Modern-day slavery is a global issue that affects just about every country in some way. But the circumstances often vary because of geography, local laws and cultural traditions.
Here’s a look at a few of the countries struggling with the problem. What exactly are they dealing with, and how are they coping?
In India, the vast majority of modern-day slaves are what’s known as bonded laborers.
Essentially, these people become property of wealthy landowners because they or even their forefathers have borrowed money from the landowner. The landowner expects them to work off the debt, but the debt never seems to go down.
For generations, there are people who have been working for no wages - only a little bit of food to sustain themselves. Many of the people who are in this situation are low caste. They have no education and they have no real power, so they often just don’t know to fight against this.
Today, bonded labor is illegal in the country. Law enforcement officials have conducted many raids, sometimes freeing entire villages at a time. But the practice is still widespread, especially in rural India. It’s sometimes very easy to pull someone physically out of a situation but very difficult to change mindsets that have been there for generations.
– From CNN’s Sara Sidner
Tens of thousands of visitors come to Spain every year to see landmarks such as La Plaza Mayor in Madrid. But many other visitors, from places like Brazil, Romania and Nigeria, never get that sightseeing opportunity.
These immigrants are hidden away in the shadows, often working in clandestine factories with poor working conditions. Others are forced to work as prostitutes.
In August, police broke up a ring that allegedly tricked young Brazilian men to come into the country and forced them to work as male prostitutes. Authorities said the men were threatened with death and plied with drugs to keep them available for sex 24 hours a day.
The government revised its penal code last year, so the hope is that it will now be easier to get convictions against those who traffic in people and organize forced-labor schemes.
– From CNN’s Al Goodman
Poverty is one of the major reasons why slavery is a problem in Kenya and surrounding African countries.
Human traffickers target slums with the promise of a better life abroad. The residents are convinced to travel to the Persian Gulf, where they are told there will be money and jobs.
When they get to Dubai or Jeddah, often their passports are taken away and they’re paid nothing. And the only way they can get out is to escape.
There are slaves living within African countries, too.
For decades in Sudan, there were Arab tribes coming from the north and stealing people from their families as slaves. Now that peace has come in Sudan, there are thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of people living as slaves. Some of them are branded like cattle.
– From CNN’s David McKenzie
One of the challenges for Colombia is forced labor, especially when it comes to children.
In the provinces of Antioquia, Caldas and also the northern coast, children as young as 8 are often forced to work in coal and gold mines.
Because many of these mines are illegal, working conditions there are often dangerous. Among the risks are chronic disease and also death. Physical abuse is also common.
It is against the law for children under 14 to work in Colombia, and teenagers between 14-18 can work with their parents’ permission. But because of its clandestine nature, the exploitation of children can be hard to track.
– From CNN’s Rafael Romo
Authorities in China are grappling with the dark side of the country’s economic growth: the exploitation and enslavement of workers.
The mentally ill are some of the most vulnerable. Just a month ago, there was a case where mentally ill people were saved from a factory. They had been working without pay, no protective gear, and they had even been fed dog food.
The government has been trying to get on top of this issue and root out some of these underground labor practices. But because there is no social safety net here, a lot of mentally ill people fall through the cracks, are sold off or even forgotten.
Slavery is not a new issue to China. It wasn’t until the early part of the 20th century that it was actually outlawed.
“People poachers” can nab people fleeing North Korea’s oppressive regime.
Picture this: A fearful woman comes down to the river’s edge under cover of darkness. She knows she must make it from North Korea, across to the other side, to China. In the darkness, she is seized by people poachers waiting to kidnap women crossing the border. They are sold to the highest bidder as wives or maids.
– From CNN’s Eunice Yoon and Stan Grant
Like many things in Cuba, the issue of modern-day slavery and human trafficking is a political minefield. On the one hand, the U.S. accuses its ideological enemy of not doing enough to stop the trafficking of women and children in prostitution. On the other hand, Cuba has very clear laws that prohibit prostitution, procurement and the abuse of minors.
We tried to talk to independent watchdog groups but they say they don’t have enough reliable sources of information to comment. As far as child prostitution is concerned, it’s really hard to gauge if it exists and if so, how widespread it is, in part because the local media simply doesn’t talk about it.
On an anecdotal level it’s fairly common to see police questioning young Cubans who hang out outside hotels and bars and markets. Embassies will also say that authorities do crack down on sexual tourism and have put foreigners in jail for it.
– From CNN’s Shasta Darlington