International Day of Slave Trade and Its Abolition – what is about and what is modern slavery?

UNESCO GraphicEach year, the global community joins the United Nations on 23 August to commemorate the International Day of Slave Trade and Its Abolition. The day aims to pay tribute to all those who fought for freedom from slavery and to continue teaching about their story.

Brave men and women, who had been enslaved, rebelled and on this day in 1804, a free and independent Haiti was formed. According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), “The uprising was a turning point in human history, greatly impacting the establishment of universal human rights, for which we are all indebted.”

People have been sold and forced into slavery throughout history and across the globe. The Abolition Project explains that, “slavery refers to a condition in which individuals are owned by others, who control where they live and at what they work.”

One of the most prolific cases of slavery was the transatlantic slave trade. UNESCO estimates that between 25 and 30 million people, men, women and children, were deported from their homes and sold as slaves in the different slave trading systems through the transatlantic slave trade, often known as the triangular trade.

UNESCO emphasizes that the transatlantic slave trade is, “unique within the universal history of slavery for three main reasons.” First of all, it lasted a long time, approximately four centuries. Secondly, those who were victimized were black African men, women and children. Finally, there was, “the intellectual legitimization attempted on its behalf – the development of an anti-black ideology and its legal organization, the notorious Code noir.”

In the triangle trade, Europeans sailed to Africa, where they exchanged goods, such as weapons and guns, for slaves. The men, women and children sold into slavery were then transported to America and sold into forced labour. UNESCO explains that, “the slave traders brought back mostly agricultural products, produced by the slaves which included sugar, cotton, coffee, tobacco and rice.”

Slavery, after it was abolished, has been noted as the most brutal, heinous crime against humanity – especially on Africans, because they were the ones who were mostly used as slaves by Western societies. The West developed at the expense of millions of people who were unjustly taken from their homes and forced to perform hard manual labour. Most of the development on the African continent was also due to the pioneering of these Western colonialists and slave masters/traders.

Namibia was not as affected as other African states the transatlantic slave trade. However, slavery has taken a different form here, especially in current times.

The Global Slavery Index, compiled by the Walk Free Foundation whose mission is to end modern day slavery by mobilising a global movement and generating the highest quality of research, estimates that 45.8 million people are in some form of modern slavery in 167 countries.

The Index found that 16,600 people are estimated to be living in modern slavery here in Namibia, placing Namibia as 17th out of 167 countries for prevalence of this crime against humanity.

Human trafficking is a form of modern slavery. The United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime’s supplemental Trafficking Protocol defines human trafficking as, “the recruitment, transport, transfer, harbouring or receipt of a person by such means as threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud or deception for the purpose of exploitation.”

This new type of slavery is one of the biggest threats to humanity, and we need to stop it and report it in order to provide justice to victims. Ending human trafficking will also take legislation and require the incorporation of heavier punishments on perpetrators.

You can join the United Nations Information Centre (UNIC) Windhoek in commemorating this International Observance by remembering the horrors of slavery, the abolition of it and by generating awareness about modern slavery.