How Slavery shaped the history of human exploitation?

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The history of slavery is extremely tragic and full of cruelty, a topic hard enough to comprehend. It is believed that slavery among humanity is as old as 11,000 years, but only a chunk of the era is evidently present to us. The topic of slavery becomes even more terrible when we talk about the trauma and psychological effects of the business, especially the long-running reign of slavery among the Africans. The Slave trade of Africans finds its roots since the beginning of medieval slavery. 

Slavery or enslavement was a brutal yet thriving business of the bygone era. Astonishingly, in 2019, about forty million people, including ten million children, were enslaved throughout the world despite it being illegal. Be it domestic servants, forced labour, or even child soldiers, the practice of slavery is everywhere around us. But how did humans first started exploiting their fellow members? Let’s find that out.

History of Slavery And The Aftermath That Follows

Remembering slavery from ancient times, it usually was the result of debt, child kidnapping, or birth in the family of slaves. Though slaves were everywhere yet there was no such word as the slave trade and global trading business. Slaves typically served the society they hail from. Fascinatingly, if we compare slavery of today to then, a lot of difference is visible. Those times were neither harsh nor cruel; in fact, slaves seek out buyers as if it was their only occupation to earn a livelihood. Even the buyers provided them with shelter, clothes, and food, unlike in the 18th century. Additionally, slaves never attempt to run away as well.

The business of slavery drastically changed during the American Revolution when slaves were traded from Africa to America. It was this time when slavery experienced widespread and global trade. People were traded illegally from one place to another. While Americans enjoyed slavery from Africa, European slaves became wildly popular among Muslim nations. Slave treatment became much more vile and awful, they were not fed properly nor were given any clothing according to the weather and forced to work in dreadful conditions. In China, some record reveals that the Tang Dynasty purchased several European and Jewish slaves. The documents from the Royal African Slave Company show that the slave trade was a booming market among the British colonies and a large sect of people were traded from different countries. Perhaps, it was this time when the seed of racial discrimination was sown in the history of world racism. African slavery is the major cause of black racism in America. Additionally, evidence also suggests that the sharp decline of servants put a halt on the practice yet slavery did not end with its abolition in the 19th century but instead thrived.

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Slavery in Modern Times

Slavery today has changed its form and continues to harm people throughout the world. Modern slavery is covered with blood, dirt, and screams of the innocent. With the advent of transnational organized crimes, slavery has transformed into a much bizarre, complex, and intertwined with several other illegal markets. The world population grows every year, and so does the volume of exchanges among people. The vast majority of these exchanges are not legitimate and certainly neither beneficial. Whether women forced into prostitution, men being worked continuously in life-threatening conditions, or children being sold every now and then, slavery is a parasite sucking humanity drastically. There are an estimated 40.3 million people in modern slavery around the world including 10 million children, 24.9 million people in forced labour, 15.4 million people in forced marriage, and 4.8 million people in forced sexual exploitation. Most of these people hail from marginalized societies and are much more likely to get trapped again.

Democracy today does not guarantee freedom. Many villages in India hold entire families enslaved for generations over just as a minimum debt of a mere $18. Many people don’t even know that they are being enslaved, because they have been living in such a situation all their life. Liberty today is not being owned by a person but being exploited and completely controlled by someone else. Gold mines in Ghana hold thousands of slaved men, women, and children working in a mercury mine, many die every day and others suffer from tuberculosis as a result of being exposed continuously to harmful chemicals. In India, Uttar Pradesh, people work 16-17 hours a day without getting a single break for food or water (they are not paid for it). They carry tons of bricks on their head and lead them to the trucks waiting hundreds of yards away. It’s so weird that today people value products more than the person who made them.

Autonomy of Slavery

Bonded labour

Bonded labour means debt bondage. People stuck in debts often ends up serving as a slave to the borrower’s family. It is the pledge of the taker to provide his services as the repayment for a debt or any other obligations. There are only a few instances where a person willingly chooses to serve. In the majority of cases, the repayment terms are not clearly stated and people are manipulated into the business.

Forced labour

Forced labour is unfree labour. It is a kind of slavery where people are forced into labour against their wills with the threat of death, violence, or even the chastity of the female family members. Sometimes even trafficked people become forced labour where they have no other choices or assets to do otherwise. 

Human trafficking and sexual slavery

Human trafficking stands out as one of the worst social crimes in today’s society, as victims are kidnapped and separated from their families to face life as sex slaves. Trafficking in human beings is a complex problem, present everywhere, and how to define it has been debated. Trafficked females are either forced to be a sex slaves or sold to rich buyers. Around 3.8 million adults are trafficked for forced sexual exploitation and 1.0 million children are trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation.

Child soldiers and child labour

The UN has recognized almost 14 countries where children are used as a soldier. The use of children in armed conflicts or wars is the worst form of child labour ever. Young children are trained in brutal conditions and led to the war fields to face their ultimate fate. There is nothing more painful than being a child soldier.

Forced marriage

Forced marriage too comes under the hierarchy of slavery. It is a situation when one party is unwilling to marry the other party. Females, often young girls are kidnapped, trafficked, and forced into marriages miles away from their home. They are used, tortured, and abused by their buyers. Forced marriages are just another form of sexual slavery. In 2016, there were an estimated 15.4 million people in forced marriages.

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Psychological Effects of Slavery

For 46 million people on earth, slavery is not just a statement but the reality of their life. One is every 200 people have experienced slavery once in their life.  The legacy of slavery has had detrimental effects on the psychology of not just the freed person but in the generations that follow. Forced by the fake promises of a better life often becomes a lifelong obligation for a slave. A slave once freed is never freed. Their mental state remains drowned by the humiliation and unjust torture they suffered. Many suffer from PTSD due to the trauma inherent in living in slavery. The life of a person freed by slavery is well depicted in the book “beloved” by Toni Morrison, where the protagonist suffers a lifelong trauma and her tangled relationship with her children is compromised. It is not just a fictional story but a reality that haunts the survivors in the worst way possible.

Mental health is fundamental to a freed person and getting counselled is the initial stage of recovery. If we truly understand these people, it is the responsibility of every one of us to support them in rebuilding their lives. It is the support of the people that motivates the survivors to get along with the new life they just started. Also, we need to understand that slavery survivors might take more time in building trust, developing relationships, and accepting goodwill. We should be patient and help them gradually cope with the trauma they are suffering from.

When we look closely, slavery is everywhere- from the food we eat to the clothes we wear. It’s time to change the way we look at the world and start recognizing the evils living among us.

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