Up to about a year or so ago, I also thought that slavery had been largely outlawed and stamped out worldwide. After all that is what we have all been taught for decades.
Notwithstanding that the system of mandatory service without reward for starvation wages as operated by communism was indistinguishable from outright slavery with only the need for private sale eliminated.
Slavery is an apparent outcome in societies still lacking proper monetization and largely relying on subsistence agriculture. Often the only source of wealth, meager as it may be, is another’s labor. So that it lingers in places is really not surprising.
Then we have criminal slavery in which young women are bought or seized to be placed into the sex trade. A vulnerable young girl deliberately hooked on drugs in our own culture for the sex trade has been enslaved. Elsewhere it is simply cheaper but the same thing.
Yet we can at least start with the stamping out of mere economic slavery. No nation can afford to have any part of its labor force illiterate and largely dependent through simple ignorance. Yet we have just that is many parts of Africa, parts of
India and South east Asia. This is where slavery still thrives.
Even developing nations have occasional outbreaks.
Anyway, Michelle Jean has brought unwelcome attention to the problem in
which really deserves the attention. Senegal
Plenty of societies and governments continue to ignore the problem and pay lip service to solutions. The UN needs to be goaded into addressing this particular issue rather than fantasies of global governance.
GG draws attention for declaring slavery an ongoing practice in
By Alexander Panetta, The Canadian Press
GOREE ISLAND, Senegal - First she drew attention in Africa for bluntly declaring that slavery remained widespread, and then Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean visited a dungeon with a dark past to illustrate her point Friday.
Jean's statement about the plight of children in Senegal was widely reported by media in that country, where an in-depth survey has concluded that at least 50,000 boys are being exploited and frequently beaten at their religious schools.
Her sentiments are supported by a new report from Human Rights Watch, an organization that also describes as "slavery" a common Senegalese custom: Islamic schools that send children out to beg for money all day, then often beat them when they don't return with enough cash.
The country's so-called talibes, boys as young as four, can be seen wandering through traffic in tattered clothes and pleading for money. Because charity is considered a religious duty, people hand over enough donations to make the schoolmasters wealthy by local standards.
Jean's visit made the front page of several newspapers Friday.
"Exploitation of Children In Senegal: Michaelle Jean Calls It Slavery," was one headline in Le Quotidien newspaper, the day after Jean surprised some journalists at the presidential palace by making that assessment at a joint press conference with the country's president.
Human-rights groups estimate that as many as 27 million people live in modern-day slavery - and that there are more slaves in the world now than at any point in human history.
They include unpaid labourers who work for room and board, women forced into the sex trade, underage soldiers, and child workers who are paid a pittance.
The UN's High Commission on Human Rights has suggested a variety of means to fight the problem, including product boycotts and mandatory labelling of goods in industries - like carpet-weaving - where child exploitation has been a problem.
This week's report on
by Human Rights Watch urged the Senegalese government to better regulate religious schools, which are popular because they offer the promise of a free education. Senegal
As she visited a former slave-trading centre Friday, Jean used the occasion to illustrate her point for the second day in a row.
She was received jubilantly by dancing and singing locals on
. Now a pastel-coloured tourist destination and UN World Heritage Site, the French used this island to imprison slaves traded for guns and alcohol. Goree Island
Jean toured the former prison where slaves were once chained to walls by their necks; where children were crammed, in the words of her tour guide, "like fish in a sardine can," with 150 kids crowded into a separate dungeon half the size of a bowling alley; where men were sold for the price of a barrel of rum, while women fetched the same price if they had attractive physical attributes.
"These captives were not considered human beings," said Jean's guide, Eloi Coly.
"They were considered merchandise."
People had their names taken away, and were assigned a number. They were marched down a stone hallway through the infamous "Door of No Return," then loaded onto ships that carried them on a three-month - often fatal - journey to the new world.
A teary-eyed Jean, after the tour, said descendents of former slaves and former slave-owners can work together today on a common cause: ending modern-day slavery.
"This place is not about the history of black peoples. It's about us all," Jean told Canadian and Senegalese journalists.
"Whether we are of European descent, and probably related to those who committed that crime of slavery and slave trade, or whether we are of African descent, we all belong to that history."
She delivered a similarly contemporary message four years ago during a visit to
. During a visit to a similar prison there, she knelt on the ground and broke into sobs, then waved off a question about what special meaning the place carried for someone like her, the descendant of African slaves. Ghana
Jean repeated Friday that it would be a mistake to view slavery uniquely through the prism of African history.
"It's about us all. And it's about how life can triumph over barbarism. And we must stand together today, to really fight every situation that denies rights, dignity and humanity to people in the world today. Slavery is still a fact today, in so many different ways," she said.
"Human-trafficking, injustices, are still a reality today. But we are together - and we can say no to it. It's a responsibility."
On Friday, Jean also addressed a school where Canadian aid money has helped train young Senegalese journalists over the years and, on the second full day of her 10-day trip to Africa, she met with a women's group after touring Goree's House of Slaves.
Just outside that old prison, young Amadou Guisse spends the whole day working. He started three years ago, when he was only 10. Guisse follows tourists onto a ferry and, to earn a few dollars on the ride back and forth from the capital, Dakar, he goes around the boat urging tourists to let him shine their shoes.
Guisse shook his head when asked whether he keeps any of the money he earns.
"It's for my family," he said. "Everything."