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Modern Slavery: Legal in about Half of the World’s Nations

The U.S. abolished slavery in 1865, but that doesn’t mean it simply stopped worldwide.

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For thousands of years, slavery has been an evil that spread across the world. Now, many believe that the practice has been abolished in most nations. But a recent research by the University of Nottingham’s Rights Lab shows that slavery is still prevalent in a surprisingly large number of nations. In fact, many countries do not have laws that prohibit citizens from owning people and forcing them to perform unpaid work.

Slavery Is Legal in Half of the World’s Nations

In the majority of Western nations, it is a crime to force a person to work without being paid. The law punishes those who enslave other people and deterrents are in place to stop the trafficking of human beings. According to a Nottingham University researcher, however, slavery is legal in about half of the countries in the world. This means that potentially millions of people across the globe are not free to live their lives as they see fit because that nation’s government will not punish those who seek to keep them in bondage.

The researcher and lecturer, Katarina Schwarz,  said: “It will surprise many people to learn that in all of these countries there are no criminal laws in place to prosecute, convict and punish people for subjecting people to the most extreme forms of exploitation.”

The research finds that 94 countries have not implemented laws forbidding slavery. This number accounts for almost half of the states that are a part of the United Nations. According to the International Labour Organization, over 40 million people are forced to be slaves; the actual number is likely to be far higher. Since the civil war in Libya in 2014, open-air slave markets have made a comeback, with many Christians and Yazidi Muslims being sold to the highest bidder. While most of these victims are in Middle Eastern and African countries, there are also plenty who are being covertly enslaved in Western nations that already have laws against the practice.

According to the U.S. State Department, almost a million individuals are trafficked across borders each year, with victims made up of around 70% women and girls, and up to 50% minors.

Slavery in America

Many Americans mistakenly believe that modern slavery only takes place in other countries, but this is not true. Many victims are trafficked over the southern U.S. border by cartels and other criminal gangs. In fact, in the state of Texas alone, about 300,000 people have been kidnapped and sold into slavery.

The Walk Free Foundation estimated that in 2018, the U.S. was home to 403,000 individuals who were slaves or in slave-like conditions. The United Kingdom reportedly has 136,000. A large number of these victims are forced to work in factories, agricultural industries, drug farming, and the sex trade.

The United States government is working to find and arrest those in the country who enslave others. In 2016, federal authorities captured almost 2,000 people who were trafficking people over the southern border in order to put them under forced labor conditions. There is still much work to be done.

Jeff Charles

Race Relations & Media Affairs Correspondent at and A self-confessed news and political junkie, Jeff’s writing has been featured in Small Business Trends, Business2Community, and The Huffington Post. Born in Southern California and having experienced the 1992 L.A. Riots up close and personal, Jeff’s insights are informed by his experiences as a black man and a conservative.

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