What is Modern Slavery?

Modern slavery refers to forms of exploitation. Commonly, this includes slavery, servitude, forced labour, trafficking in persons, and the worst forms of child labour. In some countries, the forms of exploitation also include debt bondage, deceptive recruitment for labour or service, forced marriage and harbouring victims.

These forms of exploitation involve coercion that deprives a person of their freedom.

  • Slavery involves exercising rights of ownership over a person. Rights of ownership include making a person the object of a purchase or utilising a person’s labour or services in a substantially unrestricted manner.
  • Servitude involves significant deprivation of personal freedom. This form of exploitation arises through coercion that results in a person being unable to withdraw their labour or service or to leave the workplace.
  • Forced labour also arises with coercion. A person is not free to withdraw their labour or service or to leave the workplace.
  • Trafficking in persons is the movement of a person by the use of coercion for exploitative purposes such as slavery, servitude, forced labour, sexual exploitation, removal of organs, forced marriage, or debt bondage.
  • Forced marriage occurs when a person enters into a marriage without freely and fully consenting because they have been coerced or they are incapable of understanding the nature and effect of the ceremony.
  • Debt bondage occurs when a person pledges their services or the service of a third person as security for a debt (whether that debt is real or claimed) and the debt is: manifestly excessive; or the reasonable value of that person’s services is not applied to the debt; or the length and nature of the services are not limited and defined.
  • Deceptive recruitment for labour or service occurs where a person deceives another person as to certain matters. These include, for example, the extent to which a person will be free to leave the workplace or to withdraw their labour or service.
  • Harbouring a victim arises where a person harbours, receives or conceals another person.
  • The worst forms of child labour include the above forms of exploitation but also extend to participation in armed conflict or illicit activities and work which could harm children’s health or well-being and/or expose them to danger.
Common forms of coercion in modern slavery

The International Labour Organisation has found victims endure various forms of coercion, whether actual or threatened. The most common include confinement, withholding passports or other identity documents, denial of essentials such as food and sleep, acts of physical or sexual violence, and withholding of wages. According to the ILO, females are more likely to be subjected to sexual violence and have their passports withheld whilst males predominately suffer confinement and denial of food and sleep.

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