Suppose you are caged. Imagine you work the whole day but could hardly manage a single square meal in a day. Abused, physically and mentally, beaten up, no friends, no dignity while you die in desolation and nobody cares. Immediately the image of ancient Rome, slavery, bonded labor and the building of Rome by Romulus will hit your imagination.
You may recollect the particular scene from the movie ‘Ben-Hur’ where those unfortunate men were whipped to row boat fast, to faster and faster as the beating of drums escalates… Similarly, true to the scene, the world around is also moving fast, changing faster and we are becoming swift too. The mechanism and vicious cycle of breeding poor in numbers has too become faster than earlier. Everything is changing fast, improving, but the condition of the people .
In French filmmaker Pasolini’s words “…the laborer becomes a beggar, the Napolitan a Calabrese, the Calabrese an African, the illiterate a buffalo or dog…” as we grow. The Global Slavery Index, released by the Australian-based Walk-Free Foundation, that investigated 162 countries, was shocked as it discovered slaves in every single one and further clarifies that, approximately 30 million people across the globe live as modern-day slaves. Many are forced into being child brides, child soldiers, prostitutes, or laborers.
Mauritania topped the list with about 151,000 people enslaved, that counts for almost four percent of its population of 3.8 million. Child marriage and chattel slavery are the two most common types of slavery in the country. Haiti ranks second with 209,000 slaves. Pakistan follows with 2.1 million enslaved.
Forced labor, debt bondages, forced marriage, and child exploitation are the most common threats in both countries. India comes fourth on the list with up to 14.7 million people, which accounts for almost half of the world’s slaves. China, India, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Russia, Thailand, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Myanmar, Mauritania, and Bangladesh, these ten countries altogether contribute three-quarters of the total world slave population. The scenario in the middle-east is far worse.
In another recent investigation into slavery, published by The Guardian last month, it revealed that one construction worker a day dies while Qatar builds facilities for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Qatar, along with other Gulf nations, uses the so-called “kafala” system, under which each foreign worker hired in the country needs a sponsor – usually their employer. Without the permission from the sponsor one cannot enter or leave the country, or change jobs. Thus the system essentially leaves migrant workers at the mercy of their employers, who withhold documents and refuse to pay wages in many cases.
In such cases the workers are then stranded and become exploited, abused, and forced to work long hours in hazardous conditions which translates into slavery and bonded labor. It would be awkward to know that in the post-enlightenment modern world slavery can still be hereditary; as the report says “Today, some people are still being born into hereditary slavery, a staggering but harsh reality, particularly in parts of West Africa and South Asia.” “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,” the survey continues. The issue of slavery undoubtedly questions the human essence. It questions our faith, belief, religion, rule of law, government policies and political and social stability.
It is our virtues and values that will be in the dock if we being a human civilization are scared to ask… “Yes, how many years can some people exist Before they’re allowed to be free? Yes, how many times can a man turn his head Pretending he just doesn’t see? “