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April 7, 2008 | by  | in Opinion | [ssba]

I’m a Slave for You

Slave: a person who is the legal property of another and is forced to obey them. While most people think of slaves as historical figures, slavery defines the situation of 27 million people alive in the world today. As unlikely as it sounds more men, women and children live in slavery today than at any other time in the world’s history.

What makes this fact so much more perverse is that we are all inadvertently supporting modern day slavery. It is an elephant in the room that we have some how hitherto failed to notice. Maybe it’s because an elephant in chains and shackles doesn’t warrant our attention: it’s not like it’s in any position to threaten us. Or because slavery has become an effective shapeshifter, easily able to hide in any product or service imaginable.

With this new diabolical power, chains and shackles have largely been relinquished to the history books as slavery has diversified into many terrifying forms. Some types of slavery that exist today include: Bonded Labour –Hard work in exchange for a loan of either money or resources. Interest is often hugely inflated with workers being tricked into loans or having no other option. Contracts are rare.

Trafficking –After being lured far from their home by the promise of a better life, violence, threats and deception are used to force people to work in conditions of slavery.

Child Slaves –Children are removed form their familiar surroundings and are left totally at the mercy of slave keepers, often considered a far more atrocious form of slavery as children are more vulnerable to abuse.

Forced Labour –Individuals are forced to work against their will under threat of violence or other punishment, with a restriction on their freedom and a degree of ownership exerted over them. Marriage as Slavery –Girls as young as ten are married without choice and are unable to give informed consent, then forced into lives of domestic servitude and often violence. Traditional Slavery –People are abducted and sold. Even among slaves who have managed to become free and earn money, a tribute must often be made to their former master.

With so many types of slavery in existence an unfortunate truth is that the products we use and consume everyday may contain slave labour; we reap the spoils of the slave trade. Slavery in agriculture means that much of what we eat and drink could contain slave produced inputs. Your home could be constructed from bricks moulded and fired by slaves and your carpet weaved by slave hands. Even in your recreation you could be unintentionally using slave made sporting goods. Nothing is safe from suspicion.

On 23 August 2007 a petition of 17,000 signatures was presented to Dianne Yates – Chair of the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade – with the hope it will result in the banning of the importation of products known to contain slavery in their supply chain. The petition now moves through the parliamentary process but the issue can use all the help it can get. Show your support by writing to parties, Members of Parliament, Ministers and the Prime Minister to ask for their support during this process to help make New Zealand slavery-free.

For further information on the campaign and on modern slavery check out the Get Involved page on the trade aid website,


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