Slavery: the business case to act

Slavery: the business case to act

Our achingly trendy sub-basement area—'garage chic for lawyers'—typically has a multitude of purposes: law library, break-out lounge, industrial-style kitchen, dance floor.

OK, so not the last one—just checking to see if you were still reading.

This morning, however, the room was transformed into an impromptu lecture theatre for the inaugural 'Lexis Lectures' series. Today's subject? Well, this is where the joking stops. The talk was on the inordinately challenging subject of modern-day slavery and human trafficking.

The word 'slavery' can put people off. It isn't a subject that is often connected with business or commercial law:

Slavery? All that 'ball and chain' stuff was over 200-odd years ago

Or

It's not my problem. Somebody else will deal with it. I wouldn't know where to start

Well, I would argue 'no' and 'no'.

Modern day slavery no longer resembles some BBC2 costume drama with unconvincing papier-mâché balls and chains, but just because we struggle to imagine what it looks like in our mind's eye doesn't make it any the less real. It would be comforting to think slavery is a relic of history, however, it sadly remains a scar on humanity on every continent.

Kevin Bales* (from Free the Slaves) and Nick Grono** (from Walk Free) gave us a chilling insight into the reality of this human catastrophe which they have spent many, many years fighting at the highest levels.

The statistics say it all really:

  • 29.8 million people around the world live in slavery (eg the equivalent of roughly half the population of the UK)
  • 4% of the population of Mauritania is enslaved with many people inheriting slave status from their ancestors
  • 4,200—4,600 people are in modern slavery in the UK

They are clearly shocking figures to take in, but Kevin Bales and Nick Grono were quietly optimistic that things can change; that things will change. It may take 20-30 years but it can still happen.

Why? Well, the Global Slavery Index, which was published earlier today by the Walk Free Foundation is raising levels of awareness of the problem. Hundreds of newspapers and TV networks ac

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