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Of the world's 30 million slaves, nearly half are in India

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
November 19th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Tricked into prostitution or forced to do menial work in countries far from home, there are an estimated 30 million people in slavery across the world today. Many are tricked to pay off debt or even worse, are born into servitude. A global index on modern slavery revealed this week that the nation of India leads the world in those who are forced to work against their will.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Slavery in India ranges from bonded labor in quarries and kilns to commercial sex exploitation. It must be noted that slavery still exists in all 162 countries surveyed by Walk Free Foundation, an Australian-based anti-slavery group.

The International labor Organization estimates that almost 21 million people are victims of forced labor. "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.

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"Other victims are captured or kidnapped before being sold or kept for exploitation, whether through 'marriage,' unpaid labor 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."

Slavery is defined by the Global Slavery Index as the possession or control of people to deny freedom and exploit them for profit or sex, usually through violence, coercion or deception. This includes indentured servitude, forced marriage and the abduction of children to serve in wars.

Ten countries alone account for three quarters of the world's slaves.

Nations were also ranked by prevalence of slavery per head of population. By this measure, Mauritania is worst, with almost four percent of its 3.8 million people in chains. Estimates by other organizations 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.

Slavery is most prevalent by population in Haiti, where a system of child labor known as "restavek" encourages poor families to send their children to wealthier acquaintances. Many of these children wind up exploited and abused.

Pakistan, India, Nepal, Moldova, Benin, Ivory Coast, Gambia and Gabon have the next highest prevalence rates.

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. Researchers said slave numbers in developed nations 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," Kevin Bales, lead researcher and a professor at the Wilberforce Institute for the Study of Slavery and Emancipation at Hull University says.

"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."

Countries with highest absolute numbers of 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

Source: Global Slavery Index 2013, Walk Free Foundation

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