Society needs to be aware that slavery is alive and well

If you were told that the number of slaves in the world today is at a historic high, how would you react? Most of us would scoff at the idea that slavery could still flourish in our modern society. We look at the enslavement of individuals as a sad story from our history books, an unfortunate practice possibly used in some remote corner of the earth that we have no direct knowledge of or influence over. This could not be further from the truth. According to a new study done by the anti-slavery campaign “Walk Free,” nearly 36 million people around the world are trapped in various forms of modern slavery. Of the 167 countries “Walk Free” looked into, each had some evidence of slavery.

In America, we often feel a certain distance from the ominous word because we don’t think our actions have any effect on others’ enslavement. However, slavery didn’t just thrive here for decades — it never actually left. Whether it is sex trafficking or forced labor, thousands of people are currently enslaved in businesses, homes and corporations. It is not until we accept this fact that actions can be taken to eradicate it. Slavery is a part of every facet of our economy, prevalent in restaurant and hotel work (4 percent), agriculture (10 percent), domestic service (27 percent) and sex services (46 percent).

These statistics, in our country as well as globally, continue to rise with our ignorance of the issue. Yes, it is understandable that slavery is an uncomfortable word and somewhat taboo in our communities. It is not directly talked about unless we are referencing the beautiful day it supposedly disappeared from existence. As long as we get our food and clothes cheap, it doesn’t matter where they are coming from and whose hard and unpaid work went into their production. I am not suggesting a boycott of every product produced from slave labor, because many times that ends up hurting the economy of already destitute countries instead of making major positive changes. Rather, I am asking each and every individual to simply put yourself in a position of discomfort.

Not supporting the exploitation of slaves here and around the world means asking questions at local businesses and large multi-million-dollar corporations. It means not automatically going for the cheapest and most accessible goods, but perhaps looking elsewhere. But most of all, it means accepting the fact that slavery is a part of our lives and that we all indirectly support it somehow.

Sometimes the most minute changes are the hardest to make, because as creatures of habit, we risk meddling with the status quo. However, if it takes a shocking statistic like the one mentioned above — 36 million people: men, women, and children — to produce some form of awareness, then spread the word.

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