A study report jointly by a UN agency and a human rights group Walk Free Foundation reveals that fifty million people in the world are victims of modern slavery, forced to work and marry against their will. International Labor Organization Director-General Guy Ryder says such denial of basic human rights cannot be justified. Covid 19 pandemic has exacerbated modern slavery. During the Covid outbreak, there has been an increase in the likelihood of accidents and worker debt. Climate change and armed conflicts have compounded the misery. Poverty has forced people to flee to unsafe places. The report points out that such people are exploited. Women and children, as the most vulnerable, are the most harmed. Half of them are victims of commercial sexual exploitation.
Forced labour is particularly common among migrant labourers. Although there are modern slavery practices in every country, the report notes that more than half are in middle-income nations. Two crore 80 lakh men are victims of forced labour and two crore 20 lakh women are affected by forced marriage. The founding director of Walk Free stated that the total number of such affected people is equal to the population of Greece. It is believed that the African Republic of Mauritania was the last nation to abolish slavery in 1980. Slavery had been practised throughout history since the dawn of civilization. The declaration adopted by an association of Muslim countries, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), in Cairo in 1990 states unambiguously that 'Human beings are born free, and no one has the right to enslave, humiliate, oppress or exploit them'. This is the same thing that has been stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) adopted by the United Nations nearly four decades ago. 'No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.' Being UN members, all countries are required to uphold this declaration and abolish slavery. Most countries have specific laws related to this. The constitutions of the respective nations also guarantee it. It is illegal to enslave a person in any way. It would be considered a blatant violation of human freedom.
If we consider the information provided by the International Labor Organization (ILO) and the Walk Free Foundation, we must acknowledge the reality that slavery still exists in the world today, albeit in a more "civilised" form. It is true that human beings are not being enslaved and the slave trade as practised in the past does not exist now. However, it has been revealed that many nations engage in the trade of "slaves" and slave labour. Refugees and migrants bear the burden of such exchanges in civilised nations. As a result, the US Congress had to pass an act in 2000 prohibiting all types of modern slavery. The Global Survey Index published in 2013 by Walk Free contains comprehensive data on modern slavery in every nation. According to the index, 29.8 million people were forced into slave labour. By 2016, their number had increased to 48.8 million. The most shameful and distressing figure is that 12.5 per cent are forced into sexual exploitation and 37.5 per cent are victims of forced marriage. A 2013 report released by the US State Department states that Russia, China and Uzbekistan were among the worst offenders. India's Devadasi system and child marriage have been mentioned in studies about cases of forced marriage.
In essence, these studies and reports show the ultimate fact that people of the the 'New World', who pride themselves on being civilised and intellectuals, nevertheless have a long way to go in terms of their minds, morals, and humanity. Regardless of ethnicity, colour, nation, or language, people are truly civilised and progressive when they have a strong sense of culture and high morals. Without such principles, civilised people will remain uncivilised no matter how far science or technology has advanced.