The term slavery encompasses: forcing people to work against their will; treating people as a possession; restricting their freedom of movement; dehumanising a person and defining someone as owned by another. Whilst slavery was abolished in 1833 in the UK, the last country, Mauritania, did not abolish slavery until 1981. Still by no means has slavery ended, perpetrators have simply become more inventive and devious. Unlike traditional slavery, modern slavery does not often entail the direct ownership of the victim. Instead, it encompasses the exploitation of individuals and comes in numerous different forms. There are ten main types of modern slavery, largely interlinking and co-existent. We will discuss them in turn throughout this article.
Human trafficking is where people are tricked, threatened or coerced into situations that allow them to be exploited. These individuals are then sold on, either remaining within their country or being shipped across borders. Human trafficking is a gateway offence and often results in further exploitation of the victims. Once bought and transported, people often fall victim to labour exploitation, sexual exploitation and organ harvesting.
Labour exploitation is where slaves are forced to work for no money, or any money they earn is transferred straight to their “owner”. This can happen in any industry, though some are more at risk than other, so you should ensure it is not present in your supply chain. Here are some common examples of how labour exploitation can arise:
- Migrant workers are promised jobs in a foreign country only to arrive and discover it is not as expected. Upon arrival they are informed that they owe their travel costs to employers and are trapped to pay these back at an unachievable interest rate.
- When individuals enter a time of financial hardship and end up taking out a loan, they can unknowingly becoming debt bonded. The perpetrator will set interest rates so high that they will never be paid back in full, but demand that the individuals, and in some cases their family, work until the debt is repaid.
- Victims who have already been trafficked are often threated with violence and forced into labour exploitation.
- Sexual Exploitation
Sexual exploitation is a form of labour exploitation specific to work in the sex industry. This includes online sites, brothels, pole dancing clubs, adult entertainment services and street prostitution. It is important to remember that victims of sexual exploitation can be any age, race and gender. There are a variety of reasons that someone can fall victim to sexual exploitation, but most fall into one of the following categories:
- Previous human trafficking
- Coercion due to drug use
- Debt repayment
- Some have even been sold by a family member
Financial exploitation is the targeting of vulnerable people by trusted individuals e.g. relatives, carers and friends. Adults can be vulnerable for a multitude of reasons, including: old age, cognitive impairment and physical disability. The perpetrator either steals money from the victim or takes out loans in their name. It is important to recognise vulnerable individuals and safeguard them appropriately.
Forced organ Harvesting
Forced organ harvesting is the removal of someone’s organs or eggs in order to sell them on the black market. Some people voluntarily participate in organ harvesting out of desperation for money. Others are forced into it through debt bondage or human trafficking. It is an illegal and highly dangerous practice, some victims are even murdered for their organs.
Forced criminality is the act of coercing people to participate in criminal activities, such as begging, prostitution, theft, organ harvesting and cannabis cultivation. Many victims of forced criminality have previously been trafficked. The practice is also deeply linked with labour exploitation and sexual exploitation.
Forced, Early or Sham Marriages
Forced, early or sham marriages are when people are coerced into marriage against their wishes. If both parties of an arranged marriage do not willingly consent to the marriage it falls into this category. This type of slavery shows links to EU status exploitation as well as sexual exploitation and domestic servitude. Whilst victims can be of any age and gender, this type of slavery commonly affects young females.
EU Status Exploitation
EU status exploitation is the targeting of European Union citizens for their citizenship. EU citizens have freedom of movement across the EU and the right to work in any EU state. Victims are coerced into sham marriages so that their non-EU partner is granted citizenship and consequently receives these rights.
Descent Based or Hereditary
Descent based or hereditary slavery is a historic practice in some cultures. This is where strict caste systems are in place and some citizens, born into the lowest castes, are viewed as slaves from birth. These slaves are often subjected to labour exploitation and domestic servitude. Some countries that engage in this type of slavery are: Mauritania, Mali and Niger. This form of slavery is deeply ingrained in some communities and not viewed a wrong, so it can prove difficult to eradicate.
Domestic servitude is a type of labour exploitation where victims are coerced into performing housework and have their liberties removed. This covers live-in help like maids, housekeepers, nannies and carers. Sadly, domestic servitude often comes hand in hand with imprisonment as well as physical, verbal and sexual abuse. Victims can be tricked into domestic servitude under the illusion that working will gain them a visa to allow them to study in the employer’s country. Alternatively, they may be sold through human trafficking. Typical victims are young, foreign women.
Why Should Modern Slavery be Important to You?
Slavery deprives victims of their most basic human rights. It is an inhumane practice which holds no place in our society, yet still slavery is in operation. A societal awareness is crucial in targeting it and engaging in regular modern slavery training is a way to achieve this. As well as the indescribable suffering that slavery causes its victims, the repercussions can be felt much further afield. If an organisation is found to be associated with slavery, albeit unintentionally, it can suffer a massive blow to its reputation. The Modern Slavery Act is legislation governing the way we must behave in relation to slavery. A lack of compliance could result in legal prosecution. Whilst we cannot eradicate slavery overnight, a gradual shift in cultural practices and an increased awareness of modern slavery holds hope for a brighter future.