Slavery, Slavery-Like Practices And Forced Labour

A slave is a person who is controlled by another person or persons so that the slave’s will does not determine the course of his/her life.  The rewards for the work of the slave are also not for his/her to claim

Article 1.1 of the Slavery Convention of 1926 defined slavery as “…the status or condition of a person over whom any or all of the powers attaching to the right of ownership are exercised….”

Article 1.2 of the convention defined slave trade as “…all acts involved in the capture, acquisition or disposal of a person with intent to reduce him to slavery; all acts involved in the acquisition of a slave with a view to selling or exchanging him; all acts of disposal by sale or exchange of a slave acquired with a view to being sold or exchanged, and, in general, every act of trade or transport in slaves by whatever means of conveyance.”

The 1926 Convention’s definition of slavery was broadened to include forced or compulsory labor in 1930 in the ILO Convention concerning Forced or Compulsory Labor (article 2.1):

“…all work or service which is exacted from any person under the menace of any penalty and for which the said person has not offered himself voluntarily.”

Slavery includes:

1) The practices and institutions of debt bondage: the status or condition arising from a pledge by a debtor of his personal services or of those of a person under his control as security for a debt, if the value of those services as reasonably assessed is not applied towards the liquidation of the debt or the length and nature of those services are not respectively limited and defined.

2) The practices and institutions of serfdom: the condition or status of a tenant who is by law, custom or agreement bound to live and labour on land belonging to another person and to render some determinate service to such other person, whether for reward or not, and is not free to change his status.

3) Servile forms of marriage: a woman, without the right to refuse, is promised or given in marriage on payment of a consideration in money or in kind to her parents, guardian, family or any other person or group; or the husband of a woman, his family, or his clan, has the right to transfer her to another person for value received or otherwise; or a woman on the death of her husband is liable to be inherited by another person.

4) The exploitation of children and adolescents: any institution or practice whereby a child or young person under the age of 18 years, is delivered by either or both of his natural parents or by his guardian to another person, whether for reward or not, with a view to the exploitation of the child or young person or of his labor.

To determine exactly which practices constitute slavery it is necessary to consider the circumstances of the enslavement:

  • the degree of restriction of the individual’s inherent right to freedom of movement;
  • the degree of control of the individual’s personal belongings;
  • the existence of informed consent and a full understanding of the nature of the relationship between the parties.

The following international instruments determine standards for the abolition of and protection against slavery, forced labour and slavery-like practices: Slavery Convention (1926), ILO Convention (No. 29) concerning Forced or Compulsory Labour (1930), Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) (article 4), Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others (1949), Protocol amending the Slavery Convention signed at Geneva on 25 September 1926 (1953), Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery, the Slave Trade, and Institutions and Practices Similar to Slavery (1956), ILO Convention (No. 105) Concerning the Abolition of Forced Labour (1957), ILO Convention (182) concerning the Prohibition and Immediate Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour (1989), Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography (2000).


Inside Slavery, Slavery-Like Practices And Forced Labour