Thirty million people are slaves, half in India - survey

Thu Oct 17, 2013 4:31am IST

By Timothy Large
    LONDON, Oct 17 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Some 30
million people are enslaved worldwide, trafficked into brothels,
forced into manual labour, victims of debt bondage or even born
into servitude, a global index on modern slavery showed on
Thursday. 
    Almost half are in India, where slavery ranges from bonded
labour in quarries and kilns to commercial sex exploitation, 
although the scourge exists in all 162 countries surveyed by
Walk Free, an Australian-based rights group.
    Its estimate of 29.8 million slaves worldwide is higher than
other attempts to quantify modern slavery. The International
Labour Organisation estimates that almost 21 million people are
victims of forced labour. 
    "Today some people are still being born into hereditary
slavery, a staggering but harsh reality, particularly in parts
of West Africa and South Asia," the report said. 
    "Other victims are captured or kidnapped before being sold
or kept for exploitation, whether through 'marriage', unpaid
labour on fishing boats, or as domestic workers. Others are
tricked and lured into situations they cannot escape, with false
promises of a good job or an education."
    The Global Slavery Index 2013 defines slavery as the
possession or control of people to deny freedom and exploit them
for profit or sex, usually through violence, coercion or
deception. The definition includes indentured servitude, forced
marriage and the abduction of children to serve in wars.
    According to the index, 10 countries alone account for three
quarters of the world's slaves.
    After India, China has the most with 2.9 million, followed
by Pakistan (2.1 million), Nigeria (701,000), Ethiopia
(651,000), Russia (516,000), Thailand (473,000), Democratic
Republic of Congo (462,000), Myanmar (384,000) and Bangladesh
(343,000).
    The index also ranks nations by prevalence of slavery per
head of population. By this measure, Mauritania is worst, with
almost 4 percent of its 3.8 million people enslaved. Estimates
by other organisations put the level at up to 20 percent. 
    Chattel slavery is common in Mauritania, meaning that slave
status is passed down through generations. "Owners" buy, sell,
rent out or give away their slaves as gifts.
    After Mauritania, slavery is most prevalent by population in
Haiti, where a system of child labour known as "restavek"
encourages poor families to send their children to wealthier
acquaintances, where many end up exploited and abused.
    Pakistan, India, Nepal, Moldova, Benin, Ivory Coast, Gambia
and Gabon have the next highest prevalence rates.
    At the other end of the scale, Iceland has the lowest
estimated prevalence with fewer than 100 slaves.
    Next best are Ireland, Britain, New Zealand, Switzerland,
Sweden, Norway, Luxembourg, Finland and Denmark, although
researchers said slave numbers in such wealthy countries were
higher than previously thought.
    "They've been allocating resources against this crime
according to the tiny handful of cases that they've been aware
of," said Kevin Bales, lead researcher and a professor at the
Wilberforce Institute for the Study of Slavery and Emancipation
at Hull University.
    "Our estimates are telling them that the numbers of people
in slavery - whether it's in Great Britain or Finland or
wherever - in these richer countries actually tends to be about
six to 10 times higher than they think it is." 
    Walk Free CEO Nick Grono said the annual index would serve
as an important baseline for governments and activists in the
anti-slavery fight.
    "This kind of data hasn't been out there before," he said.
"It's a multi-year effort, and next year we'll have a much
better picture of where slavery is and what changes there are.
If you can't measure it, you can't devise policy to address it."
    
 Countries with highest absolute numbers of slaves
 Country               Estimated slaves
 India                 13.9 million
 China                 2.9 million
 Pakistan              2.1 million
 Nigeria               701,000
 Ethiopia              651,000
 Russia                516,000
 Thailand              473,000
 D.R. Congo            462,000
 Myanmar               384,000
 Bangladesh            343,000
 Ranking by prevalence of modern slavery per head of population
 Rank  Country            Estimated slaves   Population
 1     Mauritania         151,000            3.8 million
 2     Haiti              209,000            10.2 million
 3     Pakistan           2.1 million        179.2 million
 4     India              13.9 million       1.2 billion
 5     Nepal              259,000            27.5 million
 6     Moldova            33,000             3.6 million
 7     Benin              80,000             10.1 million
 8     Ivory Coast        157,000            19.8 million
 9     Gambia             14,000             1.8 million
 10    Gabon              14,000             1.6 million
 Source: Global Slavery Index 2013, Walk Free
 
 (Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson
Reuters, runs free news services covering humanitarian issues,
human rights, corruption and climate change. Visit
www.trust.org) 

 (Editing by Tom Pfeiffer)
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