There are more people enslaved now than over four centuries of slave-trading. Little wonder as it generates 25 times the profits made two centuries ago. We must act to end this trade in misery

It is a terrible and cautionary tale. A young British woman gets duped into a modelling assignment in Milan and is then kidnapped by a gang who it is claimed wanted to auction her to the highest bidder for sex. Behind the tabloid headlines appears a sobering reminder that slavery has not gone away. This appears a case of an attempted trafficking of a UK citizen for sexual exploitation. It is also not a typical story of modern day slavery. Today’s slave tales are about the subjugation of vulnerable, often poor, people who lack basic protections afforded by a functioning legal system. Despite being outlawed in almost every nation, slavery remains a business – and the business of slavery is thriving. It is estimated that between 21 million and 46 million people are enslaved around the world. By comparison about 13 million people were captured and sold as slaves by professional traders between the 15th and 19th centuries.

Slaves today are those coerced to work or to sell their bodies or to part with their organs. They are not strictly chattel or property. Their freedom is constrained. They can be said to be effectively “owned” by an employer and treated as a commodity. They can be construction workers in the Persian Gulf, girls from Nepal trafficked into prostitution in India, or fishermen on Thai ships. Many are young children. Prostitution rings are a form of slavery. Slavery is found in homes, even in the UK, that employ domestic workers.

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