- (Photo: Reuters/Mansi Thapliyal)
A new report reveals that worldwide roughly 30 million people are considered modern-day slaves, with Asian countries topping the report of worst offending countries.
The data was compiled for the Walk Free Foundation for its inaugural Global Slavery Index, which was published Thursday. The WFF hopes the annual index will help governments to monitor and tackle what it calls the "hidden crime" of modern-day slavery.
"A lot of governments won't like hearing what we have to say," chief executive Nick Grono told AFP. "Those governments that want to engage with us, we will be very open to engaging and looking at ways in which we can better measure the issue of modern slavery."
The report has the backing of former U.S. secretary of state Hillary Clinton, Britain's ex-prime minister Tony Blair, current Australian PM Tony Abbott and philanthropists Bill Gates, Richard Branson and Mo Ibrahim.
But modern slavery has a broad definition outside of the historical interpretations. Such practices include slavery itself as well as debt bondage, forced marriage and the sale or exploitation of children -- human trafficking and forced labor.
"A lot of people are very surprised to hear that slavery still exists," said Grono, explaining how many people assume it ended when the Atlantic slave trade was abolished in the 1800s. "What modern slavery is is a situation that reflects all of the characteristics of slavery of past centuries."
"People are controlled by violence. They are tricked or they are forced into jobs or situations where they are economically exploited. They live on no pay or base subsistence pay and they're not free to leave," he added.
India as the country with by far the most slaves, with an estimated nearly 14 million, followed by China
The index revealed that India was the worst offending nation, with an estimated 14 million slaves. But the country with the most widespread prevalence was the West African nation of Mauritania, where four percent of the population was deemed to be held in slavery.
China with 2.9 million slaves and Pakistan with 2.1 million held second and third place, respectively. But it is not just developing nations that are fighting this epidemic. Industrialized nations such as the United States and Britain also have to deal with the harsh reality of modern day slavery. The U.S. was ranked 134th in the report.
"The time for political games is over. Congressional inaction on this legislation continues to weaken U.S. global leadership in the fight against modern day slavery," Jesse Eaves, Senior Policy Advisor for Child Protection of World Vision, said in a press release.
Statistics show that America is failing in the fight against traffickers, given that there are an estimated 100,000 American adolescents who become victims of trafficking each year in the U.S.
The White House made January National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month and urged businesses leaders, religious organization and citizens to become aware of how to get involved in preventing innocent children becoming victims of trafficking.
"We will continue to take action by empowering investigators and law enforcement with the training they need, and by engaging businesses, advocates, and students in developing cutting-edge tools people can use to stay safe," the White House said in a press release.
"We will invest in helping trafficking victims rebuild their lives. And as one of the world's largest purchasers of goods and services, the Federal Government will keep leading by example, further strengthening protections to help ensure that American tax dollars never support forced labor," the statement added.