Slavery still exists in most countries in the world, including the US, according to a new report released Thursday by the NGO "Walk Free." Across the globe, almost 30 million people live in slavery, many of whom are children. Antislavery International estimates at least 6 million are children. Many are separated from parents and family, regularly beaten, and sometimes branded.
Children as young as two or three are forced into labor in some places, as soon as they can do a task, and many of them work in quarries. Their small, limber bodies can fit into tunnels where adults can’t. They are used to plant explosives, and many die in cave ins from poorly designed blasts. Their lives are considered expendable, since there are always more children to take their places and continue the tasks.
According to the Global Slavery Index 2013, the ten countries with the most people living in slavery are India (14 million), China (3 million), Pakistan (2.1 million), Nigeria (700,000), Ethiopia (650,000), Russia (500,000), Thailand (472,000), Democratic Republic of Congo (462,000), Myanmar (384,000), and Bangladesh (343,000).
Although the United States, Canada and Western Europe rank very low on the Global Index, they're still home to thousands of slaves. See a map here.
"What slavery is ... what slavery's always been; It's about one person completely under the control of another person, and violence being used to maintain that control and the whole point of that control being exploitation," Kevin Bales, Walk Free index researcher and professor at the Wilberforce Institute for the study of Slavery and Emancipation at the University of Hull, U.K., told CBSNews.com.
"The rule of thumb is that if a person cannot walk away, even into a worse situation, because they literally have no free will and no free movement... those are the criteria that have been used to define slavery all throughout history," he explained.
A slave is:
• Forced to work -- through mental or physical threat.
• Owned or controlled by an 'employer', usually through mental or physical abuse or threatened abuse.
• Dehumanised, treated as a commodity or bought and sold as 'property'.
• Physically constrained or has restrictions placed on his/her freedom of movement.
"There are plenty of families in South Asia who say, 'Well, you know my family has always belonged to this family.' They don't even have any memory of not being in slavery," Bales added.
Although many believe slavery to be related to human trafficking, Bales said that in the majority of cases, the opposite is actually true.
"Most people in slavery aren't shipped into other countries; they're enslaved in their own countries," he said, "and there, what you can count on is that they're enslaved at the very bottom of the ladder. So it's low-grade agriculture, it's derivative work, like mining, timbering, brick-making. Dirty, dangerous, demeaning kind of work [is] where you're going to find the most."
He believes there's a lack of coordinated enforcement in the majority of developed countries to combat slavery. Products used by Westerners are often touched by slavery.
"Cotton, sugar, coffee, iron, steel, electronic goods, the minerals that go into electronics and so forth, cocoa and lots of commodities, fish, shrimp in particular, they're not 90 percent slave-touched or made, they may only be 2 or 3 or 4 or 5 percent, but we're very poor at finding the parts that are and cutting those out of the supply chain," said Bales.
Slavery’s contribution to the global economy is only a small percentage, but human rights organizations believe any amount is too much.
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