Blockchain: Breaking the Chains of Modern Slavery

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Blockchain: Breaking the Chains of Modern Slavery

Thousands of people around the world are still even today victims of unjust practice that is exhausting labor and restricting their freedom / Photo by Getty Images

 

History shows how rampant slavery was decades ago, particularly in the United States. The African Americans were the usual targets mainly because they were deemed different and below the status of white-skinned people because of their skin color. The history of slavery actually spans a number of nationalities, cultures, and religions since ancient times. The social, legal, and economic positions of slaves, however, are different in many countries. Nonetheless, it mainly doesn't respect the basic human rights of an individual. 

Just as we thought that slavery ended decades ago with the Confiscation Acts and Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 in the US, thousands of people around the world are still even today victims of this unjust practice that is exhausting labor and restricting their freedom. Modern slavery, as what we call it now, is rampant in many areas around the globe. In fact, there are tens of millions of people trapped in various forms of slavery, which only worsen their already bad status in society. The AntiSlavery.org reported that there are an estimated 40.3 million people suffering under modern slavery around the world today.

One of the reasons why slavery still exists until now is because it is a hidden crime. It is hard for the public to see and for the victims to call out for help. Researchers showed that modern slavery generates about $150 billion every year in illicit profits for traffickers. Most people are aware that it often happens in common places—homes, schools, and offices but it’s not obvious to cause someone to report to the authorities. Thus, there's a greater need to discuss this and make people understand more. 

What is Modern Slavery and How Does it Happen?

Compared to the 19th century where it was difficult to take people from their homeland and bring them to the US to perform various tasks for their “masters,” slaves today are easier to get. A number of raw materials and food products nowadays are tainted by slavery—a fact that most people may not be aware of. Slaves make charcoal in Brazil that is being used all over the world. They also harvest cocoa in West Africa that ends up in our chocolate. There are many more cases. 

Although there is an official document that says slavery ended in the 19th century, it's not simply the case. In truth, slavery has just changed its form and continues to harm people in many countries across the globe. You'll know if it's slavery in instances like treating people as a commodity, forcing people to work, restricting their freedom of movement, and a host of others. Before it was all about people owning other people but nowadays, it is more about being exploited and completely controlled by someone else.

According to the website Free the Slaves, there are several reasons why there has been a rise in modern slavery nowadays. First is the growing population around the world, especially in developing countries. These countries often have bigger populations but weaker economies that leave many people economically vulnerable. Because of this, they tend to acquire jobs that often enslave. If not, they transfer to wealthier cities in search of work, even if it means going to foreign countries.

Corruption by both the local and global governments is the reason behind modern slavery. This is because they allow the unlawful practice to go unpunished. There are even some countries that have no protection for victims from predatory traffickers.

There are tens of millions of people trapped in various forms of slavery, which only worsen their already bad status in society / Photo by Getty Images

 

There are many forms of modern slavery that we should take note of. These include forced labor, debt bondage, human trafficking, descent-based slavery, child slavery, and forced and early marriage, among others. 

In the estimated 40 million enslaved people around the world, statistics have shown that 50% of them are into manual labor in forced labor slavery; 37.5% are trapped in forced marriages; 25% of them are children, and 12.5% are trapped in forced prostitution sex slavery. Unfortunately, the conversation about is still not enough to end it. According to the World Economic Forum, the Global Slavery Index reported that there are some countries that are going backward in tackling slavery. 

 

Using Technology to End Modern Slavery

With the emergence of technology, a lot of societal issues that we have now are being addressed and this includes modern slavery. For instance, artificial intelligence (AI) is already helping to identify victims of trafficking in many ways, such as social enterprises like Marinus Analytics. Recently, researchers suggested that blockchain, the technology behind bitcoin, is the solution for modern slavery. 

According to an article by The Conversation, almost two-thirds of the cobalt mined across the globe comes from the central African country of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) where the notorious history of human rights abuses, particularly slave labor, are well known. Since cobalt is very important in phones and laptops, there's a worldwide demand for it. However, it can't be determined that the cobalt supply came from a slave-free country. 

There's no denying that DRC has cases of forced labor involving its people. The Washington-based organization Free the Slaves conducted an investigation in 2013, which showed that 866 of the 931 individuals interviewed in three mining communities were slaves. With blockchain technology, experts believe that it has the capability to create a verified and tamper-proof record of supply chains from source to end user. It will know where the supply came from. 

However, the reality still exists that technology is not enough to address a complex social problem. Since this is a crucial time to end modern slavery, to continuously shine the issue in the spotlight is certainly a big help.

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