Slavery has been with us since the start of human history, men, women and children around the world are forced to lead lives as slaves. Slavery was part of human life, today slavery still present around the world trough violence. Humans are seen as a commodity in the society that can be bought or sold, it is the business of people.
According to Bales (2004), slavery has never stopped to happen the changes in social and economic aspect of a society worldwide have contributed to fast growth in the extent that slavery is still happening today (cited in Burke 2008). This rapid growth of slavery is a result of population growth, especially in African, Asian and Latin American countries where resources are limited to support population growth. Through technological advantages, economies of North America and European countries advanced for inexpensive labor and goods.
Before the end of the 18th century, the inclusion of enlightenment ideas regarding natural rights and political liberty occurred in every society around the world and a change in moral consciousness started. Religion like Christianity and proclaiming the gospels and bible texts paved the way for humanitarian movement which changes the view and opinion towards a trade that had been practiced every civilization in history. The Quakers provided both political and financial support in quest to put an end to slavery in the colonial areas most especially in America. During the 1770s the Society of Friends purged its own membership first of those involved in the slave trade and then of slave owners. In England, the London-based Quaker group takes action and established the original abolitionist organization called the Committee on the Slave Trade. However in 22nd of May 1787, Prime Minister William Pitt and William Wilberforce agreed to lead a parliamentary campaign for the abolition of the slave trade, Wilberforce agreed, the Committee for the Abolition of the Slave Trade was created and the first campaign for the mass petitioning of Parliament was launched.
One significant success of the abolitionists was the establishment of Sierra Leone, this African colony created in the hope of promoting fair and lawful commerce between Africa and other countries. In 1807, the committee reached their major victory when the Parliament abolished the slave trade in Britain’s colonies and the committee was replaced by the African Institution to see that the new laws in opposition to the slave trade were accurately imposed and also to encourage legitimate trade with African countries.
Despite of all efforts made by the Parliament and the committee on the slave trade these had just brought disappointing results. Although slave trading became illegal in Britain’s colonies, slave trade continued to other areas almost as actively as ever before and with undiminished cruelty and the condition of the black slaves already in the British colonies had not improved. Despite being prohibited to trade or purchase slaves many British found ways to continue the illegal activity of slave trading. There are no rules placed to control and manage other traders such as the Spanish, French and Portuguese, who were now responsible for many incidents involving slave trading. The so-called ‘abolitionist agitation’ caused Parliament to seek improvements on the majority of slaves, Thomas Fowell Buxton, initiated the opposition. Even though Parliament agreed to the weak measures presented by the pressure groups still they passed those proposals on to the colonial legislative bodies, the legislative bodies will be given sanctions if little bad happened to these proposals. These proposals gave an opportunity to slaves for religious teaching, removing obstacles to manumission, discontinuing beating women and most importantly the support for keeping slave families together.
The planters are determined to protect their land, property and their livelihoods which influenced some members of the Anti-Slavery Society of the need for more radical measures, and on 1831 to 1834 the radical breakaway group formed and named the Agency Committee, this committee demanded nothing less than urgent and unconditional emancipation. Prominent members of this group are George Stephen, Joseph Sturge, and Joseph and Emanuel Cooper.
The Bill for the Total Abolition of Colonial Slavery passed on 29 August 1833, throughout the British colonies, however an eight-year apprenticeship system was established in order to pacify planters. This system created to help ease and improve the severe change in policy; children below six years will be given freedom while former slaves were required to dedicate their time to the service of their owners in exchange for food and clothing.
Apprentices are liable to corporal punishment and the planters were to be compensated by a grant of £20 million pounds. The British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society intended to put an end to slavery and the worldwide slave trading with no use of force, BFASS consisted of a London-based executive committee and local societies they used different methods to achieve its aims such as publishing pamphlets, petitioning and posing questions in Parliament regarding the international slave trade (Hinks, McKivigan & Williams, 2007, p.113).
The British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society campaigned in opposition to exploitation of labor throughout this period, despite failure to abolition of slavery, the Society effectively recognized and that despite government regulations still fraud and abuses continued on a large scale. One major achievement of BFASS was the organization of the World’s Anti-Slavery Convention happened in 1840, this convention attended by large delegations from France and United States. This convention covered issues concerning legal and extra-legal practices adopted by planters to limit freedom of slaves such as imposition of high rents on those who wanted to reside on the plantation area. Between 1935 and 1938, the League of Nations established the Advisory Committee of Experts on Slavery, the goal of this committee is to monitor the progress of the abolition of slavery. The committee established by the League of Nations focused on the issue of human trafficking for prostitution, although this practice also known as the “white slave trade” and it had already been the subject of several international conventions.
According to the Anti-Slavery International (2008), a convention signed in 1949 approved to penalize any person who procures, entices or leads away, for purposes of prostitution, another person, even with the consent of that person and anyone who exploits the prostitution of another person, even with the consent of that person, including brothel owners.
Many believed that the slavery in the past is unlikely to the slavery today in which there are various types. One type of slavery according to Anti-Slavery International is Bonded labor, this kind of labor concerns people around the world who are bounded laborers those who are being tricked into taking a loan for as little as the cost of medicine for a sick child. Another type of modern slavery is the early and forced marriage, this are women or even girls over or under the legal age who are married without any choice which also accompanied by physical violence. The third one and the worst are child labor and human trafficking which is actually considered as modern slavery. Even though exploitation and utilization of resources are not called slavery, the conditions are the same. People are sold like objects, forced to work for little or no pay and are at the mercy of their ’employers’. Scholars have studied the tactics in the evolution of abolitionist but they strongly oppose about their effectiveness (McKivigan, 2007, p.2).
According to the Anti-Slavery International (2008), one of the most difficult parts in dealing with contemporary forms of slavery is that, since many of the practices are illegal, evidence is hard to come by. Often it is limited to sensational articles by journalists, who are writing about slavery for the first time, or by interested parties. Equally, many forms of exploitation may go for years undetected, or may never be called to public attention for political or economic reasons.
In a capitalist society whatever the conditions causing to inequality, people still end up unequal, equality of outcome means that everyone should end up equal regardless of their particular circumstances. While equality has not been followed and practiced by governments in many capitalist countries, attempts have been made to achieve equality of opportunity and to a lesser extent equality of condition. It is the prohibiting of people from full and equal involvement and participation in what we, the members of society, perceive as being valuable, important personally worthwhile and socially desirable. In our society there is unequal access built into the foundation of structures that maintain and uphold a contemporary society, however it can be said that our social system needs inbuilt inequalities in order to maintain itself (Preston, 1999, p.1).
The actions of individuals, organizations and social movements have impacts on society and may become the catalyst for social change, everyone can become an agent of change, and however these actions take place inside the framework of culture, institutions structures inherited from the past.
Anti-Slavery International (2007). The history of Anti-Slavery International. Retrieved April 14, 2009, from http://www.antislavery.org/homepage/antislavery/history.pdf
Bales, K. (2007). Ending Slavery: How We Free Today’s Slaves. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
Hinks, P. P. McKivigan, J. R. ; Williams R. (2007). Encyclopedia of antislavery and abolition. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group.
McKivigan, J. R. (2007). Chapter 1: Abolitionist Movement. Retrieved April 14, 2009, from http://www.americanreformmovements.com/images/SAMPLE_INTRO_ABOLITION_MOVEMEN.pdf
Preston, C. (1999). Social Inequality, Prejudice and Discrimination. Culturescope, 61. Retrieved April 14, 2009, from http://www.ptc.nsw.edu.au/scansw/socineq.html#anchor318621