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Eight Facts About Chattel Slavery

Chattel Slavery
The definition of chattel slavery is a “civil relationship in which one person has absolute power over the life, fortune, and liberty of another.” According to a report issued by the Australia-based Walk Free Foundation, 29.8 million people still exist as slaves in the modern world. Among the enslaved, there are forced laborers, forced prostitutes, child soldiers, child brides in forced marriages and those in the servitude of absolute ownership (chattel slaves). Below are eight facts to illustrate the current state of chattel slavery around the world.

Top Chattel Slavery Facts to Know

  1. Countries with the most chattel slavery include the East African countries of Mauritania and Sudan. Within these countries, people can experience being bought and sold as if they were a commodity.
  2. The enslaved are often captured during raids of villages, with girls as young as ten often seen as easy targets. Branding with hot metal objects is a practice often used to prevent escape, while female genital mutilation and castration are frequently imposed punishments to those who try.
  3. Civil strife in Sudan has created a comeback for slavery within the country, as an increasing number of war prisoners face abduction. As government-armed Arab militias loot villages in the southern regions, they have been known to murder the men and take the women and children to be auctioned off and sold as property. According to James Aguir of Sudan’s Committee for the Eradication of the Abduction of Women and Children, “35,000 slaves remain in bondage in Northern Sudan.”
  4. While Mauritania’s government has continually banned slavery, there is little enforcement effort.  Current estimates claim that 20% of the population are slaves to North African Arabs. As slaves, their only purpose is for house and farm labor and sex.
  5. Children of chattel slaves are born the property of their parents master. As Fatma Mint Mamadou was born a slave in Mauritania, she knew of little else. When questioned if she and the other slave girls in her village were raped, she answered, “Of course they would come in the night when they needed to breed us. Is that what you mean by rape?”
  6. About one in ten Haitian children are sold to wealthier families to become “restaveks” or “stay withs” by poor parents who have few other choices. As these impoverished people normally have no other income source, their only chance of survival often comes from selling their children into forced labor conditions resembling those of chattel slavery.
  7. Rich, developed countries have the lowest rates of slavery. In reference to the Walk Free Global Slavery Index, the Washington Post’s Max Fisher wrote that “effective government policies, rule of law, political stability and development levels all make slavery less likely.”
  8. Slavery is driven by extreme poverty, corruption, and discrimination. As Fisher argues, “When society treats women, ethnic groups or religious minorities as less valuable or less worthy of protection, they are more likely to become slaves”.

While slavery continues throughout many developing nations, the need for strengthening those weakened by poverty is undeniable. As trends have shown, investing in the stability of poorer nations and their people will help enable citizens to stand up against the corruption in their own countries, as well as major human rights violations like chattel slavery.

Kendra Richardson

Photo: Flickr