Tuesday, 13 March 2007

The World's Worst Best Kept Secret

Should it come as any surprise that a time-honoured and pernicious institution such as slavery is alive and well and living in the developed world?? It is difficult to avoid news reports that remind us how the slave trade is still thriving across the developed world but a recent study reveals that slavery is a lot closer to home than is comfortable. While the nations in the so-called First World already have a lot to explain than just the traditional wage-slavery that most workers are forced into under industrial capitalism.

The struggle against slavery still exists in many forms and locations today. Racially-based chattel slavery has the closest resemblance to 'slavery' as practiced in the United States until 1865 and is still practiced in Sudan and Mauritania today. In other parts of the world, debt bondage enslaves entire families. Some families are forced to give up their children as payment of this debt. Factory workers in Pakistan, charcoal burners in South and Central America, and tenant farmers in the Indian subcontinent are all forced to offer up their productive labour as collateral against a loan which they can never hope to work off. This process commonly also entraps their children as well. Beyond mere debt slavery, however, the murky realm of child slavery, child sex slavery, and trafficking of sex trade workers from the developing nations to the developed nations of the West.

Contemporary Slavery in the UK: Overview and Key Issues
By Gary Craig, Aline Gaus, Mick Wilkinson, Klara Skrivankova and Aidan McQuade

A report recently released as part of a joint research project by the University of Hull [UK] and Anti-Slavery International for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation [JRF] confirms that slavery continues to exist in the United Kingdom as well as being prohibited under international law. While the UK marks the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the legal slave trade in Britain and her colonies, the new report examines modern forms of slavery, how it operates in the UK, and a detailed account of the circumstances faced by those who are enslaved.

[With the bicentenary of the British abolition of the pernicious trade in humans upon us this year the finest thing that could be done to commemorate it would be to revive the passion of the 19th century abolitionist and end the trade once and for all.]

[Ironically, the humanitarian and philanthropist Joseph Rowntree had a great zeal regarding the conditions of his English workers but has has much to account for regarding the conditions under which chocolate was, and still is, harvested in Africa. For more information, please see Bitter Chocolate: Investigating the Dark Side of the World's Most Seductive Sweet by Carol Off for more information]

The report shows that the contemporary slave trade in the UK operates in different forms, particularly as a result of trafficking. The different forms share an underlying exploitative relationship that has historically constituted slavery [e.g. severe and prolonged economic exploitation; lack of a human rights framework; and one individual maintaining absolute control over another through either the threat of violence or actual violence.]

About Human Trafficking [1:30]

David Batstone on Human Trafficking and Modern-Day Slavery [4:55]

To view the video in its entirety, please go to FORA.tv

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