2nd Dec is International Day for the Abolition of Slavery Slavery is not merely a remnant of the past

Ranjan K Baruah
We have been hearing about slavery whenever we read history. Slavery was common in all parts of the world in the past and it is still continuing in different forms. Slavery and enslavement are the state and condition of being a slave, who is someone forbidden to quit their service for another person and is treated like property. In the course of human history, slavery was often a feature of civilisation and legal in most societies, but is now outlawed in all countries of the world, except as punishment for crime.
According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) more than 40 million people worldwide are victims of modern slavery. Although modern slavery is not defined in law, it is used as an umbrella term covering practices such as forced labour, debt bondage, forced marriage, and human trafficking. Essentially, it refers to situations of exploitation that a person cannot refuse or leave because of threats, violence, coercion, deception, and/or abuse of power. In addition, more than 150 million children are subject to child labour, accounting for almost one in ten children around the world.
ILO has adopted a new legally binding protocol designed to strengthen global efforts to eliminate forced labour, which entered into force in November 2016. The International Day for the Abolition of Slavery, 2 December, marks the date of the adoption, by the General Assembly, of the United Nations Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others (Resolution 317(IV) of 2 December 1949).
This day is observed with different aims and objectives which include eradicating contemporary forms of slavery, such as trafficking in persons, sexual exploitation, the worst forms of child labour, forced marriage, and the forced recruitment of children for use in armed conflict. The United Nations human rights bodies have documented the persistence of old forms of slavery that are embedded in traditional beliefs and customs. These forms of slavery are the result of long-standing discrimination against the most vulnerable groups in societies, such as those regarded as being of low caste, tribal minorities and indigenous peoples.
Alongside traditional forms of forced labour, such as bonded labour and debt bondage there now exist more contemporary forms of forced labour, such as migrant workers, who have been trafficked for economic exploitation of every kind in the world economy: work in domestic servitude, the construction industry, the food and garment industry, the agricultural sector and in forced prostitution. Exploitation includes prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.
The global data is alarming as we might think that slavery has directly ended. The fact remains and data tells us that out of the 24.9 million people trapped in forced labour, 16 million people are exploited in the private sector such as domestic work, construction or agriculture; 4.8 million people in forced sexual exploitation, and 4 million people in forced labour imposed by State authorities. Women and girls are disproportionately affected by forced labour, accounting for 99% of victims in the commercial sex industry, and 58% in other sectors.
There are many organisations and agencies working against forced labour and for the human rights of individuals. Apart from Government there are many other voluntary societies and organisations working against this crime. Together we can make a difference against this crime against humanity. There are international instruments like Convention on the Rights of the Child: Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography (2000); United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime: Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children (2000), etc which can be used for campaign and justice for all those who needs support and care.

(With direct inputs from UN publication and feedback may be sent to [email protected])