Slavery Could Get Worse as the World Economy Deteriorates

The United Nations has been sounding the alarm for a while that the most vulnerable are likely to bear the brunt of the global economic downturn. Still, it is shocking to hear the Secretary General of the United Nations–in the year 2008-warn that deteriorating global economy may push people into slavery.

“Poor people are likely to be driven further into poverty, making them more vulnerable to slavery-like practices. Those who consciously exploit them will have to extract even more to profit, and consumers who may not be aware of the consequences will be more likely to purchase products whose labour costs are kept unreasonably low.”

Mr. Ban called on governments, civil society, the private sector and individuals to join the fight against slavery, protect victims and raise awareness of the issue.

“We need new strategies to deal with this old curse.”

In fact, some 27 million people around the world are victims of modern day slavery. This includes trafficked sex workers and examples like this from west Africa:


The [Anti-Slavery] Society estimates that there are 8,000 girl-slaves — slaves in the fullest sense of the term — in West Africa today. These girls are hierodulic slaves, combining the roles of agricultural slave, domestic slave, temple slave and sex slave.

Originally offered as human sacrifice to ensure success in war, these girls are the helpless victims of a traditional form of slavery which has survived intact since the pre-colonial era. These slaves live in villages just a half-day’s journey inland from the very coast from which slaves were once shipped to the Americas.

Taken from their mothers from the age of four, these girls work from dawn to dusk in the fields. From the age of five they are beaten with canes or with specially-made wire whips. They are raped from as young as eight years old. Their masters, the voodoo priests, claim the traditional right of masters since the dawn of history to free sexual access to the slaves, and the girls are beaten into submission if they refuse.

Check out the Anti-Slavery Society for more information and ways you can help.

Photo from Flickr user fromeyetopixel.