. They were as innocent as you are, as hopeful about their future, but one wrong move put them where they are. The laws exist to protect these people, to take them away from their situation; they also exist for you, to protect you from anything like this ever happening.
Bear in mind that for every law, there is a victim and a criminal. People, as a race, tend not to learn very quickly from past mistakes and we prefer to think that these sorts of things could never happen to us, or anyone we know. If that were the case, there would be no need for the Human Rights Act or for the laws under which we shelter.