Why, hundreds of years after it was legally abolished, does slavery persist? 

Bonded labour, or debt bondage, is perhaps the least known form of slavery today, and yet it is the most commonly used method of enslaving people.

People turn into bonded labour when their labour is demanded as means of repayment for a debt. It characterised by ‘creditor-debtor’ relationship that labourer passes on to their family member. Bonded labours are trapped into working for effectively no pay, often for restless working hours, seven days a week; it’s often involves the whole family member and endures from generation to generation. There is no doubt, the value of their work is always far greater than the money they borrowed.

The ILO estimates that in the Asia-Pacific region today a minimum 11.7 million are in forced/bonded labour. However, the occurrence of bonded labour is much greater than generally estimated, and it may be increasing in various forms and in specific contexts. In India, for example, bonded labour has not been purely a matter of economic, but also reinforced by custom or coercion in many sectors including agricultural, silk, mining, and brick kiln industries.

In Nepal, although bonded labour (known as Kamaiya, meaning forced labour and forced prostitution due to debt) has also been banned under the law, but the system has evolved in various forms (such as Haliya in western part of the country) where the rehabilitation of the kamaiyas has been erratic. In Pakistan, systematic enslavement of many generations of people has also been alarmingly widespread. Bonded labour was legally abolished everywhere, yet many governments fail to enforce their own laws against its practice.

Many of bonded labours have been held for generations, paying off a supposed ‘loan’ taken out by their grandparents. Ashraf, a bonded labour being enslaved near Lahore in Pakistan in brick kiln factory has said:

"There is no way out. How do I get out from here? I have no way out of this. My grandfather died here, my father has grown old here, and I am growing old too. We are slaves, we are not free." (Slavery: A 21st Century Evil),

Ashraf also mentioned that he and his fellows labour normally sleep only two hours every day to continue working; nobody will be able to escape as guards are watching from every spots. Like many other bonded labours, he gave his kidney to his employer for organ trade/trafficking which agreed as part of his repayment to a supposed ‘loan’. But he and his family remain enslaved in the ‘camp’.

Why, hundreds of years after it was legally abolished, does slavery persist?
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