In the past year, an estimated 40 million people were victims of modern slavery, according to a report published last week by The Walk Free Foundation, International Labour Organization, and International Organization for Migration. The report estimates that of these 40 million individuals 71% of those enslaved are women.
According to the Global Estimates of Modern Slavery report, Africa, Asia, and the Pacific have the highest rates of slavery worldwide. In the past five years alone, 89 million people were forced to endure practices relating to modern slavery. Modern slavery occurs when individuals are forced to engage in practices such as forced labor, forced marriage, domestic servitude, sex trafficking, and child labor.
Women and girls are disproportionately impacted by modern slavery. Women make up the majority of those enslaved for the purposes of sexual exploitation, labor exploitation, and forced marriage. Men and boys comprise the majority of those who experience state-imposed forced labor.
Of those who were victims of forced marriage within the last year, 84.2 percent were women and girls. Nearly one third of this percentage is made up of girls under the age of eighteen. Forced marriage often involves a loss of sexual freedom and forced-labor imposed upon those who are enslaved. In 2016, an estimated 15.4 million people were facing situations involving forced marriage. Since it is still difficult to measure the exact number of individuals forced into marriage, this report emphasizes that this is a conservative estimate.
99.4 percent of people forced into sexual exploitation are women and girls. An estimated 4.8 million people were victims of involuntary sexual exploitation in 2016. The studies of sexual exploitation include both adults and children who have been forced to take part in commercial sexual exploitation, as well as those who have entered into it freely and are forced to stay.
According to Andrew Forrest of the Walk Free Foundation, “We now have the largest number of slaves on Earth than we’ve had in human history.” Modern slavery takes many forms, and Forrest emphasizes the importance of educating the public about the existence and prevalence of enslavement happening on a global scale.
These estimates have prompted further consideration of methods to reduce the number of individuals experiencing modern slavery. The Global Estimates report outlines three primary steps that aim to end modern slavery and human trafficking by 2030.
In addition to reducing the number of individuals who are currently enslaved, implementing methods of prevention is key to achieving this goal. The report emphasizes the importance of protecting vulnerable populations who are most likely to enter into modern slavery. Methods of gathering data about these vulnerable populations remains difficult. However, the collaboration between countries may be the most effective way to curb the epidemic.
While there are still many barriers to overcome before slavery becomes a thing of the past, Forrest states, “There’s real hope in the world that slavery can come to an end with the united action of business and government.”
Media Sources: Independent 9/19/17, Los Angeles Times 9/19/17, Thompson Reuters Foundation 9/19/17, Global Estimates of Modern Slavery 2017