36 million people in the world today are bound in some form of slavery; that’s 0.5% of the worlds population. Slavery today is defined as forced labor; to work without pay or under threat of violence and exploitation. It is a system in which people are treated as property, to be bought and sold. Most slaves, some are born into slavery, are tricked into it by being asked a simple question, “would you like to make some money?” A complete lie, and most vulnerable say “yes.” They are then ripped from their homes and freedom to work 24-7, in extremely bad living conditions. Most people today do not think about slavery as being a big issue put in why they don’t. However, no matter how much we ignore it, as consumers in the U.S., we are very much a part of it.
Compared to their populations, these five countries have the highest amount of slavery: Mauritania – 4%, Uzbekistan – 3.97%, Haiti – 2.3%, Qatar – 1.36%, India – 1.14%. India has overall the most slaves out of any country in the world performing labors such as sexual exploitation, human trafficking, forced labor, domestic child labor, indigenous groups affected by debt bondage, child soldiers and child pornography. All of these can seem very frightening to the eyes of westerners, only making us want to forget about or ignore these facts, however, it is far more important to understand the role that we can play in helping to end slavery.
Slavery is working its way into the economics of many countries worldwide. It supplies very cheap labor for large, global corporations and is directly linked to the economy , making it so if we officially ended slavery, the economy could suffer drastically . Consumerism plays a very important role in slavery because people simply love buying things. People are letting slavery become an asset to their lives without even knowing it.
One thing that can really help to lessen the demand for slavery is to really look at where a product has come from, the more local the better. It can be hard to find the time to do research on whether a corporation uses forced labor to make their products, but it is worth the effort. maybe state some clothing companies or something relevant to students that use forced labor?
Slaves are being used to perpetrate environmental destruction as well; cutting down trees in The Amazon, destroying forest areas in West Africa, mining causing the spread of mercury in places like Ghana and The Congo and destroying the coastal ecosystems in South Asia. Big corporations utilize slavery in this way for their own benefit. For example, some big companies such as McDonalds, Taco Bell, etc. need land to farm cows for their meat, and using slaves is an easy way to do that. Slaves can be used to farm, but also used to clear the land, destroying many essential habitats. In turn consumers, people who buy products made through this keep this going because by buying the products that encourage deforestation, mining, etc., we create demand that must be met with supply With all of the environmental crises going on today, adding the slave trade on top of that seems just too overwhelming to think about. But, by not eating at these fast food chains and altogether unhealthy restaurants as often as possible, the demand for human labor could potentially decrease significantly, as well as helping the environment.
One of the most important things to remember is that slaves are having their basic human right to freedom taken forcefully away from them . For most, they are treated as cheap ways for corporations or traffickers to make money, not as a human being. Most forget how to sustain and help themselves so if they ever became free there is a far greater chance of them becoming enslaved again. One of the biggest things we can do to help is to donate to credible organizations such as Free the Slaves (web URL: https://www.freetheslaves.net/). Organizations such as this one help to set up sustainable communities for slaves who have been? freed, making it much harder for them to ever be enslaved again.
Today the price of a person in slavery averages out to around ninety dollars. A quote from Free the Slaves reads: “It costs money to get people out of slavery, and help them to build lives in freedom. What many people find surprising is how little it can cost. For that $32 billion that Americans spend on potato chips and pretzels most of the slaves in the world could be freed.” This statistic is particularly shocking. For people to spend so much money on something temporary and unhealthy instead of bringing equality and livelihood back to people around the world just seems appalling. A key question we need to ask ourselves is: are we willing to live in a world where depending on slavery is the backbone of our global economy, and depending on the exploitation of others? For me the answer is simple, no one should have to work doing something that will kill their spirit and exploit their rights. So we need to get active in this situation to bring love and equality worldwide.
By Chloe Zehr