The inaugural Global Slavery Index by Walk Free revealed that there are more slaves than previous estimates suggested.
Attend any human trafficking awareness conference around the world and you’ll hear the number 27 million. I heard it in Los Angeles, in Manila, in Bangkok, in Chittagong, in Delhi, in Phnom Penh and in many other cities. The number is so associated with the movement to end modern-day slavery that activists where t-shirts that simply read 27 Million. It’s the number cited most often by grassroots NGOs all the way up to the United Nations. It’s the number cited most often by the US State Department. But that number, despite years of outstanding, life-changing efforts by groups like Free the Slaves and the Somaly Mam Foundation, was still perhaps 2 million too short.
Yesterday was the release of the highly anticipated Global Slavery Index by the Walk Free Foundation. For months, workers on the ground have speculated about what the results would be. Higher than expected? Lower because of the global anti-slavery movement? Their findings: there are now 29 million people living in slavery.
The report ranked 162 countries according to three broad categories that encompassed forms of slavery such as debt bondage, sex trafficking, forced labor and mandated marriages. That last bit has received mixed reviews from people in the anti-slavery sector. While some believe it absolutely must be recorded in order to capture an accurate estimate, others believe there are/can be mandated marriages free of slavery.
Regardless, the new report forever sets a precedent for the way we’ll be able to record, monitor and evaluate the true nature of slavery and our efforts to combat it. Although the Global Slavery Index has received glowing endorsements from big names like Hillary Clinton and Bill Gates, it’s bound to improve upon itself with each passing year. In short, we’ve got a new way to measure slavery and it’s significantly better than what we had before.
“It would be comforting to think that slavery is a relic of history, but it remains a scar on humanity on every continent,” Walk Free CEO Nick Grono said in a statement provided to The Huffington Post.
The reason slavery so often feels like history is because we rarely see it head on. Slavery often resides in places we fail to see or don’t want to see, like the stories woven into the fabric of our clothes or embedded in our grocery receipts.
–Photo: Lärarnas Nyheter/Flickr