Modern Slavery: Definition and Meaning

The ownership of a person as property, particularly in relation to their labor, is known as slavery. A person who is owned by another or who is compelled to work against their will is a slave. Slavery often entails forced labor, with the master controlling the slave's dwelling and place of employment. A person is placed into slavery by enslavement.

Meaning of Slavery

An unrelated person performing dependent labor under the guise of slavery. The slave was denied his own freedom and his right to travel anywhere he pleased. His ability to choose his career and sexual partners, as well as other factors, was probably constrained. Slavery was typically, but not always, forced upon a person. The slave rule in that location is likely to be described as "mild" if not all of these characterizations in their strictest versions applied to a slave; if practically all of them did, it would typically be described as "severe."

Numerous historical instances of slavery resulted from disobeying the law, accruing debt, losing a war, or being exploited for their cheaper labor; other types of slavery were established along demographic lines such as race or sex. Slaves may be held in servitude either forever or for a predetermined amount of time before being liberated.

There are instances where people voluntarily enter into slavery to pay off debts or earn money because they are in need of it, despite the fact that slavery is typically coerced and involuntary. Slavery was a common component of civilization throughout human history and was allowed in most civilizations; however, now, slavery is illegal everywhere in the world, with the exception of as a punishment for crimes.

Modern Slavery, on the other hand, is the new form of exploiting human resources. The people involved in this illegal act, limits the freedom of some people, restrain their movement, and force them to do something that they substantially do want to do. The most common examples of modern slavery are human trafficking (especially for the prostitution purpose) and child slavery (for begging and domestic help).

Private Versus State-Owned Slaves

Slaves have been individually held by individuals as well as owned by governments. For instance, in premodern Korea, the kisaeng were low caste women who were owned by the state under hojang and were obligated to entertain the aristocracy; in the 2020s, some of these women are referred to as Kippumjo (the pleasure brigades of North Korea — acting as the concubines of the rulers of the state).

It has been referred to as "tribute labor" in numerous incarnations, including corvée, mit'a, and repartimiento. History has a tendency to increasingly label such systems as slavery since the internment camps of totalitarian governments like the Nazis and the Soviet Union gave greater priority to the labor provided in those camps.

Legal Rights

The legal rights of slaves varied depending on the time period and the nation. For instance, a 1686 law in the Province of New York made it illegal to intentionally kill slaves. And, as was already established, there were legal protections for the nobi in Korea, slaves in different African civilizations, and black female slaves in the Louisianan French colony. It has occasionally been a question of morality, but it has also occasionally been a matter of self-interest, to grant slaves legal rights.

Impact of Slavery

One of the primary reasons for racism in the majority of societies is slavery. It significantly harmed racial harmony in America, causing a split to develop between whites and blacks. Slavery's effects have left lasting harm that is still evident today. Racial tensions persisted among the populace in America even after slavery was outlawed in the 1800s. In other words, instead of drawing closer to one another, this caused them to move apart. Slavery also gave rise to white supremacy, which led people to believe that they were better than everyone else simply because of their ancestry and skin color. In terms of the other forms of slavery, human trafficking caused great harm. It is a social evil that still exists today and destroys many innocent lives. The only factor that gave rise to all of this was slavery.

Contemporary Slavery

The number of slaves today is estimated to be between 12 million and 29.8 million, despite the fact that slavery is currently prohibited in every nation. A broad definition of slavery places the number of slaves at 27 million, distributed globally, in 1999. The International Labor Organization estimated there were 12.3 million forced laborers in 2005. According to Siddharth Kara's estimation, there were 28.4 million slaves worldwide as of the end of 2006, classified into three groups: forced labor (7.6 million), bonded labor (18.1 million), and trafficking slaves (2.7 million).

According to Kara's dynamic model, there were an estimated 29.2 million slaves around the globe by the end of 2009. Human Rights Watch said in 2003 that there are an estimated 15 million children in India who are in debt bondage and are forced to work under slavery-like conditions to pay off their families' debts.


Slavery was declared a crime against humanity by the Taubira statute, which the French National Assembly approved on May 21, 2001. Since slavery was practiced in Africa even before the first European settlers arrived and the Atlantic slave trade was carried out with a high degree of African society involvement, an apology on behalf of African countries for their role in selling their citizens into slavery remains an open question. Well-established networks of the slave trade, which were governed by indigenous African societies and people, supplied the black slave market.

A number of historians have significantly advanced their knowledge of the African end of the transatlantic slave trade. Many historians assert African agency and, ultimately, shared culpability for the slave trade by claiming that African merchants chose the combination of trade commodities accepted in return for slaves.


The ownership of a person as property, particularly in relation to their labor, is known as slavery. A person who is owned by another or who is compelled to work against their will is a slave. Slavery often entails forced labor, with the master controlling the slave's dwelling and place of employment. A person is placed into slavery by enslavement.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. Define the term Slave rebellion?

Ans. An armed insurrection by persons who are enslaved as a means of achieving their freedom is known as a slave rebellion. Nearly all societies that currently utilize slavery or have in the past have seen slave rebellions. The greatest inspiration for singing, art, and culture among the enslaved population is frequently a desire for freedom and the hope of a successful insurrection. But slaveowners frequently violently reject and repress a lot of these occurrences.

Q2. What is Slave ship?

Ans. From the 17th to the 19th centuries, enormous cargo ships called "slave ships" were constructed or repurposed specifically to carry slaves. Due to the trade's involvement in the transportation of people to and from the coast of Guinea in West Africa, these ships were also referred to as "Guineamen."

Q3. What do you mean by Mukataba?

Ans. A mukataba is a contract of manumission between a master and a slave in Islamic law, whereby the slave agrees to pay the master a particular amount of money over a specific length of time in exchange for freedom. The slaves who sign this contract are referred to as mukatab in legal literature.

Updated on: 10-May-2023


Kickstart Your Career

Get certified by completing the course

Get Started