BBC News – Human trafficking gets life sentence in slavery crackdown. All political parties agree that modern day slavery — human trafficking — is a terrible thing. What is strange is that it has taken such a long time to get anything serious done about it. Women trafficked for domestic service prostitution, men for labouring, children for forced begging, and all three for benefit fraud and other purposes, represent the very worst excesses of a society where everything has a price.
The new bill which is being introduced is being called the ‘Modern Slavery Bill’, according to the BBC. Among other things, it will involve a potential life-sentence for human trafficking. Other aspects of the proposed bill seem rather weak: seeking commitments from companies that they will not use slave labour seems to me rather like seeking commitments from companies that they will not commit murder.
The Western World lives rightly under the guilt of the 315 years of the Atlantic slave trade, in which an estimated 15 million people were sold as goods to enrich their purchasers. You can read first hand accounts written by slaves who subsequently escaped or were freed. The casual barbarism should horrify the modern reader. Slaves were beaten to death for failing to fold their hands when their master wanted to punish them. Yet these same masters would no doubt go to church on Sunday, or, if they were more in the mould of humanist Thomas Jefferson, participate in the great liberal debates of the day and create documents to be quoted by hundreds of millions declaring the inalienable rights of man.
That we should have allowed anything comparable to return by the back door is a tragedy on a scale that the mind cannot take in. And yet all the techniques employed by Atlantic slave traders — imprisonment, starvation, beatings, the threat of death — are commonly applied by today’s traffickers. They have added their own to the list of techniques.
However, the most recent figures suggest that 29 million people may be living under slavery today across the world, either in coercive debt bondage or transported to other countries where they lack the linguistic skills or legal status to make their escape. This means that — if the estimates are correct — just in today’s world, twice as many people are as enslaved as in the whole of 315 of the Atlantic trade. This, of course, does not remotely diminish the guilt and horror of that abomination. Rather, it puts into sharp relief modernity’s contribution to the history of human ethical behaviour.
Like any bill, this will go through many committee stages and votes before it becomes law. Let me urge fellow Liberal Democrats, and anyone else who has some influence on MPs or Lords, to push for a stronger bill with tighter definitions, more options for the police, and the toughest penalties.
Quite simply, the traffic must be stopped.
- Global Slavery Mapped(theguardian.com)
- Human Trafficking: The Second Largest Industry in the World(rinf.com)
- A historic opportunity for Britain to put an end to modern-day slavery(blogs.spectator.co.uk)