What does a slave look like – Signs of Slavery

asian aid - signs of slaveryIf there is one thing in this world that does not discriminate, it is slavery.

Slaves look like you.

If there is one thing in this world that does not discriminate, it is slavery. Whether a person is old or young, male or female, even rich or poor, slavery could impact them. In fact, when it comes to recognizing victims of slavery, human trafficking or abusive relationships, advocates said one of the main things to remember is they look like, well, you.

There are, however, personal vulnerabilities. Slavery happens due to the exploitation of a vulnerability. The vulnerability might be youth. It might an addiction. It might be the fact that someone is a runaway. Or that they come from a broken home.

For 12-year-old Kumar, it was bad company. Despite his parents’ pleas, he threatened and blackmailed them and dropped out of school to have fun with his friends. He later ended up selling vegetables on a footpath in a nearby market, spending his earnings with friends buying cigarettes and alcohol.

When staff from Oasis India, Asian Aid’s partner, met him in the streets of Bangalore, they counselled him to return to school and outlined the dangers he faced if he stayed on the streets. Though he did not want to get back to formal education, he enrolled in the National Institute of Open Schooling, and he is now attending classes regularly, safe from the risk of exploitation.

Spotting the Signs

Like Oasis staff did, how can you tell when a child or young person has run away from home and is at risk? What are the signs and different circumstances you can look for?

  • Signs of physical abuse such as bruises or cuts
  • unexplained absences from school
  • being less appropriately dressed than before
  • sexualized behaviour
  • being overly tired
  • withdrawn
  • depressed or distracted
  • bragging about making or having a lot of money
  • displaying expensive clothing, jewellery or shoes
  • a new tattoo (often used by pimps to brand victims)
  • having an older boyfriend or new friends with a different lifestyle
  • gang involvement
  • disjointed family connections
  • running away
  • living with friends
  • homelessness could point to someone being enslaved or exploited.

On the other hand, pimps typically exhibit the following behaviours. They are often jealous, controlling and violent, significantly older than their female companions, and promise things that seem too good to be true. They buy expensive gifts or items. They are very vague about their profession and make the victim feel responsible for his or her financial stability.

Unlike Kumar, often children are trapped by such pimps and end up in the worst conditions. Whatever the form or circumstances of their slavery, its effects are detrimental to their physical, mental and intellectual development, preventing them from growing to their full human capacity.

Thousands of children in India, Nepal and Pakistan are forced to crouch in dark, crowded, narrow rows 14 hours a day weaving carpets. This may be good business for the slave owner, but a child carpet weaver grows up without education and often with debilitating back, leg, finger, eye, and lung problems due to his/her work and living conditions. Aside from the physical, mental, and emotional damage inflicted upon enslaved and exploited children, communities and families suffer as well. The impact of child slavery on society as a whole must be considered. By allowing millions of the world’s children to be directed towards a life of exploitation rather than education, growth and development, we are setting up barriers to the success of future generations of community and family leaders. Children who are raised only learning exploitation, violence and slavery often perpetuate the same violence on future generations of children in their community.

Breaking this cycle is a long-term process, but it is possible.

Keep a child from slavery today by donating to our current anti slavery campaign.

Pudens Isabel

Author: Pudens Isabel

One part writer, one part photographer & two parts traveller…

Two years ago I decided something needed to change, so I quit my corporate job and started working for Asian Aid from my home in India.

Since then I have been visiting Asian Aid projects with my camera and notebook in tow, to bring pictures and stories from the field to you.