Modern-Day Slavery

Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on the first day of 1863. During the period when the president gave the proclamation, the country was enthralled in a bloody and destructive civil war for three consecutive years. The proclamation declared that all people who were at the time held as slaves were declared free as at the time the speech was made. While the wording was grand, the practical application of the same was limited in many ways.[1] The proclamation was only applicable to states, which had seceded from the United States. Therefore, the states that were along the border were left untouched. Besides, some parts of the Confederacy, in particular, the Southern secessionist states which were under the control of the North were also exempt. Moreover, the freedom that President Lincoln had promised was wholly dependent on the military victory of the Union. However, it is important to note that although the Emancipation Proclamation did not manage to end slavery in the US, the president was able to capture the imagination and hearts of millions of Americans and change their character, particularly after the war. The proclamation ensured that Black men joined the Union Navy as well as the army such that the liberated became liberators. Before the end of the war, more than 150000 Black sailors and soldiers had fought for freedom through the Union.

Interestingly, slavery was not entirely abolished by the nineteenth century. As a matter of fact, in the twenty-first century, there remains modern-day slavery. Nonetheless, the new system of subjugation is more covert compared to the previous years. African Americans still do laborious work for less pay compared to their White counterparts. Moreover, it is harder for a Black person to get a decent job despite having similar qualifications as their White contemporaries. Despite the abolition of slavery, African American people in present-day society still receive less pay and fewer opportunities for career advancement which is proof that slavery simply morphed into inequality.

Equality of all human beings is one of the beliefs that are deeply entrenched in my psyche. I believe that all individuals should be treated as equals before the law for parity to be achieved. In that regard, I think it is imperative for people to look beyond the color of their neighbors’ skin to get the true depth of their character and progress as a human race. Paying people their appropriate dues at the right time is one of the ways to ensure that covert slavery comes to an abrupt end. Modern-day oppression is an umbrella concept that captures the different types of exploitation that a certain section of the population experiences as the people work to earn a living. It is important to consider that poverty is perhaps the greatest enabler of modern-day slavery.[2] While available data on the subject matter seems to be unreliable, it is estimated that about 21 million people are involved in forced labor as well as other forms of slavery. Other sources claim that the number of slaves stands at approximately 27 million people across the world.[3] Forced labor, trafficking, and slavery are regarded as criminal activities under international legislation. In 1926, the League of Nations defined slavery as the situation whereby an individual has powers of ownership over another person. Later in 1956, the United Nations adopted practices such as debt bondage and serfdom in the broader net of slavery.

I first came across slavery in the twenty-first century when a friend of mine from an Asian country contacted me on Facebook excitedly informing me that she had landed a job in Qatar. My friend who is a Pilipino had for a long time looked for a job in her home country without success due to the problem of unemployment. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree, which she attained in one of the most prestigious universities in her nation. Having been raised in a low-income family, she sometimes had to skip school as her parents looked for school fees. She also took odd jobs on occasion to fend for herself as well as her siblings. Both of her parents died in the year when she graduated high school, and she was forced to look after her siblings. Besides, her aging grandmother could barely manage to provide. However, despite all the hardships that she underwent, she somehow completed her university education after securing a government assisted education loan, which she still pays to date. I met her during her second year at the university when she, along with five of her classmates, had come to the United States to study for a semester on an exchange program. She was one of the most intelligent students in her class, which explains why she had won the scholarship. She was also a hardworking individual with a thirst for excellence. We quickly became friends and would spend all of our time together. We have managed to stay in touch over the years as she keeps me updated on what’s happening in her and I share my experiences with her too. As our bond grew, I was able to visit her home country a few years ago, and I was in awe at the level of poverty and hardship that the people from the Philippines experience daily.

Upon graduation, my friend was excited to grab new opportunities in life due to her ambition and drive to succeed. Subsequently, she applied to several companies and got invited to various interviews. However, her country is one where corruption always takes the lead, and people from influential families get jobs even though they are less qualified. She persisted in her search for employment for many months, but in the end, she had to start doing odd jobs since her siblings depend on her for food, clothing, and tuition fees. For the last five years, she has been struggling to pay bills including rent, school fees as well as buy food and clothing for her siblings. Therefore, when the opportunity to go to Qatar as a housemaid presented itself, she had to take it despite having a bachelor’s degree. The agency she was working with demanded $1000 as processing charges for the job that she would get. She was also required to pay for her visa and passport application as well as her air ticket. My friend tried her best and managed to get all that was needed for her to start working in the United Arab Emirates.

Unfortunately, once she arrived in Qatar, her employer confiscated her passports and threatened to kill her if she did not comply with his rules. The cruel employer also seized her clothes and forced her to wear what they referred to as modest dresses. Additionally, she was forced to sleep on the floor after toiling for up to 18 hours every day. Sadly, her bosses would kick her around and spit on her and even sometimes rape her. However, she accepted the mistreatment not only because she wanted payment but also due to the fact that there was no way for her to get out of the country. The Philippine Embassy told her that they could not help her since she had already surrendered her visa and all her identification documents. At the end of the first three months of her stay in the UAE, she asked for her salary, but the employers refused to pay her dues claiming that she was still in debt to the agency that had brought her there. Since then, she has been stuck in a foreign country working tirelessly and being treated as a slave. She can only communicate with her family through Social Media on the rare opportunity that she gets. These are not appropriate working conditions, and yet she struggles through them clinging on to the hope that one day, she will meet her family again.

Exploitative and forced labor is becoming a big business especially, for private firms.[4] Many countries and in particular the developing ones have weak protection laws and citizens who remain largely unaware of such regulations. Furthermore, the citizens are desperate and jobless and would do anything to earn a living. Therefore, they continue to struggle in slave-like conditions to make a living. However, as a staunch Christian, I believe that the Bible calls us to love our neighbor more than we love ourselves. In this sense, then, it is of utmost importance for people to ensure that they treat each other with dignity and respect, which means that maltreating others is out of the question. It is essential for nations across the world to pay attention to labor protection laws and the minimum wage.[5] Labor laws are applicable even in instances whereby the workers are immigrants. The Bible stipuates how Christians are expected to treat their neighbors regardless of the economic circumstances. Jesus went out of his way to preach love to all nations to ensure that people live in peace with one another to the end of time. Despite my beliefs, I am aware that all people are entitled to follow their religion of choice. As such, all individuals in the world have freedom of religion, but the law must be upheld under all circumstances.

Conclusion

Modern-day slavery comes in many shapes and forms. However, discrimination against immigrant workers stands out in many Gulf countries. Aside from the countries in the Middle East, subjugation of workers is also common in Western countries since most immigrants work the lowest paying jobs as they do not have much of a choice.[6] Various governments need to find a way to ensure that migrants are properly integrated into the system of their recipient countries to ensure better working and living conditions. Through proper assimilation, equality will be achieved, and everyone can productively earn a living while building the host nation. Moreover, those that break labor laws should be dealt with accordingly. Finally, immigrants need to know their rights, and the course of action in case said liberties are infringed upon.

 

Bibliography

Burkhalter, Holly. “It’s the 21st Century. Yet Slavery Is Alive and Well.” The Washington Post. June 27, 2017. Accessed February 22, 2019. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/democracy-post/wp/2017/06/27/its-the-21st-century-yet-slavery-is-alive-and-well/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.3c169771746e.

Degorge, Barbara. “Modern Day Slavery in the United Arab Emirates.” The European Legacy 11, no. 6 (2006): 657-667. doi:10.1080/10848770600918307.

Miller, John R. “Call It Slavery.” Two Cheers for Materialism | Wilson Quarterly. Accessed February 22, 2019. http://archive.wilsonquarterly.com/essays/call-it-slavery.

Sage, Jesse, and Liora Kasten. Enslaved: True Stories of Modern Day Slavery. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008.

“The Emancipation Proclamation.” The New York Times. April 02, 1864. Accessed February 22, 2019. https://www.nytimes.com/1864/04/02/archives/the-emancipation-proclamation.html.

 

[1] The New York Times. “The Emancipation Proclamation” The New York Times. April 2, 1864.       https:// www.nytimes.com/1864/04/02/archives/the-emancipation-proclamation.html

[2] Holly Burkhalter. “It’s the 21st Century. Yet Slavery Is Alive and Well.” The Washington Post. June 27, 2017. Accessed February 22, 2019. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/democracy-post/wp/2017/06/27/its-the-21st-century-yet-slavery-is-alive-and-well/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.3c169771746e.

 

[3] Ibid

[4] Barbara Degorge. “Modern Day Slavery in the United Arab Emirates.” The European Legacy 11, no. 6 (2006): 657-667.

[5] John Miller R. “Call It Slavery.” Two Cheers for Materialism | Wilson Quarterly. Accessed February 22, 2019. http://archive.wilsonquarterly.com/essays/call-it-slavery.

[6] Jesse Sage and Liora Kasten. Enslaved: True Stories of Modern-Day Slavery. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008.

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