All around the world, vast numbers of people are trapped.
You see slavery doesn’t have to exist – it is a human problem, often caused by poverty and the exploitation of the most vulnerable, and it can be ended by humans. There is an increasing global movement to end slavery, with people and organisations the world over making a stand.
I was fortunate enough to spend some time with some friends at Redlight in Durban, South Africa this year. They are working to get women out of the sex industry – they pray for them, feed them and help them to find a route out of the industry by helping them learn new skills. They also go into schools in the townships surrounding Durban to help the poorest young people to understand the issues of human trafficking and modern-day slavery to make them less vulnerable to it.
While I was there, they told me a story that will stay with me for a long time. They meet with not only the girls in the sex industry, but also with some of the pimps who control the women. Many of the pimps are Nigerian men, from the poorest backgrounds with little education. But few of them want to be there – in fact, many of them had been trafficked in to the country themselves and were being forced, through coercion and threat of violence, to run the district. These men were being forced to exploit others, whilst being exploited themselves; a truly tragic story of poverty enslaving the most vulnerable in society.
Thankfully, people like Redlight are taking up fight.
But the fight is happening here too – there are over 70 organisations in the UK who are leading the way in stopping slavery in our own country. There are an estimated 10,000 slaves here in the UK – 10,000 slaves in a society that abolished slavery 200 years ago. I’m certain that William Wilberforce and Thomas Clarkson and the other abolitionists of the late 18th and early 19th centuries would be taking up arms again.
The UK government are already moving in the battle. The Home Secretary Theresa May is proposing the Modern Slavery Act to parliament and we are hoping to be able to deliver our petition to her to add weight to the voices calling for this act to pass.
There are a few aspects to the Act, but the specific part that will both be controversial and bring incredible change is the TISC (UK) Bill. This is asking that there be Transparency In Supply Chains for any companies with a turnover of greater than £100 million annually.
This would mean that they have to disclose their supply chain routes, which companies they work with, where the labour comes from and, essentially, guarantee that they are slave-free from source to sale of all goods.
It would mean that the men, women and children labouring in Uzbek cotton fields would be set free.
It would mean that the miners extracting coltan for our mobile phones would be set free.
It would mean that our choices are widened as to who we buy from to ensure that we can buy fairly traded, ethically sourced and guaranteed slave free goods. I like that sound of that.
So, add your voice to the petition. Write to your MP to ensure their support of the Modern Slavery Act. Get in touch with your favourite shops to ask if they are slave free. Raise money to give to people and projects fighting this injustice. And pray, pray, pray.
Modern slavery is a vile injustice caused by humans, which means that it can be ended by us too.