Global Slavery and the Long Line at the Grocery Store

When most Americans think of slavery, their minds almost immediately revert to the Civil War and the antebellum South. Slavery is a vestige of the past to us. However, as the 2013 Global Slavery Index sadly shows, slavery is still very real to people all over the world.

There are nearly 30 million people that are "modern slaves." Your first, and fair, question should be: "what is modern slavery?"

Slavery is the possession and control of a person in such a way as to significantly deprive that person of his or her individual liberty, with the intent of exploiting that person through their use, management, profit, transfer or disposal. Usually this exercise will be achieved through means such as violence or threats of violence, deception and/or coercion.

The list of the most prevalent modern slavery states will not surprise you -- assuming you know a pinch about world geography (links to the lesser known countries):

1. Mauritania 2. Haiti 3. Pakistan 4. India 5. Nepal 6. Moldova 7. Benin 8. Ivory Coast 9. Gambia 10. Gabon

And then there are those countries which, in sheer numbers, account for 76 percent of 30 million enslaved. Again, you will not be surprised:

1. India 2. China 3. Pakistan 4. Nigeria 5. Ethiopia 6. Russia 7. Thailand 8. Democratic Republic of Congo 9. Myanmar 10. Bangladesh

As one can see, West/Central Africa and South Asia seem to be overrepresented in this list, in good part because they still have hereditary slavery in some of these countries. In 2013.

As the report notes:

Modern slavery can involve using children in the military, whether as combatants, porters, cooks or for other jobs. The chains of modern slavery are not always physical - sometimes escalating debts, intimidation, deception, isolation, fear or even a 'marriage' that is forced on a young woman or girl without her consent can be used to hold a person against their will without the need for locks or chains

What are the main indices that correlate with modern slavery: corruption (lack of the rule of law), low Human Development Index rank and low GDP. And, in case you were wondering, the United States ranks 134 out of 160 -- in this case, a low ranking is a good thing (the reason we are not ranked "lower" is because the U.S. is a major destination country for modern slaves).

I'm not trying to be a scold, but the next time you (and I) get frustrated because our iPhone isn't in stock, or the Internet is running too slow, or the line at the grocery is so goddamn long, we might stop and think about the wider world out there. Otherdirectedness, give it a try.

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