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A joint study by Gallup and the Walk Free Foundation finds that the global scourge of slavery has now grown to include 35.8 million adults and children worldwide.
The landmark 81-page report, titled “The Global Slavery Index 2014,”
is the first index of its kind to provide country-by-country breakdowns of the number of individuals living in modern day slavery across 167 countries.
In raw numbers, India was found to have the highest number of slaves (14.3 million), followed by China (3.2 million), and Pakistan (2.1 million).
Rated by prevalence of slavery, Mauritania, Uzbekistan, and Haiti topped the list.
The report also contains haunting personal testimonials from modern day slaves. A 13-year-old Afghan girl named Shahida says she was the victim of forced marriage and was beaten and nearly buried alive by her own father when she tried to flee her 45-year-old husband.
“When I refused to return, my father dug a deep hole in the ground. He forced me into it and began to bury me. I still wonder if he really would have buried me alive if the neighbours hadn’t heard my screaming and stopped him,” said Shahida.
The Global Slavery Index reports that 4% of the entire population of the Sub-Saharan African country of Mauritania lives in modern slavery, making it the highest ranked country by prevalence of slavery. Another 72.2% of the population is vulnerable to slavery.
“Religion and slavery are closely interrelated in Mauritania,” says the report. “Religion is often used by masters as justification for ownership over another person. Activists say some Imams (Islamic religious leaders) continue to speak in favour of slavery in mosques, particularly in rural areas.”
Gallup reports that the Walk Free Foundation defines modern slavery as “the deprivation of individual liberty for the purpose of exploitation,” which includes human trafficking, forced labor and marriage, and the sexual exploitation and sale of children.
Poverty was found to be a risk factor for slavery; however, “poverty alone does not tell the whole story,” reports Gallup. Other drivers of modern slavery included belief systems and attitudes, as well as corruption and poor governance.