Almost 30 million people across the world are currently living in slavery, new research shows.
The findings come from the first annual Global Slavery Index released by the Walk Free Foundation, a movement working to end modern slavery, which looked at freedom-depriving practices including slavery, forced labor, debt bondage, human trafficking and child marriage in 162 countries.
The countries that topped the index with the highest prevalence of slavery are Mauritania, Haiti and Pakistan. The Index shows that within Mauritania's population of 3.8 million, as many as 160,000 people are enslaved, giving it "the highest proportion of people in slavery in the world," the Index states. In Haiti, high levels of child marriage and human trafficking from the nation helped bring it to the dubious number two spot in terms of slavery prevalence, but it is also due to the "deeply entrenched practices of child slavery (the restavek system)." As restaveks, as many as half a million children are exploited as they serve as domestic help for wealthier families and may "suffer the cruelest form of neglect – denied food, water, a bed to sleep in and constant physical and emotional abuse." Those who run away to escape the abuse may end up trafficked and forced into begging or sexual exploitation.
Following Mauritania, Haiti and Pakistan on the top ten list of countries with the highest prevalence of modern slavery are India, Nepal, Moldova, Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, The Gambia and Gabon.
In terms of highest absolute numbers of people in slavery, India tops the list, with as many as 14,700,000 people enslaved. “India exhibits the full spectrum of different forms of modern slavery, from severe forms of inter-generational bonded labor across various industries to the worst forms of child labor, commercial sexual exploitation, and forced and servile marriage,” the Index states.
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Pakistan, number three on both the lists by prevalence and absolute numbers, with as many as 2.2 million people enslaved "in primary industries, manufacturing, commercial sexual exploitation, forced begging and domestic servitude."
“It would be comforting to think that slavery is a relic of history, but it remains a scar on humanity on every continent," said Nick Grono, CEO of Walk Free Foundation, in a statement.
"This is the first slavery index but it can already shape national and global efforts to root out modern slavery across the world. We now know that just ten countries are home to over three quarters of those trapped in modern slavery. These nations must be the focus of global efforts,” Grono continued.
While scoring low, the Index ranked the U.S. at 134 of the 162 countries. That marks a worse ranking than Cuba, the lowest scoring country in the region, which placed at 149 on the Index. The reports states: "The relative wealth of Canada and the United States, their demand for cheap labor and relatively porous land borders, makes them prime destinations for human trafficking, as reflected in the underlying prevalence estimates."