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To What Extent Does Slavery Still Exist In The 21st Century?

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It is widely believed that slavery, in all, has ceased to be practiced. However, despite the fact that many people falsely think slavery has completely ended, it truly hasn’t for everyone. Slavery is still a very present, brutal reality worldwide and has become a global problem. The number of people enslaved are higher today than ever in history. According to the Global Slavery Index, in 2018, “There are 40.3 million slaves still throughout the world.” This presents the idea that varying forms of slavery exist : including prison labour, forced labour, debt bondage or bonded labour, human trafficking, child slavery , and forced/ early marriage. This essay will reveal the issues with the staggering fact that slavery is still an occuring practice on a local, national, and international level. Possible steps that can potentially solve this major issue will also be discussed in the conclusion.

To fully understand the entirety of slavery that still exists around the globe, each of the different forms must be carefully evaluated. The 2018 Global Slavery Index, from the Walk Free Foundation, defines modern slavery as “Situations of exploitation that a person cannot refuse or leave because of threats, violence, coercion, deception, and/or abuse of power.” An example of this would be a family who desires to migrate away from a foreign country, but is troubled by government interference. Furthermore, discouraging the family from achieving their initial goal, freedom to a better life. Families like these have experienced their passports being taken away, as well as other extreme measures of violence and mistreatment. To begin the description of each of the different types of slavery, prison labor is the act of prisoners being subject to forced, unpaid labor within detention facilities. In addition to serving time, prisoners receive little to no pay and brutal punishments. Next, forced labour is the work and services of people that are forced against their will, with fear of punishment, to complete certain jobs under harsh conditions. The world’s most common form of slavery is debt bondage or bonded labor. This is when people borrow money with knowledge that they’re in no proper financial position to repay, now having to physically work to pay off their debt. This places people in a continuous cycle of debt , making repaying their loans nearly impossible. In turn, they are “losing control over the conditions of both their employment and the debt,” says the author of Human trafficking is another form of slavery that involves “transporting, recruiting and harbouring people for the purpose of exploitation,” also according to the website. Child slavery occurs when a child is exploited for someone else’s benefit. It can include child trafficking, child soldiers, child marriage and child domestic slavery. Forced/early marriage is when someone is married against their desire, given no option to leave the marriage. These are the six different forms of slavery still abundantly present in the twenty-first century.

To start off nationally, when America ratified the 13th amendment in 1865, most people were in belief that the all slaves were now free because of this amendment. The problem is, that’s not entirely true. The 13th amendment helped African Americans throughout the United States, except for the incarcerated which is unfair, showing a still very relevant problem with the prison/industrial system. According to the 13th Amendment, “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” The part of that sentence, ”except as a punishment for crime,” is a phrase that is often ignored when we are taught about America and its history of slavery. The 13th Amendment didn’t get rid of slavery like many were taught, rather they moved it from the farms to a prison cell. Referencing a history professor, Ms. Cruz, in the federal prisons, prisoners work for free or get little pay which is a system of slavery. Inmates make items such as car license plates and also toilet seats. In 2018, it is estimated that a staggering 2.3 million people are incarcerated in the United States. According to the article on, “People of color account for 37% of the US population, yet they represent 67% of the prison population.” White people aren’t nearly as targeted as Black people are. A black individual is six times more likely than a white person to be incarcerated, and federal courts imposed black men with 19 percent longer prison sentences than those imposed on a similarly situated white man between 2011 and 2016.(Ibid). Police officers incarcerated black people for irrelevant crimes so that they would have to go to prison and become a laborer rather than being free. This makes them slaves again, but this time, in prison. An example of this would be arresting a black person for being unemployed. People in America are legally considered slaves under the Constitution in the federal prisons. According to Huffingtonpost, “More black people are enslaved today than in the 1800’s.” Of those still enslaved, 71% are women and 29% are men. The Netflix film,13th by Ava DuVernay, connects the loophole in the 13th amendment to the mass incarceration in America amongst blacks. The amendment abolished slavery, but the clause turned incarceration into a modern-day slavery. In the film, since slavery was now abolished because of the 13th amendment, they needed people to rebuild the economy of the South. The South was destroyed in the American Civil War but in the process achieved a ban on slavery which was the ultimate goal. African-Americans were therefore arrested for minor crimes to help with the labor. The film also shows how The United States makes up 5% of the world’s population, but has 25% of the world’s prisoners. The land of the free has the highest incarceration rate in the world. The prison population in 1970 was 357,292 and as of 2014, the prison population is 2,306,200.

Modern slavery affects all people no matter their race, age, or gender. Slavery targets uneducated and impoverished minority groups and takes advantage of these groups by forcing them to work without wages. Slavery also affects people and communities who are vulnerable to being taken advantage of. To get a bigger picture here are some examples from a poor person with no real opportunities or basic rights to get a decent job may be viewed as vulnerable and be taken advantage of. Someone may offer them a job that turns out to be something else then what was promised and expected, like sex trafficking. Another example, could be a person from a community that’s very discriminated against, “such as Dalits in India,” who must borrow money for healthcare such as a medical operation from a wealthy farmer, and will fall into a debt bondage for multiple years with zero chance of help from corrupted authorities. It could be a young girl who happens to live in a place where early marriage is a normal thing and completely acceptable. She will have no choice and will have to marry an older man to follow tradition or to obey her parents. Or lastly, it might be someone who is born into being a slave through something called a ‘slave’ cast, where they are owned by their masters from the day they are born. Also, slavery is more likely to occur when laws are not followed and corruption is widespread. For example, groups of people who aren’t protected by the law, like foreigners who don’t have their green card or visa.

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To view slavery on a global standpoint, these are the slavery statistics from Across the world, 40.3 million total people are in modern slavery and 10 million children are in modern slavery. In the Asia-Pacific region, 30.4 million people are in mostly bonded labour slavery. In Africa, 9.1 million people are in slavery, and in The Americas, 2.1 million people are in slavery. In developed countries, 1.5 million people are in modern slavery. The number of slavery victims who are exploited in economic activities is 16 million, and the number of people forced into sexual exploitation is 4.8 million. 99 percent of targeted people trafficked for sexual exploitation is females, adults or children. Slavery exploited by governments is 4.1 million. The illegal profits in the United States from forced labour, generates 150 billion per year. In the graphs included, are more statistics to show the modern slavery numbers. According to the first graph,Modern Slavery Is A Brutal Reality, all of the countries with the highest slave numbers are listed. India has a total of 18.40m slaves, China has 3.40m, Pakistan has 2.10m, Bangladesh has 1.50m, Uzbekistan has 1.20m, North Korea has 1.10m, Russia has 1.00m, Nigeria has 0.88m, Indonesia has 0.74m, and Egypt has 0.57m. In the other graph, it shows that there are 71 percent female slaves and 29 percent male slaves. 25 percent were children, and 75 percent were adults. Forced labor exploitation is 16,000,000. Forced marriage is 15,400,000. Forced sexual exploitation is 4,800,000, and state-imposed forced labor is 4,100,000.

On an international note, many people believe that slavery happens in only developing or underdeveloped countries but that’s not the case. In fact, no country is free from modern slavery. Slavery occurs everywhere in many different forms. According to, India has 18.4 million slaves. India has the highest number of slaves compared to the other countries listed below. Modern slavery in India includes forced marriages, usually at early ages, sexual exploitation such as trafficking , bonded labor, and domestic services. In the Indian factories, many of the slaves make products and export goods for other countries around the world. Consequently, everyone is involved. Women, men and children all work many hours a day in very poor conditions. Next, China has 3.4 million slaves. “a CNN report states that, people in China are forced into labor across different industries.”(ibid) Many families that travel to China together get split up eventually. Either by trafficking when they are migrating. Or young boys are sold to other families who are wanting sons, and girls often face forced marriage or sex slavery . In Pakistan, there are 2.1 million slaves. Modern slavery in Pakistan, like India, revolves around debt bondage, or bonded labor. Children and families often have to work 10 hour days while being denied basic rights/laws to protect them. Because they have no protection, these workers face torture and sexual exploitation. Bangladesh has 1.5 million slaves. The slavery in Bangladesh is accounted for by “80 percent forced labor and 20 percent forced marriage”, according to the Global Slavery Index. Bangladesh is vulnerable and is the 11th most vulnerable country in Asia. Uzbekistan has 1.2 million slaves and its the main crop produced there is cotton. When the cotton is growing very rapidly, the government makes people quit their jobs, work on the fields, and harvest the cotton. The government also does not compensate these people. North Korea has 1.1 million slaves. Many people are enslaved here because the government has done little to criminalize it. All ages groups and people are susceptible to forced labor since they are a socialist country. “One in twenty North Koreans is enslaved.”says This country has the highest concentration of forced labor but it doesn’t have a high number of slaves.

Locally, Slavery in Florida still also exists according to this story by Marilyn Perez who was an undocumented Guatemalan woman. She worked on farms picking fruits and vegetables, and became a slave without her even knowing what she was getting into. She took a job at a random truck-farm in Florida. When Perez received barely any payment for her full week of hard work,she went to the person in charge, Reyes Tapia-Ortiz. He shrugged at her and informed her that amount was the going rate for the job, and that she wasn’t allowed to leave. Perez worked 10 through 12 hour shifts, mostly on the fields, but sometimes in the guys house at night, where her employer groped her which is sexual assault. What is worse is that he would threaten her with a gun if she complained. “Organizations like the National Human Trafficking Hotline find that 91 percent of cases of modern-day slavery in the agriculture industry involve foreign nationals, mostly in Florida.” Tapia-Ortiz had threatened to harm his workers for complaining about not being paid or about the little amount. He also forced labor by holding up a gun, he sexually harassed a female worker as stated above, and falsely imprisoned a worker.(Ibid)

To conclude, Modern Slavery is still a prevalent problem today and should be stopped. Some solutions include being informed about the topic. Many people believe that slavery ended in the 1800’s with the Emancipation Proclamation and the 13th amendment, so by being informed and knowing that it never ended, you can help spread the word. You can post on social media and try and spread the message that way or another way is to communicate to many people about it through things like setting up clubs or volunteer organizations talking about slavery . Also, another way is through educating people at the school level. In history class we can discuss more on the the loophole of the 13th amendment and also how slavery in general never ended in many aspects. I believe that slavery is wrong and should not be used especially when it’s the highest then any time in history. In the future, I hope that slavery numbers can go down and better solutions to really make an impact and make change are formed.

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To What Extent Does Slavery Still Exist In The 21st Century? (2022, February 17). Edubirdie. Retrieved November 29, 2022, from
“To What Extent Does Slavery Still Exist In The 21st Century?” Edubirdie, 17 Feb. 2022,
To What Extent Does Slavery Still Exist In The 21st Century? [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 29 Nov. 2022].
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