On December 2, 1949, the UN General Assembly passed the Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others.
Although many types of slavery have changed over the centuries, some traditional forms remain as they are.
UN human rights agencies provide documentary evidence confirming the existence of ancient forms of slavery, as stipulated by traditional customs and beliefs. These forms are the result of longtime discrimination of the most vulnerable groups in society, including those from lower castes, tribal minorities and native ethnic groups. Apart from traditional forms of forced labor, including serfdom and bondage, immigrant workers are often subjected to other, more contemporary forms of forced labor, including the forced labor of household servants, and work within the construction sector, the food industry, the garments industry and the agricultural sector.
Although the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) bans slave labor in any form, slavery is more widespread in the modern world than ever before. Experts from the international organization, Free the Slaves, estimate that, over the 400 years of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, about 12 million African slaves were exported to other countries. However, over 27 million people currently can be classified as living as slaves all over the world, including one million in Europe.
In its June 2012 report, the International Labor Organization (ILO) estimated the number of people being subjected to forced labor worldwide at 19.5-22.3 million, and equated them with slave trade victims.
Most victims (56 percent) are forced into slavery in their respective countries, and are not transported to the place of their exploitation.
Those who have been trafficked across borders or relocated to remote areas of any country account for 44 percent of the total number of victims. This primarily concerns the victims of sexual exploitation. It is estimated that 90 percent of slaves are forced to work in the private sector, including 22 percent in the sex industry (forced prostitution and pornography); 68 percent in agriculture; in the construction sector; in private households; and at production lines with arduous working conditions.
Experts believe that the illegal slave trade is the third most profitable criminal business worldwide, after the arms trade and drug trafficking. Annual slave trade and slave labor profits reach about $32 billion and $16 billion, respectively.
Forced labor is widespread all over the world. In its 2006 Global Report on Trafficking in Persons, the UN noted that people were being sold into slavery in 127 countries, and that victims of the slave trade were being oppressed in 137 countries.
According to ILO experts, the largest number of forced labor victims per 1,000 of the population persists in Central and Southeastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States (4.2 per 1,000). They are followed by African countries (four per 1,000); the Middle East (3.4 per 1,000); the Asia Pacific region (3.3 per 1,000); Latin America and the Caribbean region (3.1 per 1,000); and high-income economies, including the European Union (1.5 per 1,000).
On the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery, the UN urges its member-countries to undertake more initiatives to facilitate social integration and end all forms of discrimination.