Abolition of slavery a difficult task, tied up with traditions

02Dec 2018
Dar es Salaam
The Guardian
Abolition of slavery a difficult task, tied up with traditions

TANZANIANS today join other nations around the world to mark the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery, a yearly event on December 2 as set out by the United Nations General Assembly, and was marked for the first time in 1986.

It is linked with the International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its abolition, which refers to the Atlantic Slave Trade that lasted roughly from 1515 to 1850 when abolishment was largely completed. 


Slavery is a more complex relationship usually based on tradition, where it is inheriting debt, or status that counts.

An authoritative write up says that slavery is not merely a historical relic as according to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) more than 40 million people worldwide are victims of modern slavery.

Although modern slavery is not defined in law, it is used as an umbrella term covering practices such as forced labour, debt bondage, forced marriage and human trafficking, all of which are prevalent in the majority of countries that are not yet industrialized.

The write up says that essentially, it refers to situations of exploitation that a person cannot refuse or leave, on account of threats, violence, social or economic coercion, acts of deception, and abuse of power.

The ILO says that more than 150 million children are subject to child labour, which means that one in ten children around the world are subjected to labor for a living, doing heavy work that is not suitable for the fragile body of a child.

It is a situation where the parents are either absent or there is nothing they can do about it, or irresponsible family structures with clear weaknesses like habitual drunkenness or other impediments to family welfare, rely on children for their upkeep. In many cases, customs or traditions help household heads in such situations, that we see as fate.

When it comes to putting figures on the ground, it is estimated 40.3 million people live in modern slavery, including 24.9 in forced labour and 15.4 million in forced marriage situations.

There are slightly above five individuals victims of modern slavery for every 1,000 people in the world, but the concentration is not even, certain zones like South Asia in part and West Africa for certain other purposes likely to constitute the bulk of structured modern slavery.

Similarly, children form a quarter of the total population of modern slaves, with variations of working under duress differing from one environment to another.

Sexual slavery for instance is different from prostitution in the sense that the victim lives in a captured life, a state of fear, often a migrant without identification papers, or stashed somewhere by captors, fake employers.

There are also large numbers of people, estimated at four million people living in forced labour imposed by state authorities, where the key is correctional labor camps, while many experts do not count properly convicted individuals enlisted in heavy labour as modern slaves.

And just to underline the fact that international consensus on the issue is problematic, the ILO just adopted a binding protocol designed to strengthen global efforts to eliminate forced labour, which entered into force in November 2016.

Quite close to us, a Korean factory in Morogoro that was paying low minimum wages was barred from exporting its cotton fabrics to the United States under the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) mid 1990s. Too low wages is akin to proto-slavery.



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