Date: May 2, 2019
Category: Law Essay
Modern Slavers: The Evil of Human Bondage

Abstract

This study examines the notions, history, and types of such burning issues in criminal justice today as slavery, human trafficking, and debt bondage. It analyzes statistics to find a link between age groups and gender and trafficking victims, forms of exploitation and victims by region, the direction between trafficking flow and the countries’ welfare.

The questions about slavery, its manifestation and practices; human trafficking and its types; as well as debt bondage and its history shape a hypothesis of this research work. Methods used during the research include analysis of secondary sources, comparing, summarizing, and drawing own conclusions. The results of this research paper demonstrate studies conducted by different scholars on the topic of slavery, its manifestations, types of human trafficking, debt bondage, and relevant solid statistics collected over the recent years.

Keywords: slavery, debt bondage, human trafficking, servitude, forced labor, sex trafficking, debt slavery.

 

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Nowadays, despite all measures taken to eradicate the problem of slavery and to reduce the rate of human trafficking, modern society experiences the ongoing problem that needs to be addressed. This paper examines the issue of modern slavery and debt bondage from the perspective of their history and classification and may serve as a summary of scientific sources concerning the topic. Furthermore, it investigates basic types of human trafficking with regard to its regional dispersal. Previous research has suggested that although people, governments, and police are well aware of the current situation, some further plans should be devised and public attention should be attracted to tackle the problem.

Slavery emphasizes the practice of keeping slaves, which presupposes complete ownership when one person is owned as property by another and remains under the absolute control of a master. It can be compared to the involuntary servitude which is a type of compulsory service, often required by legal punishment. As Davis (2014) points out, slaves lived like domestic animals, “ their only reason for existence was to perform labor for their white owners in exchange for care and feeding.” Moreover, slaves could be bought, sold, traded, leased, inherited, included in a dowry, gambled, or lost as debt.

Human trafficking or trafficking in persons is the illegal practice of obtaining, holding, or trading human beings in compelled service for the purpose of different forms of exploitation, most likely prostitution, forced labor, or the extraction of organs or tissues, including illegal actions of surrogacy and ovary removal. Under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), individuals are victims of trafficking if they once voluntarily agreed, directly participated in a crime while being trafficked, were transported into the coerced labor, or were simply born in the enslaved family. This term does not convey any movement because at the center of the trafficking phenomenon there are numerous kinds of enslavement and not only different activities connected with international transportation. Currently, trafficking is a profitable industry, as some criminals earn good money on other people’s sufferings.

The term “bondage” stands for a state of subordination or captivity, involving heavy, humiliating, frequently underpaid, or even free work. However, the debt bondage, also called debt slavery, peonage, or bonded labor, means people's pledge of their labor or services as reimbursement for a loan or other obligation. The services may be undefined in size and time and, more importantly, may even be passed on from one generation to another.

Slavery

Slavery Starting in the Bible

It might seem astonishing to many people that the Holy Bible comprises several references to slavery which was a common practice throughout biblical times. The unfair treatment of slaves is frequently referred to in the Old Testament. Besides, there are also references to slavery in the New Testament and Mosaic Law. For example, after the Israelites had fled Egypt, they were given the Mosaic Law, which allowed them to make slaves of Hebrews and foreigners. Anyway, one should keep in mind that the slavery that sanctioned in the Bible is different from the slavery that occurred in America in the 17th and 18th centuries. The treatment of slaves described in the Old Testament was far more humane than the slavery practiced in other ancient civilizations.

On the one hand, the Bible neither criticizes slavery practices nor tries to stop them, but condemns the abuse of slaves and forced enslavement. On the other hand, it is full of teachings on the manner in which slaves should be treated in both Old and New Testaments. The problem lies in the fact that the Bible’s meaning can often be distorted, especially when reading in fragments. For example, the advocates of slavery cite several lines from the Holy Bible and regard it as a moral justification of slavery.

Slavery Starting in the World

Meager (2007) suggests that slavery used to be a common practice in many ancient societies such as Egypt, China, and the Middle East. The vast majority of the slaves appeared because of wars, kidnapping, or the necessity to pay debts. In antiquity there existed various practices on how to handle the enslaved people but, in most cases, slaves were under full control of the master; thus, they had little or no rights or status. It indicated that many people were treated harshly, although most ancient societies had some laws to regulate slavery, such as the Babylonian Code of Hammurabi (1750 BC).

Unfortunately, at present slavery belongs to the urgent issues that humanity still needs to tackle. UNODC (2014) emphasizes that the modern world is still far from eradicating slavery. It is a shame that slavery, which is a relic of the past, still exists not only in developing or poor countries such as Ethiopia, Pakistan, Nigeria, Thailand, Congo, Bangladesh, and many others but also in advanced democratic nations.

Practices Similar to Slavery

Davis (2014) in his book The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Emancipation distinguishes such meanings of slavery and emancipation as dehumanization, animalization, and free soil. These notions convey the message that in some severe cases like, for instance, in the post-emancipation lynching era, “ blacks who were treated like animals were literally seen as “ only animals,” or as an entirely different species from humans”. However, degradation and insult are reinforced day by day when people call one another pigs, swine, or apes. Dehumanization has been a major aspect of slavery starting from ancient times. Thus, the problem of slavery includes the impossibility of converting human beings into “ totally compliant, submissive chattel property”. The scholar argues that animalization and genocide or ethnic cleansing have many links throughout history and mentions the example of Nazi policy against Jews. The victims must be dehumanized, which involves the projection on victims or enslaved groups of “ an exaggerated version of the so-called animal traits that all humans share and often fear and repress”.

Human Trafficking

The Notion of Human Trafficking

The situation when one person exploits another for the purpose of trade of human beings is widely regarded as a crime committed by people without any good moral principles. Notwithstanding any laws or moral values, trafficking in persons remains too common, with too few perpetrators being justly punished. The overwhelming majority of detected trafficking victims suffered from sexual exploitation. However, in recent years, there has been an increased number of those trafficked for forced labor.

The US government regards human trafficking as an illegal activity committed by the members of criminal organizations engaged in sexual abuse and forced labor, especially when the gang of smugglers keeps victims against their will in coerced servitude. As mentioned earlier, according to the U.S. Department of State (n.d.), under the TVPA and Palermo Protocol, people are considered trafficking victims in the case they agreed, directly participated in a crime while being trafficked, were forced or deceived into the abusive conditions, or were simply born in the enslaved family.

According to statistical data gathered in 2011, victims of trafficking in persons are detected by age groups and gender. Women comprise virtually a half, namely 49% of victims while boys constitute the smallest percentage which is 12%.

The United Nations states that despite progress in eliminating human trafficking issue has been achieved over the past decade, convictions remain low in many countries. Moreover, people, especially children, continue to be particularly unstable to such a treacherous trade.

It is possible to find and analyze connections between certain forms of exploitation among detected trafficking defenseless victims, by region of detection (see Fig. 1 for a more detailed description).

Law essay

Figure 1. Forms of exploitation among detected trafficking defenseless victims, by region of detection (UNODC, 2014).

 

Different Types of Trafficking

Human trafficking can be generally categorized into the following types:

  • Sex trafficking, which included child sex trafficking;
  • Forced labor;
  • Organ removal;
  • Domestic servitude;
  • People smuggling;
  • Other types.

Sex trafficking is a prevalent form of trafficking. It implies that women and children from developing countries are coerced or lured by great job opportunities into leaving their homes and traveling to foreign countries. They end up in a desperate position as they are alone in unfamiliar surroundings, helpless with fear, stripped of money, and out of touch with their relatives. The individual involved in prostitution involuntarily is called a victim of trafficking in persons. Other people who had anyhow participated in finding, delivering, hiding, receiving, or keeping the person for that purpose commit a crime of trafficking. It is crucial for understanding that an individual’s initial agreement on prostitution is not a major legal determinant. In case someone encountered shortly afterward any kind of psychological influence, machination, or violence, this individual becomes a victim and is entitled to obtain the compensation stated in the Palermo Protocol and corresponding legislation.

Forced labor is a widespread type of trafficking with victims coming primarily from developing countries. Also referred to as involuntary servitude, it may lead to a situation when fraudulent employers try to frighten the laborers by exaggerating high rates of unemployment, crime, poverty, racial bias, corruption, or political conflicts. Typically, immigrants are more susceptible to such tricks, but local residents may also be deceived into labor in their native countries. Women and girls who became victims of forced labor often fell under domestic servitude and tend to be sexually exploited.

Using removed organs, particularly kidneys, is a rapidly growing sphere of criminal activities. In many countries, people wait a lengthy period of time to receive transplants. The black trade industry takes advantage of the patients’ despair and grief to earn money by finding potential donors. Victims of trafficking risk their lives as operations may be dangerous because they are often performed in clandestine conditions without proper medical facilities. Largely due to the high incidence of diabetes, respiratory infections, heart conditions, lung diseases, cancer, kidney failure, and many other illnesses, as well as due to the polluted environment and not qualitative food, numerous thriving countries are likely to increase the requirement for organ transplants and make this crime even more lucrative.

Domestic servitude involves a separate kind of slave labor, which includes various services of domestic workers without prior consent. They usually have an informal work in the vicinity of their dwelling house, which they most probably will share together with fellow workers. Under such isolated circumstances, domestic workers surrender to unacceptable exploitation, which happens due to the fact that authorities cannot police private property on a regular basis. Moreover, multiple cases of neglected health conditions, serious illnesses, and common sexual exploitation are often reported. At present, international organizations try to find a sensible solution to ensure that official punishment will come into force and serve as a deterrent to those criminals who keep innocent people in domestic captivity against their will.

The issue of people smuggling is closely related to trafficking in human beings and it has received much publicity in the Mediterranean region only in the last few months. This territory was chosen because, apparently, organized criminal networks are trying to use the humanitarian crisis to gain financial resources.

Countries Affected by Human Trafficking

More than 90% of countries have legislation which is to punish human trafficking since the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, under the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, came into force more than a decade ago.

However, almost every single state in every region of the world has been already affected by the crime of trafficking in persons. Statistics show that between 2010 and 2012, victims with 152 different citizenships were identified in 124 countries around the globe. Furthermore, there was a minimum of 510 trafficking flows identified. Trafficking flows signify imaginary lines joining the origin and destination countries of at least five detected victims.

International trafficking flows are preferably targeted on the rich countries of the Middle East, Western Europe, and North America. Statistics show a strong correlation between the economic welfare and prosperity defined with the help of the gross domestic product rate of the target country and the percentage of victims trafficked there from other regions. Richer countries attract victims from a variety of origins whereas less well-off countries are mainly influenced by domestic or subregional trafficking flows.

Debt Bondage

The Notion of Debt Bondage

Jaynes (2015) in the article Debt slavery describes debt bondage as “a state of indebtedness to landowners or merchant employers” that provides them with a cheap workforce. He defines the term “sharecropping” and argues that the system of debt bondage did not bring significant improvements. This notion is often called a bonded labor as it indicates one of the kinds of compulsion connected to the debt, or bond in other words. The American law has for a long time prohibited this violent practice. The Palermo Protocol obliges for the criminalization of debt bondage as a type of human trafficking.

There arises a question in which way traffickers and recruiters organize debt bondage. They do not clarify all working facilities and make workers think that everything is well catered for. Later, it turns out that the victims are subject to unfair exploitation as facilities provided were not included in the employment terms. In addition, laborers may inherit debt from past generations in a more traditional system of debt bondage.

It is important to mention that debt servitude is quite typical among migrant workers. Sometimes, they might face contract abuse and dangerous working conditions. It can become even worse if there is a connection between an employer and a laborer in terms of temporary work programs. Moreover, the situation may even become worse if there is no alternative compensation for abuse.

History of Debt Bondage

The world history is riddled with examples of debt slavery, servitude, and other manifestations of forced labor. When the American Civil War ended and slavery was abolished, many blacks and some whites in the rural regions earned money by renting land from rich white landowners in exchange of giving a part of their harvest to them. Such a method was termed as sharecropping. People were supplied with land, seeds, working tools, clothing, and food provision, but they had to pay a certain amount of crops they gathered. It exacerbated the problem with debt servitude, particularly in the cases when harvests were not good or during the periods of low prices. As the blacks were dependent on the landowners, they were not allowed to leave the landowner’s property until the debt was compensated.

At that time, African Americans had little choice because of racial practices existing in society and slavery. Banks did not lend any financial resources; therefore, sharecroppers made significant efforts to eliminate their debt and become free by finding alternative methods of income, such as selling vegetables, eggs, and other homemade production. While in debt, a farmer could try to pay with the next season harvest, work for a different landowner but completely compensate the debt, or opt for an escape in search of better living conditions.

 

Immediately following the Civil War, financially distressed landowners could rent land to African American sharecroppers, secure their debt and work, and then drive them away just before it was time to harvest the crops as the laws anyway would be on their side. Judging the advantages and disadvantages of sharecropping, it is important to admit that it provided more autonomy than did slavery for the blacks. Another important positive factor is that such a system enabled to save families as a child would not be sold or work in another place. Despite this fact, the disadvantages were more significant compared with poverty and various difficulties aroused by debt slavery. The system of debt servitude existed in the South until World War II, when it gradually disappeared as the mechanization of farming came into effect.

In the process of writing this research paper on the topic of actual issues in criminal justice, viewpoints by different scientists who conducted their studies on the same topic were analyzed. It is important to note that currently, there is a growing concern regarding the issues of slavery, human trafficking, and debt bondage. These terms have different definitions and classification, but the main problem is applicable to all of them. The problem is that such illegal actions humiliate innocent people and prevent them from establishing equality and well-being for all people.

All countries try to ensure safety and freedom to the population. However, it is a matter of utmost importance to begin this process by examining the ways in which robust criminal justice responses could lead to absolute elimination of such illegal and immoral practices as slavery, trafficking in human beings, and debt servitude since many criminals still think that it is a high-profit activity with minimum risks involved.

In summary, the notions analyzed in this work should sooner or later be eradicated for the sake of humanity, democracy, and morality. It may definitely take time for vast changes to be performed, but it deserves public attention as it is related to all people, not to a single individual.