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Slavery and Human Trafficking

Slavery and Human Trafficking

Author: Paul Hannan

Distinguish between the different types of slavery, and their historical impacts on society.

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Source: Intro Music by Mark Hannan; Public Domain

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[MUSIC PLAYING] Welcome to this episode of Sociology-- Studies of Society. Today's lesson is on slavery and human trafficking. As always, don't be afraid to pause, stop, rewind, or even fast forward to make sure you get the most out of this tutorial.

So let's look at slavery and human trafficking. Our world has a history of slavery. We have found evidence before we could even write down stuff as humans that slavery existed. And as we've been able to find written evidence, we've also found slavery then. It's not to say that every society historically had slavery. But there have been many different societies that have had slavery.

And traditionally, slavery has been a place where prisoners of war and debtors were put to work. Now, this really reaches peak during Roman times. The Roman society built its whole economy based on slavery. And at some points, the city of Rome had as much as a quarter of their population as slaves working inside of Rome.

Now, after the Roman Empire fell-- and some even say that it fell because of its reliance on slavery-- slavery became less popular in societies. But that changed when the Europeans went to Africa and started exporting Africans as a part of the triangle trade to the Americas. Eventually, that trade stopped. And slavery has now basically been outlawed in most modern countries.

Now, there are three different real major types of slavery-- chattel slavery, debt bondage, and forced labor. Chattel slavery is really where you look at slaves as property. This is probably the one that we're most familiar with as Americans because that's the way that African Americans were treated in the society. They were simply property. You did with them as you want. They were like a horse or something else that you owned.

Now, there's also another type of slavery called "debt bondage." Now, in debt bondage, this is more an economical slavery. And there's a couple different ways it can happen. It can happen by someone selling themselves into slavery because of debt. And it can happen by people not officially maybe being slaves, but they work for a company. And this company doesn't pay them enough to live and provides food and room and board.

Well, you pay for room and board and food. But you make less than you have to pay every month. So you always have to be working. And you're not allowed ever to leave. And you're actually collecting more debt while you're working there. And that is a type of slavery as well.

The last one is forced labor. And this is labor where really, it's centered around punishment. And people are either forced to labor as punishment, or they would get punished. So if you think about a prisoner in a jail being forced to clear rocks, that would be a form of forced labor. Or you might think about a country where you have someone in power. And they are forcing their citizens to do some sort of labor, or else they would be put in jail. That would be another type of forced labor. So those are three major types of slavery.

There are a couple subtypes of slavery you can look at as well. The first one is child slavery. And that's just the slavery of young people. Often this slavery involves using children not for physical labor. But they're normally sexually exploited.

Another type is survival forms of marriage. And this is where an individual-- generally speaking, a woman-- is forced to marriage against their will. And they're married into a family at a young age. Again, generally, I should say maybe at a young age. And inside this family, they don't really get to have any choices or freedoms as well.

Now, the last term on the screen there is "human trafficking." And this is really just a way of saying that when you are physically moving slaves or trading them, that crime is called "human trafficking."

Now that we've looked at slavery, we can start to analyze how slavery impacts a society. Now, there are many different ways that slavery has impacted societies. But I'm going to look at two major points here looking at the impact of slavery. And we're going to start by talking about the legacy of slavery.

So one thing about slavery is that slavery really keeps the status quo. If you think of a civilization that currently has slavery, this structure is very firm in keeping people without power at the bottom of the social structure. But there's a more interesting impact with the legacy of slavery. And that is even long after slavery has been outlawed, there are still huge repercussions to slavery.

A great example of that is African Americans here in the United States of America. Even in our modern society today, though, we're still feeling the ramifications of having slavery.

African Americans-- in many ways, society punishes them for being, at one stage, slaves. A lot of racism and a lot of institutional racism-- you can see it trace back to slavery, when African Americans were treated like property. And even when the official institution of slavery has been outlawed, some of those same beliefs stay. And they're really quite hard to get out of a system.

Now, another impact of slavery that I want to talk about is taking advantage of the weak. Of course, this is a little bit similar to keeping the status quo. But I want to talk about a specific example here to help differentiate the two.

Now, let's say you are an illegal immigrant. You are attempting to flee some civil unrest in your country. And you're going to pay a coyote to cross the Mexican and US border and come into America. And what ends up happening is that this person you pay to sneak you across-- they lie to you. And they actually charge you considerably more than they said they were going to.

And what ends up happening is then you have no way to pay this off. So they sell you into the sex trade as a way to pay off your debts. And so that's that debt bondage form of slavery we had talked about earlier.

A lot of modern slavery-- because it's officially outlawed in many, many modern countries, the places where you see it happening the most are where it's taking advantage of people who already have certain things going against them and are already in a very weak social position. So someone who just illegally came to the United States of America-- they're not in a place, really, where they have the connections or they know the structure or know the laws or can even go to the police because they would be deported. So they're someone that it's easy for slavery to then take advantage of them and force someone into slavery.

So today's takeaway message-- we learned about a couple of different types of slavery. We looked at chattel slavery, just slaves that are treated as property. We looked at debt bondage, which is an economical slavery. And that generally happens when a company charges an employee for services then pays that worker too less to pay off that debt.

We looked at forced labor, which is when you're physically forcing someone to do work with the use of punishment. We also looked at child slavery, which is slavery of young people, slavery based around the institution of marriage, and human trafficking, which is the actual crime of trading and moving slaves.

Well, that's it for this lesson. Good work. And hopefully you'll be seeing me on your screen again soon. Peace.

Terms to Know
Chattel Slavery

A form of slavery which treats slaves as property.

Child Slavery

The slavery of young people.

Debt Bondage (Economic Slavery)

A form of economic slavery where a company charges an employee for services and then pays that worker too little to ever be able to pay off the debt.

Human Trafficking

A form of global slavery where people are moved from one place to another for the purpose of forced labor.

Servile Forms of Marriage

The slavery of a marriage partner, typically a female.