More from CNN’s Freedom Project: Free the Slaves President Kevin Bales, along with other modern-day slavery experts discusses the difficulty in counting the number of slaves around the world.
The challenges of counting a ‘hidden population’
By Manav Tanneeru
Slavery still exists. Of that there isn’t much dispute, if any. But how widespread is what many experts call modern-day slavery?
Estimates range from about 10 million to 30 million, according to policymakers, activists, journalists and scholars.
The International Labour Organization, an agency of the United Nations that focuses on, among other things, labor rights, put the number at a “minimum estimate” of 12.3 million in a 2005 report.
Kevin Bales, a sociologist who serves as a consultant to the United Nations and has authored several books about modern-day slavery, estimated the number was 27 million people in his book “Disposable People: New Slavery in the Global Economy.” The book was published in 1999.
There is yet another estimate. Siddharth Kara, a fellow on trafficking at Harvard University and also an author, recently told CNN that his calculations put the range between 24 million and 32 million. That number was current as of the end of 2006, he said.
There are several reasons behind the variance in numbers, said Ben Skinner, who published a book about modern-day slavery – “A Crime So Monstrous: Face-to-Face with Modern-day Slavery.”
“There are two big problems with the count,” Skinner, a Senior Fellow at the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University, said during a telephone interview. “The first is that the people we are counting are, by definition, a hidden population.
“The second problem is more of a theoretical one where the definitions are not in place. We don’t have a common definition still as to what slavery is.”
‘A hidden population’
Slave labor has been a part of civilization for much of history. It was practiced openly and its legality wasn’t much of a question. During the height of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, its scale was carefully documented.
Today, slavery is illegal in every country. Yet it persists, in secret, exploiting the poor and the marginalized – which poses immense challenges for legal authorities, activists and experts working to track the problem.
Here’s an amazing video from the newly-formed Laboratory to Combat Human Trafficking (LCHT). Formerly Polaris Project Colorado, LCHT became an independent entity last year. Their focus is on compiling much needed hard data on the extent of modern-day slavery.
The video above is an introduction to LCHT. It illustrates how wide spread modern-day slavery is; how entrenched it is in virtually every part of the world, in every segment of the population, in any industry. But it also shows how it is possible to eradicate it—if we confront it and work together.
“If we want to end human trafficking, we have to start looking at it all,” this PSA says. “You don’t have to solve it all but know that everything is tied together.”
We’re excited to see the work of LCHT unfold!
Thanks, Kevin Bales, for the tip!
Free the Slaves is looking for Volunteers in the DC metro area to be a part of making history. We have been working with our partners in India to conduct household surveys on debt-bondage. And now, we need volunteers to help sift through all this data.
So on Saturday, November 6 (which is, coincidentally the day before our annual Freedom Awards, taking place in Los Angeles), we are holding Data Entry Day!
What, may you ask, is Data Entry Day? It’s a day when DC area volunteers can be a part of the anti-slavery movement, by helping to bring to light vital statistics that will show which kinds of programs create a sustainable decrease in—and even eradication of—slavery.
When: Saturday, November 6
Time: 10 am to 5 pm. If you can’t make it for the whole day, we would still love for you to help for as long as you can
Place: Location to be decided. It will be somewhere in central Washington, D.C.
Lunch: Probably pizza. Maybe ice cream, too.
This is a very exciting and ground breaking project. Free the Slaves partners Manav Sansadhan Evam Mahila Vikas Sansthan (MSEMVS) and Diocesan Development and Welfare Society (DDWS) are currently conducting surveys in two states: Uttar Pradesh and Bihar—two regions where slavery rates are extremely high. MSEMVS and DDWS both work to eradicate slavery through holistic, community-wide methods. Combined, they have liberated over 1,500 people from bondage.
What will this data help us accomplish? We will be able to understand how a community becomes slavery free, and to measure the societal gains that freedom brings.
Contact us today, to volunteer!
Email us at email@example.com with the following information:
Availability (can you come on the 6th all day, part of the day or are you interested in helping on another day if necessary?)
Please be advised you will need to bring a laptop!