When Steve McQueen gave his acceptance speech last month for his Oscar winning film “12 Years A Slave,” he mentioned that there is currently 21 million people living in slavery today. That's over five times the number of slaves in America at the start of the Civil War.
Somehow that very important point was generally overlooked.
“This unconscionable act was committed by a terrorist group determined to keep these girls from getting an education — grown men attempting to snuff out the aspirations of young girls.”The group that kidnapped those girls were terrorists, but once again the more important point has been overlooked.
People are rightly outraged that these hundreds of schoolgirls were kidnapped and sold into slavery, but for some reason few have worked up outrage at the fact that this is the 21st Century and there are more slaves in the world than ever before.
How can we as a species allow this to continue?
Most people think of slavery as something in the distant past. In fact, there are more slaves today than at any time in human history.
Kevin Bales, lead research on "The Global Slavery Index," published by the Walk Free Foundation, says despite anti-slavery laws in almost all the world's countries, 29.8 million people are trapped today in debt bondage, slave labor, sex trafficking, forced labor or domestic servitude.
This compares, according to an article in The Manchester Guardian, with 12.5 million human beings sent as slaves across the Atlantic Ocean to the Americas and the Caribbean in the 18th and 19th centuries.
"Women and girls [are taken] for domestic servitude and sex trafficking, and boys for forced labour in street vending, domestic service, mining, stone quarrying, agriculture, and begging," TIP said.According to the Global Slavery Index, Mauritania ranks first in the world in slavery.
Out of the population of 3.8 million, between 140,000 and 160,000 Mauritanians are enslaved. The nation still suffers from "slave castes", and only outlawed slavery in 2007.
However, the most concentrated area of slavery in the world is eastern and central Europe, at 4.2 per 1,000, versus 4.0 in Africa.
Slavery is the second-most profitable underground business in the world, after illegal drugs, pulling in $39 Billion annually, according to Interpol.
Historically slaves cost around $40,000 in today's dollars. Today a slave can be purchased for an average of $90, a product of the massive increase in global population over the past century.
Sex slaves, while most well-known, are only 22% of the world's slaves.
Most of the world's slaves are much like this.
The note, signed by Tohnain Emmanuel Njong, said: "We are ill-treated and work like slaves for 13 hours every day producing these bags in bulk in the prison factory."This was no urban legend. The prison slave who wrote that letter was real. Fortunately he is no longer in prison.
A passport-sized photo of a man in an orange jacket was also enclosed.
"I read the letter and I just shook," Ms Wilson told DNAinfo.