William Wilberforce

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Slavery today


New and subtler forms of slavery have arisen since the success of the abolitionists, 200 years ago. Forced labour was used extensively by British, French, Belgian and Portuguese colonists. The Soviet Union and Communist China have used tens of millions of forced labourers.

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 Illegal child labour is widespread throughout India

Today, the International Labour Organisation estimates that at least 12.3 million people are in forced labour, under threat of punishment. Some 9.5 million of them are in Asia and the Pacific; about 6 million are children.

These new forms of slavery include…

  • Debt bondage – where someone takes on work in exchange for a loan, and then has no control over their conditions and pay.
  • Serfdom – where someone is forced to provide labour for their landlord.
  • Unconditional worst forms” of child labour – including military conscription, prostitution and pornography.
  • Trafficking – where workers are smuggled abroad as illegal immigrants, giving them no control over their working conditions.
  • Caste labour – where those born into a certain ethnic group are forced into labour for other ethnic groups.

Anti-slavery International, formed in 1839, continues to campaign against slavery throughout the world today. It works with local organisations who represent forced labourers. It presses national governments to ratify and legislate international agreements on slavery. And it mobilises individuals to campaign politically and economically against slavery.

Find out more about modern forms of slavery, and get involved in acting to end today’s slave trade. Visit the Set All Free website.

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About this module

Read about the life and work of William Wilberforce, who played a key role in the struggle to abolish the slave trade, 200 years ago. 2007 saw the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the British slave trade, which was achieved through the work of Wilberforce and other abolitionists of the time.

These pages were written by Stephen Tomkins.

Categories: Lives, Biographical,

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Module contents

arrow Introduction

arrow Telling the story

arrow The slave trade

arrow Who's who

arrow Slavery today

arrow Quotes

arrow Links

arrow Further reading

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