Sometimes hope is a cliché. A hope to end communism in China, a hope to dethrone Putin are distant dreams.  But it wasn’t a cliché for Eritreans. For the first time in decades, they believed. They believed that their children would come home. The meaningless battle had come to an end. Mothers believed that their sons would come back, the poor hoped that slavery would end, children waited to come out of conscription. But nothing changed, children going into military service did not stop, the abuse and sexual violence of women continued to increase. Freedom to people of Eritrea was still a dream.  

Eritrea is a country with a totalitarian dictatorship. Here freedom comes at the cost of fleeing. Children are dragged into conscription immediately after secondary schools. They are made to work day and night without proper food, wages and shelter. Women are raped, abused and harassed. The weak work as household slaves. Eritrea is a perfect example of modern slavery. When Eritrea signed the peace deal with Ethiopia after two decades of inconsistent war, people believed slavery would end. But the war was never the reason. The war had given rise to an opportunity, an opportunity to prey on the weak. The real war Eritrea fought is not against Ethiopia, but the war which it is fighting against the elite class who thrive from slavery and trafficking. Today we live in a world filled with luxury and modernity. Today we live in the utmost comfort and opportunities. We live with a myopic vision of a perfect world, a perfect world with flying cars and Mars mission. But how many of us know today slavery is higher than any point of time on earth? At any given time there are around 40 million slaves across the world. It means there are around 5.4 victims of modern slavery for every 1,000 people in the world.1 in 4 victims of modern slavery are children.The number is increasing every single day. Slavery can come out in various forms such as Sex trafficking, forced labour, bonded labour, etc. None of these are acceptable and has serious consequences to human lives. It’s not just Eritrea, slavery is prevalent across the world.Henry Louis Gates, the Harvard Chair of African and African American Studies, once said that “without complex business partnerships between African elites and European traders and commercial agents, the slave trade to the New World would have been impossible, at least on the scale it occurred.”As rightly pointed out Africa is still the hotspot of slavery. Fromthe days of “Atlantic slave trade” to 21st century slavery thrived in African countries. The case of Eritrea is much better when compared to Mauritania. This northern African country is the last country to declare slavery illegal in 1981. Rigid caste system and elite class have helped continuing this century old demonic practice in Mauritania. Bonded labour is the most common in Saharan countries as against human trafficking and sex trafficking in Europe. Slaves in Mauritania try to flee from country to refugee camps in Sudan, Libya or Europe only to find themselves in the clutches of tribal kidnappers or other human trafficking rings. The government is reluctant to even talk about this in Public. There is no hope of freedom for slaves in near future in these countries. 

The condition is no better in other parts of the world. In the name of Holy Quran people are made to work as slaves in middle east. There is increasing slavery cases in Brazil and U.S, while no one knows exactly knows what happens inside Kim Jong Un ‘s territory. War ridden Afghanistan and conservative India still harbours a number of slaves. International organisations and NGOs have raised their voice against this horrifying stigma. The first international understanding took place as early as 1926in Geneva.Here anti-slavery laws were coded into 12 articles. Article 4 of the universal declaration of human rights is about ending slavery. There are several other treaties and conventions like the amendment of 1956, Anti-slavery act 2015 etc. Organisations such as human rights watch, amnesty international and anti-slavery international are working round the clock to free slaves from the clutches of this social evil.

Human Trafficking is a type of slavery. But in 21st century this has turned out to be a bigger problem in itself. Human trafficking occurs for various reasons, mostly for sexual abuse. Europe sees highest influx of traffickers from Africa, Asia and Middle East.UNODC’s latest reported indicated that 30% of the victims of trafficking were children. Trafficking has increased globally for various reasons. Increase in illegal sex trade, recruit for terrorist organisations, begging business that thrives in south Asian countries are the major reasons for this to happen. Vulnerability is the main cause for trafficking to happen. Most of the time these acts are committed by people whom we know. Children are lured by money or opportunities while the old are trapped through debts. There are accounts of women from Nigeria being trafficked to European brothels and Afghan children ending up in Iran as slaves. Human trafficking into Europe through Balkan route is another reason for increasing trafficking in European countries. The trend of trafficking differs across continents. In U.S.A the local are at highest risk of trafficking but not so in Europe. 

There are agencies across the world that act against human trafficking. Human trafficking can be considered as the root cause of slavery. In 21st century most of the slavery practises occurs through human trafficking. Putting a brake on trafficking would decrease slavery across the world. Luxurious brothels of Europe loses its charm without its trans -continental prostitutes, the recruitment across the terrorist organisation would no longer continue, life of ransom kidnappers would be miserable. This simply shows the chain of activities that exist from trafficking. Various conventions and treaties have come up overtime to curb this menace. Be it the Hague convention of 1993 or the covenant of civil and political rights 1966 the laws have been structured in best possible manner to end this social evil. World came together again to fight this dangerous evil in “convention against transnational organised crime” (2003). This was particularly held with emphasis on ending this generations-old evil, human trafficking. 

Now coming to the world’s oldest occupation and probably the most taxing socio-legal evil under the sun- Prostitution. The very roots of prostitution are problematic as it is inherently legal. The history of prostitution dates back to as early as the Italian renaissance and Edo-period Japan. Selling sex in a rightful manner under correct circumstances is not a problem. But the real problem lies around the growing sex market. The market filled with ruthless pimps and immoral customers Most cases related to slavery and trafficking is one or the other way connected to prostitution. 78% of female trafficking happens for the sake of prostitution. The biggest concern of all is the ambiguity of prostitution laws across countries. Prostitution is illegal in Thailand, at the same time country has approximately 25000 sex workers and earns annual revenue of 6.4 billion U.S dollars. Most of these brothels run in the name of massaging centers and spa. The police are reluctant to take action as they are bribed heavily. Japan has a different story. The Japanese prostitution laws are so ambiguous that it is almost impossible to find out people who disobey the laws. Japanese laws do allow intercourse with an unspecified person. But law legalizes prostitution excluding vaginal intercourse. Now this needs lot of explanation.  Laws likes these are only going to make the procedure more strained and gives more room for illegal activities. Canada has come out with unique “end demand model” which has failed miserably. This makes selling sex not illegal but buying it. This law which was supposed to save sex workers has put them more at risk. This has made prostitutes socio-economically vulnerable. Like this the complexity of laws filled with social stigma over the profession has made this by far most easy field for illegal activities and economic plundering. Few countries like New Zealand, Austria and Belgium have legalized and also have taken measures to protect prostitution. The proper registration and periodical check on this trade will help in curbing illegal activities that arise out there. Better safeguarding of orphans, check on trafficking and corruption are to be undertaken. These measures would help in curbing the problem of illegal and unsafe prostitution across the world.

In this modern-day it is hard to even imagine such acts being committed. But bitter truth hits us hard. The neighbor’s maid who is working for years might well be a slave. The girl whom you made fun of might be a victim of sexual assault. Human trafficking might have taken place right across your street. These evils are so engulfed with our common life that it becomes hard to separate it out. It is impossible for one to go in search of persons who are responsible and to take them down, or to accept the most sought of answer that is “enlightening people through education”. It is important to note that many times it is the educated ones who are involved in these practices. Education won’t change our moral compass. The most vital thing here is to impart knowledge of humanity and discourage the caste system.  Younger generations should be made to understand that each and every human life is equally important. International organisations should strive to make nations bring progress in this area. In this current scenario, the nations should come together to guide children. The youth must be directed towards right direction. They should know, the value of a women is much more than giving birth and raising children. They should know caste doesn’t make a man successful but his hard work and perseverance alone will. These are the things that are essential to put an end to these global problems. These practices cannot be stopped overnight, but right guidance and knowledge to the coming generations will give us a bright hope that someday it will.  

About the author

Nilesh Beliraya K is from Chanakya National law university, Patna. Currently pursuing 2nd semester of BBA LLB (HONS). He is a native of Mangalore, Karnataka. His hobbies vary from freelance writing to long-distance running. Once a national level athlete, he now takes great pleasure in analyzing sports closely. Sports law and human rights law delight him the most. Human rights in sports law is a field he would love to specialize in. He is an avid traveler and debater with a great love for food.  

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