A Global Slavery Index, published by the Walk Free Foundation on Thursday has revealed that 400,000 people in the US live in modern slavery conditions, and millions more globally.
The report which describes modern slavery as a complex and often hidden crime that crosses borders, sectors and jurisdictions, estimates that 40.3 million people around the world are being enslaved. Most victims, the report believes, live in Asia, with North Korea the highest globally.
“The United States is one of the most advanced countries in the world yet has more than 400,000 modern slaves working under forced labour conditions,” said group founder Andrew Forrest in a news release.
A third, or 15 million, of victims of modern slavery enter through forced marriage, an issue that disproportionately affects women and girls. “Overall, the cultural practice of forced marriage places women at greater risk of exploitation, and the potential subjection to a life of servitude, financial bondage, and sexual exploitation that comes with modern slavery,” the report said. The group recommends making forced marriage illegal and creating a minimum marriage age of 18.
Modern slavery involves the use of threats, violence and deception to take away people’s ability to control their own bodies, to refuse certain kinds of work, to stop them working altogether or even to force them into a certain kind of work. The report cites coal, cocoa, cotton, timber and fish as among the products that may be tainted by modern slavery.
The coal industry in North Korea is of concern as many are forced to work in support of the repressive regime’s economy. The report says that people in such countries are highly vulnerable to acts of slavery.