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Modern slavery is primarily used as an umbrella term to encompass a broad range of illegal activities which share a number of characteristics. Unlike historic slavery, which refers is clearly defined to the status of when ownership is exercised completely over another person. When looking for a comprehensive definition of modern slavery, the best place to start is with the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) definition from their 2017 global report on forced labour and modern slavery.

“modern slavery covers a set of specific legal concepts including forced labour, debt bondage, forced marriage, other slavery and slavery like practices, and human trafficking…..

it refers to situations of exploitation that a person cannot refuse or leave because of threats, violence, coercion, deception, and/or abuse of power.”

Global Estimates of Modern Slavery: Forced Labour and Forced Marriage

International Labour Organisation

Each of these practices is in among themselves incredibly complex and a huge issue around the world, therefore, they require significant time to digest and understand. However, unlike the term ‘modern slavery’ each of these practices is clearly defined in international law. By aligning each of these practices under the term of modern slavery, a more structured situation emerges for both understanding the gravity of the phenomenon but also for coordinating efforts to combat it.