Though the word slavery sounds like a carryover from a distant past. It is well and alive in the new millennium. Experts say that no region around the world in practice is free from slavery yet
Muslema Begum, a mother of three with an unemployed husband was struggling hard to feed her family. She decided to fly to Saudi Arabia as a domestic worker. The dream was to earn a few bucks so that her kids do not go to sleep hungry.
It did not take her much longer to see her dreams crumble.
As soon as she reached Saudi Arabia she had to give away her passport and other papers to her kofil (employer) and the kofil was allowed to trade her for money when necessary.
After working in two houses in relative peace, Muslema was sold to another kofil who did not pay her regularly. She was beaten brutally when she asked for her salary. Then she was sold to another man, this time it was not a household, it was an office.
Muslema's instinct were pulling her back from working in an office but she was helpless as she was not only locked up, also all her papers were forfeited.
It was her luck that unlike Nazma (a domestic worker who died in the Middle East after being tortured) she came back home alive. The murder of Indonesian domestic worker Titu in Saudi Arabia was a much talked about incident back in 2010.
The inhuman treatments they face are similar to what slaves used to face a hundred years ago. There are unruly regulations imposed on them in the destination country.
Workers, immigrants working hard to earn a living, people who were often living below the poverty line in their own countries, all of them endure similar predicament all around the world.
The advent of modern slavery
Beneath the surface of the plights of "domestic workers" or simply "workers" lies the jarring issue of modern slavery.
From Moses to Abraham Lincoln, religious figures to political leaders have passed laws abolishing slavery over and over again.
Today, slavery is considered to be abolished de jure in all countries. The reality indicates something else.
A century back in 1926, 1926 Slavery Convention, defined slavery as "the status or condition of a person over whom any or all of the powers attaching to the right of ownership are exercised."
Years later in 1948, United Nation's general assembly addressed Universal Declaration of Human Rights. One of its articles stated "No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms."
Slavery on the other hand, rather than being abolished kept changing its form.
Years after, in 2016, Global Slavery Index from Walk Free Foundation, identified slavery wrapped in the garb of "modern slavery".
It defined modern slavery as "situations of exploitation that a person cannot refuse or leave because of threats, violence, coercion, abuse of power or deception".
It has been exposed that slavery is now active particularly in the form of debt bondage. A person is thus bound to work for an employer, in most cases for free, to repay the debts.
Other than acknowledging the existence of traditional slavery, child slavery, forced marriage, domestic servitude is also branded as modern slavery.
Now if we look into the circumstances of those domestic workers, anyone will realise it to be the classic situation of modern slavery where they are captivated, forced and exploited by someone who holds the power.
Total scenario of modern slavery
According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the typology of modern slavery can be divided into four categories.
1. Forced labour
2. Forced marriage
3. Labour exploitation
4. Forced commercial sexual exploitation of children and adult.
The research run by ILO revealed that 40.3 million people were victims of modern slavery in 2016. Among them 29 per cent were male and 71 per cent were female.
Around 10 million children are victims of modern slavery.
24.9 million people are forced into giving their labour and 15.4 million are into forced marriage. Victims of forced sexual exploitation are 4.8 million.
Researches showed that no region around the world in practice is free from modern slavery yet it is the most ubiquitous in Africa.
In Africa 7.6 per cent among 1000 people are entangled in modern slavery.
Asia is holding the second worst position with a percentage of 6.1 per cent in every 1000 people.
Global slavery index ran a research on 167 countries. The published report showed Afghanistan and Pakistan are among top ten countries where modern slavery is at its worst.
India, Nepal are at 53rd and 55th position.
Bangladesh is in 92nd position where an estimated 592,000 people are victims of slavery.
Modern Slavery knows no boundary
In a borderless world modern slavery is normalised, so much so that it gets imbricated into our daily life without us becoming conscious of it.
For example, the smartphones we use, carry the traces of modern slavery.
The cobalt used in the smartphones comes from Congo. Reports show that in Congo, hundreds of children and adults are engaged in cobalt mines. They work in a perilous environment exposed to dust and toxicity.
These miners are deprived of a healthy pay check, hence, outcomes slurped out of their toil is used worldwide.
Again, human trafficking plays a pivotal role in nursing slavery as it makes the illegal immigrants vulnerable to their situation, who are easy to be tricked into slavery.
But this is not something that happens overseas only. The trap of modern slavery is omnipresent.
Sometimes people migrate to developed regions of the worlds within a country in search of work. They frequently fall victims of slavery by their own people.
The Business Standard correspondent came across a child labour Sumon who works in a welding shop in Dholaikhal of Puran Dhaka.
Sumon's is approximately 11 years old. His father was a day labourer who became paralysed after an accident. He has two more younger siblings.
Women going out to earn livelihood is an alien idea from the place he came. So, his mother sent Sumon to work in Dhaka with an acquaintance of their village. The acquaintance is a "mahajon" in a machinery shop in Dholaikhal. Sumon, who was a 5th grade student now works in a squalid shop 6 days a week.
He resides in the mahajon's place and his weekends are spent resolving mahajon's house hold chores without any payment.
Sumon, at the age of 11, is not a victim of child labour, he is a victim of modern-day slavery.
Is it a third world country problem?
This is a common perception that modern slavery is a problem of the third world countries. But statistic shows developed countries are not above of this trade either.
In the post-Soviet era, a number of European countries like Russia, Italy have become hotspots of modern slavery.
In Europe, 3.9 per cent of the population in every 1000 individuals is involved in modern slavery.
In fact, United States of America is one huge breeding ground for modern slavery with 1.6 per cent being involved in it. It continues thrives through trafficking.
Eradicating modern slavery by 2030
UN under its Sustainable Development Goal included eradication of modern slavery by 2030 as an approach to deal with poverty.
The magnitude of the issue shows that if the world is to eradicate slavery by 2030, we need to free around 10000 people per day.
Where countries like Netherlands, Sweden or US are acting on the issue, most disreputable ones like North Korea, African Republic, Congo seem least bothered by the situation.