Key concepts

Bonded laborer, India

Bonded labour, India. Courtesy of Free the Slaves/Romano.

A list of terms that are used in describing and discussing contemporary slavery.

Abolition
Ending slavery as a legal category.

Asylum seeker
A person who has fled from danger or persecution, crossed an international border, and is seeking refugee status.

Bonded labour (debt bondage)
A situation where a person promises their labour, or the labour of members of their family, in exchange for cash advances - often to pay for transport to new locations - which then prove impossible to repay.

Boycott
To refuse to buy or use certain goods.

Campaign
A planned set of activities by citizens to bring about changes in a law or practice.

Caste
A form of social hierarchy where people are treated in very different ways because of the social standing of their parents. “Lower” castes generally experience various forms of discrimination and deprivation.

Chattel slavery
Where a person is the property of another and is compelled to labour for them under threat of violence and other punishments.

Child labour
Work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development.

Child soldier
A person under 18 years of age who has been recruited to any kind of regular or irregular armed force.

Citizenship
Having full rights, freedoms, privileges, obligations and protection of the state in which you live.

Coercion
The use of force, intimidation or threats to make people obey or comply with what they are being ordered to do.

Contract slavery
Where a worker is guaranteed employment, perhaps in a workshop or factory, but when they arrive at their place of work they find themselves trapped and enslaved. The contract is used as an enticement to trick them into slavery, as well as a way of making slavery look legitimate.

Dehumanisation
To treat a person or group of people as a commodity, and less than human.

Discrimination
To treat a person or group of people in a less favourable way on the basis of a particular characteristic or an aspect of their identity.

Domestic slavery
Workers performing duties in private households, where they are subjected to severe physical, sexual and/or psychological abuse.

Exploitation
A situation where one person labours for another under harsh and unhealthy conditions for very poor rates of pay.

Fair-trade
A system of trade which guarantees a fair price for producers and requires producers to guarantee fair working conditions and no use of child labour.

Forced labour for the state
Where civilians are compelled to do work for governments or military authorities.

Forced marriage
Where a person, who has no right to refuse, is given in marriage for payment to their parents or others.

Forced prostitution
A situation where a person (usually a woman or girl) is forced to offer sexual services for the commercial gain of someone else, usually involving high levels of coercion and physical abuse.

Gangmaster
A person who employs or directs the labour of temporary workers, often migrants, usually for seasonal agricultural work.

Human rights
The conditions and freedoms that all human beings are entitled to from birth to satisfy their needs and ensure they have a fulfilling life.

Indentured labour
A form of labour where individuals enter into legally binding contracts to work for a set period in exchange for transport, food, lodging and basic wages.

Migrant worker
Someone who works outside their country, who may send part of their wages back to their family.

Refugee
A person who has been given “leave to remain” or citizenship in a country to which they have fled because of danger or persecution.

Rehabilitation
Helping victims of severe human rights abuses to rebuild their lives and recover from their traumatic experiences.

Restitution
When a person receives compensation for losses or damage caused by a third party.

Slavery
Forced labour for another person under threat of violence and/or other punishments and lack of freedom to escape.

Slave trade
The buying and selling of people as slaves.

Serfdom
A person who is compelled to live and labour on land belonging to another person.

Supply chain
The steps through which a product passes, from its point of origin to the point of sale.

Trade union
An organisation of workers who combine to make demands to improve working conditions and pay and to protect workers from unfair treatment.

Trafficking of persons
The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of people for the purpose of exploitation.

Wartime enslavement
Where people in conflict zones - especially women and children - are abducted and forced into domestic or sexual servitude or compelled to become child soldiers.