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Slavery and Human Trafficking

Slavery and Human Trafficking

Author: Zach Lamb

This lesson will define, compare and contrast historical impacts on society, to include: chattel slavery, child slavery, debt bondage, servile forms of marriage, human trafficking.

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Source: Intro Music by Mark Hannan; Public Domain

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[MUSIC PLAYING] Hello, welcome to Sociological Studies. In this lesson, we're going deal with the rather morose aspect of human society-- that's slavery and human trafficking. Many different societies, dating back to the dawn of humanity itself, in fact, have had slavery of some kind. Not every society has had slavery, I'm not saying that. And it hasn't always been of the same kind. But many societies throughout history have had slavery.

Slavery reached a peak during the Roman Empire. Some estimates are that at the height of the Roman Empire, a quarter of the population of Rome was comprised of slaves. So this was the initial burst of slavery. The Egyptians had slavery. Many have argued that the Egyptians used slave labor to erect the pyramids. More recently, in the slavery you're familiar with, is the European slavery of Africa. This was a triangular slave trade where Europeans would go to Africa, get slaves, take them to their colonies, across the Atlantic, where they would procure raw materials and were then exported back to Europe for production. This is a more recent form of slavery.

But today, many contemporary societies have obviously recognized the atrocities of slavery, and have outlawed it. Some more covert forms of slavery, though, do persist in society today, such as human trafficking-- the sex trade, for instance. So we're going to elaborate on that. Let's look at, now, several different kinds of slavery.

First, we have chattel slavery. This is the kind of slavery where slaves are considered property of their owners. So this is the kind of slavery you are most familiar with, probably, if you came of age in America, went to the American school system, and learned about the triangular slave trade, like I just mentioned-- from Europe, to Africa, across the Atlantic, products going back to Europe. This took the form of chattel slavery, where the slaves were taken from Africa, had their families destroyed, were sent across the Atlantic. And they were then the property of their owners in America, where they worked to gather things like cotton and sugar-- were sent back to Europe.

There is also, in addition to chattel slavery, child slavery. Which, as the name suggests, is children becoming enslaved. It's not as common in the United States, but in many poor countries, really poor families cannot feed their children. And often, the children are forced to take the streets. And are forced into labor at a very young age. Like I said, this is uncommon in the US. But this kind of child slavery, where there are fewer laws preventing children having to work these kind of hours, this happens.

Also we have debt bondage, or economic slavery. Again, not common in the United States, per se. But debt bondage, or economic slavery, occurs when employers bully workers around by paying them a small wage, but not a big enough wage to pay off their debts to the employer. So then they are, in effect, enslaved in the situation because they must keep working to pay off the debt. But they're not getting enough money, to pay off the debt. So they're forever trapped in debt bondage, or economic slavery. This is not common in America. But in other countries, where manufacturing plants are located, it is common for workers to go live in company housing and are fed company food. Companies can then trap them by not paying them enough to pay off these debts for their room and board and food, et cetera. So they are in debt bondage.

Finally, we have servile forms of marriage, which is where women are forced into marriage that they don't necessarily consent to, and have to then serve the husband in the marriage. So in Pakistan it is still OK for the patriarch of family, the man, to decide where his daughter is going to get married, or who she's going to marry. And if she wants to resist, she could be put to death with impunity. The father can do this. So this is an atrocious thing, but it still happens. I just read an article, in fact, about this happening in 2012 still.

These other forms of slavery, like I've mentioned, have largely been outlawed in America and exist in more peripheral parts of the globe. But human trafficking, a final form of slavery we'll discuss in this lesson, still has covert roots in America. So by human tracking, I mean the movement of people across the globe for the purposes of either forced labor-- and that could be either physical or sexual. And this is often under the radar and covert.

At first, people might not even realize that they're being forced into slavery. So for instance, what about people trying to get into America? They're trying to cross the border-- cross the Rio Grande. There are people who help them do this, who exist in Mexico. And they pay this guy or girl to help them get across the border. And so, at first, it's a great arrangement. We're going to get them off the border. But then, wait a second, once you're across the border, you don't know anybody. You don't know any language. And so you owe me this big debt. So these people capitalize on this, and force new immigrants into slavery by human trafficking. They got them over the border. And so, OK, now you might be forced into prostitution to pay off your debts. So human trafficking is a huge industry behind gun trafficking and drug trafficking. It happens the world over.

This was a descriptive overview of forms of slavery. Hope you have a great day.

  • 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.

  • Servile Forms of Marriage

    The slavery of a marriage partner, typically a female.

  • Human Trafficking

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