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15 Countries Where Slavery Is Still Legal

15 Countries Where Slavery Is Still Legal

If you were to ask people on the street what they thought of slavery, many would reply that it was a practice of the past – something that existed in ancient times or even as recent as the 18th century. But many don’t realize that slavery –although it may be illegal in the modern era – is still as prominent and present as ever as the Global Slavery Index estimates that over 45.8 million people worldwide are living in a form of modern day slavery.

But, modern day slavery isn’t the same as tradition forms of slavery as people back then were considered legal property. However, modern day slavery is defined as a situation where a person cannot refuse or leave because of threats, violence, coercion, and abuse of power or deception, with treatment akin to a farm animal.

The most common forms of modern day slavery includes human trafficking, forced labor, debt bondage, forced or servile marriage, and the sale and exploitation of children.

Despite the horrible truths and reality of modern day slavery, many will be shocked to find that little to no action is taken by governments, as many turn a blind eye and pretend that it doesn’t exist, or simply draw up plans to combat the issue but never get around to properly implementing their ideas.

15. North Korea


Estimated Population in Modern Slavery: 1,100,000

Estimated Proportion in Slavery: 4.373%

The people of North Korea are no strangers to slavery, as generation after generation has been forced into this way of living for over 2000 years. The country has even claimed the number one ranking in the world for their percentage of population in modern slavery. With a population of over 25,000,000, 4.373% of the North Korean people are living in slavery.

The most shocking part of North Korea’s slavery is that hundreds of thousands of children – some even as young as 5 – are forced into back-breaking slave labor for up to 10 hours a day. These children are forced to haul sacks filled with heavy rocks, while others hammer away on railroad tracks. Not only are these children malnourished, they are also brutally beaten if they don’t complete their tasks.

14. India


Estimated Population in Modern Slavery: 18,354,700

Estimated Proportion in Slavery: 1.400%

There is currently an estimated 18,000,000 people –which is larger than the entire population of Chile –living as victims of modern day slavery in India. This equates to 1.400% of the country’s entire population of 1.3 billion people.

Despite bonded labor – the act of forcing a person to perform labor or services as security for the repayment of a debt or other obligation – being legally outlawed in 1976, recent reports have shown that the practice still heavily persists and has become one of the most common forms of slavery in India.

Many families, including their children are forced into working for powerful and wealthy people as bonded laborers and domestic workers. These people are even forced into begging, marriage and prostitution – where they earn little to no income at all.

No matter which area of exploitation these people are forced into, they are suffering from verbal, physical and sexual abuse every single day.

13. Uzbekistan


Estimated Population in Modern Slavery: 1,236,600

Estimated Proportion in Slavery: 3.973%

Sitting just behind North Korea, Uzbekistan takes the ranking as the second highest prevalence percentage in the entire world as 3.973% of Uzbekistan’s entire population is living in modern day slavery. Uzbekistan has a total estimated population of 31,125,000 people with over 1,236,600 of them being forced into a life of slavery.

According the Global Slavery Index, Uzbekistan’s most common form of slavery comes from forced labor, where many of the countries slaves are connected to involuntary labor in cotton fields as it is said to be state-sponsored. It’s common for students to be threatened with expulsion from school and adults fear losing their job or government benefits. If forced labor is refused, the individual will suffer physical and verbal abuse until they agree.

It is reported that some years the number of people forced into picking cotton for over two months can reach numbers up to and beyond 5,000,000 people.

12. China


Estimated Population in Modern Slavery: 3,388,400

Estimated Proportion in Slavery: 0.247%

Being the most populous country in the world – with over 1.3 billion people – it really doesn’t come as a surprise that China has a spot on this list, as almost everything we own is made in China because their labor is unbelievably cheap.

There is currently an estimated 3,388,400 people forced into modern day slavery in China – which includes forced labor upon men, women and children, domestic services, forced begging, sexual exploitation of women and children, and even forced marriages. It is even estimated that 70,000 children are trafficked each year for forced begging, illegal adoption and sexual slavery.

While many often argue that the number of modern day slaves in China is a result of their staggering population. However, they must remember that the US is home to over 300 million people, and only has an estimated 57,700 people living in slavery – leaving many to debunk these claims.

11. Russia


Estimated Population in Modern Slavery: 1,048,500

Estimated Proportion in Slavery: 0.73%

According to the Global Slavery Index, Russia is one of the few countries in the world with more than one million people living as modern day slaves. From information gathered in their survey, it is believed that 1,048,500 people – or 0.73% of their entire population – are living in slave like conditions.

Many of these people are forced in labor, commercial sexual exploitation, forced recruitment, forced begging and even forced marriage. Many Russian men and women are trafficked to countries such as South Korea, China, and Oman for the purposes of sexual exploitation, debt bondage, and forced labor – which includes the sectors of construction, agriculture and fishing.

Children are also a major target in Russian slavery as they are forced to beg in the larger cities – should they not meet their daily quota, they are often punished.

Maybe think twice before heading to the FIFA World Cup next year.

10. Democratic Republic of the Congo

via (AllySoccerChick)

Estimated Population in Modern Slavery: 873,100

Estimated Proportion in Slavery: 1.130%

For decades, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has been plagued with a history of widespread violence, which is usually fuelled by the sheer demand of the countries precious natural resources. The DRC is the world’s largest producer of cobalt – a critical component needed to create mobile phone batteries – this precious metal is one of the very reasons why the Democratic Republic of the Congo is ranked fourth in the world for modern day slavery.

Several survey reports have found that the most common forms of slavery within the Congo is: child soldiers, peonage, forced labor, sexual slavery, child slavery, and debt bondage.

There have even been rumours that tech giants such as Apple and Samsung might have been using cobalt from the very mines that depend on child labor.

9. Pakistan


Estimated Population in Modern Slavery: 2,134,900

Estimated Proportion in Slavery: 1.130%

As of current, over 1.130% of Pakistan’s population – or an estimated 2,134,900 people – are believed to be trapped in modern day slavery. Just like all countries, slavery has been outlawed in Pakistan since the early 1990’s, but the cycle still continues as thousands of children every year are condemned to a life of hardship as they are forced into intergenerational bonded labor to help repay their families debt.

Many of these people work in Brick Kilns, where they earn £1 for every 1000 brick – however, every cent goes straight back their employer. One man has worked for over 40 years in these factories as he is in debt for 50,000 rupees – which equates to only $476.00 American dollars, which is lower than the average American weekly wage.

Pakistan also has some of the highest rates in the world when it comes to forced marriages, exploitation of children and human trafficking.

8. Sudan


Estimated Population in Modern Slavery: 454,700

Estimated Proportion in Slavery: 1.130%

Slavery has been present in Sudan ever since ancient times as it first began in ancient Egypt. Since then, the Second Sudanese Civil War has sparked a new wave of modern day slavery, which revolves very heavily around human trafficking, forced labor and sexual exploitation of the countries women.

During the peak of the Civil War, it is estimated that between 14,000 to 200,000 men, women and children were abducted and forced in slavery during 1986 and 2002. Despite the war ending, slavery has continued in Sudan, with approximately 454,700 people still living in slavery – which is a staggering 1.130% of Sudan’s entire population.

It is not uncommon for Sudanese women and girls to be trafficked to Middle Eastern countries such as Qatar for domestic servitude and to European countries such as Poland for sexual exploitation. Many children are also trafficked to Yemen and Saudi Arabia for forced begging.

7. Dominican Republic


Estimated Population in Modern Slavery: 104,800

Estimated Proportion in Slavery: 1.00%

Known for its sugar industry, the Dominican Republic is home to over 104,000 people living in modern slavery, which equates to 1% of their entire population. This ranks the Dominican Republic in the top 10 countries in the world when it comes to prevalence of slavery.

The country – which is known heavily for its sugar and coffee industry – is responsible for human trafficking, where men, women and children are trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor. In some cases, women and even children are forced into prostitution and domestic services – and many parents often push their children into prostitution in order to support their families.

When it comes to labor, many are forced to work 14 hour days, 7 days a week in appalling conditions. Many workers are left without electricity, clean water, education, health care and even adequate nutrition.

6. Yemen


Estimated Population in modern Slavery: 303,200

Estimated Proportion in Slavery: 1.130%

Slavery was demolished in Yemen during 1962, but despite international treaties and conventions, reports have shown that slavery is still as present as ever, and is in fact growing rapidly. It is currently believed that an estimated 303,200 people are living in modern day slavery, which is 1.130% of Yemen’s entire population.

The most common forms of slavery in Yemen are: human trafficking, forced labor, debt bondage, forced marriage and child exploitation.

Despite slavery never truly disappearing after it was ‘banned’, the issue remerged as major news in 2010 when the Yemeni Observatory of Human Rights leaked a contract authorizing the purchase of a slave. This contract was approved by a judge in the Kuaidnah district of Hajja governorate.

5. Iraq


Estimated Population in Modern Slavery: 403,800

Estimated Proportion in Slavery: 1.13%

With over 1.13% of their population living in modern day slavery, Iraq sits among some of the highest percentage rates in the world when it comes to slavery. Forced labor, sexual slavery, militia recruitment and forced marriages are just some forms of slavery that are present in Iraq.

One of the most shocking forms of slavery in Iraq is sexual slavery – where many women and children are captured and sold into slavery and held in barbarous conditions by the Islamic State. Many have even reported of the disgusting marketing that many mothers are doing to their daughters – where some as young as eleven and twelve – are being sold for as much as $30,000.

Other children – mainly boys – are being forced into militia groups, where they are used as suicide bombers, informants, bomb makers and even human shields. Some have reported that families are selling their disabled children to the Islamic State for exactly this purpose.

4. Indonesia


Estimated Population in Modern Slavery: 736,100

Estimated Proportion in Slavery: 0.29%

Home to an estimated 738,100 modern day slaves, Indonesia is ranked in the top 10 countries in the world for their sheer number of slaves. According the Global Slavery Index, the most prominent forms of slavery in Indonesia include human trafficking, forced labor, and sexual exploitation.

It should come as no surprise that Indonesia has such a high number of modern day slaves as approximately 80% of their population is living in either poverty or working in such poor conditions that offer little pay and no social security. It has even been reported that Indonesia is responsible for the worst forms of child labor in the palm oil industry due to their poor treatment.

While it may appear that the Indonesian Government has a strong response on paper to end modern day slavery, there actions are little to none as they are often poorly implemented and hampered by high levels of corruption.

3. Philippines


Estimated Population in Modern Slavery: 401,000

Estimated Proportion in Slavery: 0.398%

Although slavery may have been banned it still continues to be a prominent issue, especially for under-developed countries. The Philippines is no exception, as while the country may boast a population over 100 million, it is estimated that 401,000 people– or 0.40% of their entire population – are living in slave like conditions.

While the most common form of slavery in the Philippines may be forced labor, they also suffer very heavily from commercial sexual exploitation, recruitment of child soldiers, and also Pa-aling Fishing – a form of deep sea fishing.

Just like most countries, slavery is persistent within the Philippines due to their extreme rate of poverty stricken families – where most believe that their only option to survive or provide for their family is through submitting to modern day slavery.

2. Guatemala


Estimated Population in Modern Slavery: 138,100

Estimated Proportion in Slavery: 0.845%

With ongoing wars and more than half of the population below the national poverty line, it’s no surprise that Guatemala –a country known for its rampant crimes and drug trafficking – still suffers from modern day slavery. According the Global Slavery Index, Guatemala currently has an estimated 138,100 people – or 0.845% of entire population – living in slavery.

The most common forms of slavery in Guatemala is human trafficking, sexual exploitation, and forced labor. But it is human trafficking and sexual exploitation that has the Guatemala Government worried, as these are the two most significant and growing forms of slavery in the country. Many women – and especially children – are being forced into prostitution.

There was even a recent court case where former military officers were convicted of holding several women as sexual slaves.

1. Nigeria


Estimated Population in Modern Slavery: 875,500

Estimated Proportion in Slavery: 0.481%

Over 182,000,000 people call Nigeria home, but it is estimated that 875,500 of these people are living in modern slavery – which is approximately 0.481% of Nigeria’s entire population. According to a survey ran by the Walk Free Foundation, forced labor under the domestic sector is the highest form of slavery in the country, which is followed very closely by forced marriages.

Many of Nigeria’s modern day slaves are said to be treated like property – which is very similar to olden day slavery – where they are owned, bought and controlled. Many of the countries children are not even given a childhood as they are lent out to uncles and aunties and are forced into being house helps and traders in the street. Many of the girls suffer an even worse fate, as 45% of girls aged between 13 and 18 are forced to marry against their will.


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