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Tortured slave in Louisiana , USA, 1863

Slavery is a condition in which people are treated as the property of others. When slavery in the narrow sense of history was the right to acquire slaves, sell, rent, rent, give and bequeath, legally anchored. The "slave laws" regulated the private and criminal law aspects of slavery and the slave trade ; in addition, they also determined what rights the slaves were granted.

In many slave-holding states and societies, slaves retained a certain legal capacity and could e.g. B. appeal to the courts or obtain property with restrictions that enabled them in some societies and countries to acquire freedom through self-purchase . In some states, slavery was hereditary ; H. the descendants of slaves were also unfree.

In a broader sense, slavery also includes deprivation of liberty and coercion of people without a legal basis, or as a violation of the applicable laws and human dignity as well as the exploitation of illegal residents . The boundaries between slavery and “slavery-like” phenomena such as forced labor (in industry, mining, plantations, etc.) or forced prostitution are fluid.



The word "slave" (late Middle High German slave and slave ; appellativum the language is one with the common names of the Slaves , medium Greek Sklabēnoi of Slavic Slověninŭ with one of the Greeks inserted k , from which an adjective sklabēnós originated, which in the 6th century to the noun sklábos was, from the 8th century onwards with the meaning of "unfree Slavic origin", from which the Middle Latin became sclavus ) is often derived from an outdated etymological explanation from the Greek verb skyleúo , subsidiary form skyláo , 'make spoils of war'.

However, the derivation common today is based on the borrowing from the Latin sclavus for the ethnic group of the so-called Slavs since the Middle Ages . Romanian şchiau , plural şchei , and Albanian shqa - both outdated terms for the (South) Slavic neighbors, especially Bulgarians and Serbs - come from the same source, because both words could once mean 'servant', 'slave'. Some authors tend to see it originating in the battles of the Ottonians against the Slavs in the 10th century, especially since Widukind von Corvey and the Quedlinburg Annals write ' sclavus ' for Slavs instead of slavus . On October 11, 973, a slave trader was issued a certificate contained in the Monumenta Germaniae Historica , in which instead of the Latin servus, sclavus for 'slave' appears for the first time .

The term saqaliba used in medieval Arabic sources صقالبة/ ṣaqāliba / 'Slaven' also refers to Slavs and other light-skinned or reddish peoples of Northern and Central Europe. The name al-Ṣaḳāliba (Sing. Ṣaḳlabī , Ṣiḳlabī ) is borrowed from the Middle Greek Σκλάβος (the direct source of Latin sclavus ). This is a variant of Σκλαβῆνος (singular) or Σκλαβῆνοι (plural), which is taken from the Slavic self- name Slovĕne (plural). Because of the large number of Slavic slaves, the word has taken on the meaning of 'slave' in several European languages ​​(English slave , Italian schiavo , French esclave ), also in Umayyad Spain , where Ṣaḳāliba denoted all foreign slaves.

The fact that other words for “slave” were initially able to become naturalized in certain European regions became evident from the 10th century during the course of the Reconquista up to 1492, especially in the Christian western Mediterranean area, where those captured in battle and “ Saracen ” / “Saracenin” "Or" Maure "/" Maurin "called prisoners became a commodity and had to do slave labor.

Features and aspects

Inhabitants of Inner Austria are abducted into slavery by the Ottomans , 1530

Slaves usually come from other countries, are snatched from their ethnicity and family and brought into other ethnic, linguistic and social environments that are foreign to them. They can stand outside the law, are reified or dehumanized into goods and become objects of sale and resale. The deprivation of liberty is often accompanied by physical and / or institutional violence . It characterizes the slave trade and means the loss of claims and opportunities for identification (natal alienation) associated with birth and genealogy , as well as the loss of human dignity .

Wherever it determines a social structure, slavery mostly serves economic exploitation and the maintenance of a class society .

Slavery as a form of society

Slave hunters in Brazil ( Moritz Rugendas , 1823)

In the social theory of Marxism and Leninism , “slavery” is understood to mean an economic form of society that is based on the slave owner's ownership of the means of production (land, machines, etc.) and of the direct producers (slaves). Karl Marx , who considered slavery to be the crudest and most primitive form of exploitation and the opposition between slave and slave owner to be an archaic class antagonism , referred the term slave owner society exclusively to ancient societies. However, Marx also described how the superstructure phenomenon of slavery gave rise to political, legal and philosophical views that served the slave owners as an instrument of power.

According to the American historian Ira Berlin , whose main work includes two monographs on the history of slavery in the United States , two forms of slavery must be distinguished. The Society of American southern states before the Civil War was a typical "slave society" (English. Slave society ) have been. In slave societies, the central production processes - in the case of the southern states, the cultivation of sugar cane, tobacco, rice and cotton in plantations - are based on the labor of slaves. In contrast, (Engl. Play in "societies with slaves' societies with slaves ) as such. B. existed in Greek and Roman antiquity, the slaves only a marginal role in the economy. As a result, the slave owners form the ruling class in slave societies, while in slave societies they constitute only part of the wealthy elite.

Differentiation from similar terms

Serfs, ca.1310

The boundaries between slavery and similar forms of submission and exploitation can often not be clearly determined. Terms such as slavery-like dependency or slavery-like working conditions can serve to either delimit or explicitly include such “similar” phenomena and relationships. The following forms of bondage and unfree labor are distinguished from slavery:

  • The term serfdom denotes the relationship between a body lord and the peasants who are under his control, including jurisdiction and clod binding. Serf farmers manage to lease the land of the landlord and make him labor services , the so-called own people served him directly as servants . Whether serfdom was a form of slavery is controversial. The historian Michael Zeuske sees no difference between them.
  • In debt bondage , a debtor pledges his labor to pay off debts, often forced by circumstances and for an indefinite period of time.
  • The Mita and the Encomienda were forms of unfree labor that were imposed on the indigenous population in the Spanish colonial empire . They often differed only in name from slavery, which according to an edict of Queen Isabella in 1503 could not be applied to the indigenous population.
  • Forced apprenticeship (also: indentured apprenticeship ) is the judicially ordered placement of children of former slaves in the household of a "teacher". This transitional form of slavery and freedom was a. widespread in the American southern states after 1865. Similar circumstances already existed in the Middle Ages, when it was not uncommon for children to be given "for education" by their parents to foreign families in order to live there under conditions similar to slavery and often for an indefinite period of time. B. the fante in Venice, often from the Balkans .
  • In contracting , which was widespread in Switzerland and Austria in the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century , children (often orphans or children of divorce) were contracted by farmers and often forced to do hard labor and deprived of many rights.
  • As forced labor work is referred to which a person is forced against his will and under threat of a penalty.

In English , the expressions chattel bondage ("property slavery") and chattel slavery ("property slavery") are used to distinguish slavery more clearly from similar forms of bondage legal sense - i.e. with explicit confirmation by the legislature - is regarded as the property of another person.

The legal definitions of the 1956 United Nations Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery, the Slave Trade and Institutions and Practices Similar to Slavery fix the term slavery to the exercise of the right to property: slavery is accordingly “the legal status or situation of a person, in relation to the individual or all of the powers connected with the right of property are exercised ”. Article 1 lists “institutions and practices similar to slavery”, namely debt bondage, serfdom, hiring out, forced marriage in return for payment in cash or in kind, and the assignment or inheritance of a wife to another person.

Enslaved person

In the English historiography, there is a debate about whether to victims of slavery, the term enslaved person ( "enslaved person") instead of slave ( "slave") should be used. For a change of term, it is argued that the word slave continues the crime of slavery in a linguistic way by reducing the victims to a non-human keyword (commodity, commodity, etc.) instead of remembering them as human beings. Other historians, however, argue that slave is the shorter and more familiar term, or that precisely this word aptly reflects the inhumanity of slavery: “person” would simulate a personal autonomy that cannot exist in slavery.

History of slavery


A Roman soldier and two captured slaves. Relief from Smyrna (today Izmir , Turkey), around 200 AD

The history of slavery, documented by legal texts, begins in the first high cultures of antiquity . The enslavement of prisoners of war was common there ; but their descendants also remained unfree. Slavery was already widespread in Mesopotamia , Egypt and Palestine .

In the Greek city-states , where slaves were used in large numbers in domestic and agricultural work, the rise of trade gave rise to debt bondage , in which insolvent debtors fell into slavery-like dependence on their creditors . Debt bondage was also widespread in Rome, but with the expansion of the Roman Wars of Conquest, prisoners of war were increasingly enslaved there. In both Greece and Rome, freed slaves could gain citizenship.

middle age

In the Islamic culture, the massive use of slaves in work collectives was not very common. In agriculture (date palms, horticulture in the oases) and nomadic cattle breeding, the slaves lived integrated into the household or family communities of the slave owners. An exception were the Zanj , black people who were abducted from East Africa and who worked in large groups in salt pans , in reclamation and on plantations for sugar production in the salt marshes of today's Iraq during the time of the Abbasid Empire . In 869 they started an uprising that brought the Abbasid caliphate to the brink of defeat, but was overthrown.

Around the same time, Turkic peoples such as the Khazars and Germanic peoples such as the Varangians and the Vikings traded in prisoners of war and slaves in the European and Oriental regions. In Saxony and Eastern Franconia , after armed conflicts with the Slavs, a well-organized and very extensive trade in Slavic slaves arose . In addition to Prague, the main trading center was also Regensburg . There there were good trade relations with Venice and Verdun, from where the trade routes continued to Arabia and Spain, where there was a great demand for slaves after the spread of Islam. But also in the Franconian Empire there was a need for unfree labor among large landowners.

The use of military slaves , the Mamluks , played an important role in the rulership of Islamic states, beginning in the early Middle Ages . In their loyalty they stood outside of family and tribal relationships, but could also reach for power themselves, as the example of the Ghaznavids showed.

The Slavic princes also consolidated their rule with human trafficking. According to the Jewish-Arab traveler Ibrahim ibn Yaqub, around the year 960 one of the most famous slave markets was located below the main castle of the Premyslid Bohemian princes in Prague. With Christianization , slavery declined in high medieval Central Europe, where Christians were forbidden to sell or acquire other Christians as slaves. South of the Alps - for example in the Italian Maritime Republics , the Black Sea region , the Balkans and Egypt - slaves continued to be traded on a large scale. Even popes and monasteries owned slaves. Medieval theologians like Thomas Aquinas based the legality and necessity of slavery on the basis of natural law , citing Aristotle .

The first ever legal book in which slavery and serfdom are discarded is the Sachsenspiegel by Eike von Repgow , which was created around 1230 : “Unfreedom is therefore an injustice which is held to be right through custom. Since man is God's image, he belongs only to him and to no one else. "

Slavery was traditionally widespread in many non-European cultures, for example among the Aztecs , the North American Indians and in many parts of Africa and Asia. One should also mention slavery in Islam , which took up and continued earlier forms in the 7th century.

Modern times

In modern times slavery took off again with the expansion of European maritime trade and the establishment of overseas colonies . In many cases these were only sparsely populated, so that African slaves were introduced to build up the economy, on whose labor the economy of these colonies was largely based for centuries. The world's leading slave-trading nation was Portugal until the 19th century . In modern times, Portuguese merchants sold more than 3 million African slaves to Brazil alone. Of course, there was hardly a European sea trading power that was not involved in the international slave trade. This includes not only Spanish, British, French and Dutch, but also Swedish, Danish and Brandenburg merchants.

The capture and enslavement of European seamen and, in some cases, coastal residents by Islamic North African pirates ( barbarian corsairs ) also had a considerable extent from the 16th to the 19th century . It is estimated that anywhere from hundreds of thousands to over a million Europeans fell into slavery in this way. For ransom, among others, Slave funds founded in Hamburg and Lübeck . The enslavement by barbarian corsairs was offset by the sale - possibly of a similar number - of Islamic prisoners on European slave markets such as Malta or Marseille .

On the deck of a slave steamer in the Congo region, around 1900

From the late 18th century onwards, slavery was gradually abolished worldwide. Significant initiatives in this regard for the British sphere of influence were inter alia. from abolitionists like William Wilberforce (portrayed in the movie Amazing Grace ), the former slave trader John Newton and the freed slave Olaudah Equiano and gained public space. Thus, on British pressure on the Congress of Vienna outlawing slavery enforced the conference proceedings in Article 118, laws and the British navy at least tied the Atlantic Slave Trade , which ended in the US in 1865 Civil War slavery.

The outlawing of slavery in the West served as a justification for the colonization of Africa in the age of high imperialism. The European colonial rulers were now able to adopt an attitude of moral superiority towards the Islamic world, in which slavery was still accepted, and justify their colonial reaching out to Africa by having to fight slavery for humanitarian reasons, which is the moral goals of abolitionists and the interests of the abolitionists intersected by imperialists.

In Buddhist dominated Asia slavery altogether played a smaller role than in the West and in the Islamic world. China and Japan were practically "slave-free civilizations" as early as the 18th century.

With the ban in Mauritania, there has been no legal basis for slave trade and slavery in any country on earth since 1981. The formal abolition of slavery, however, only rarely led to effective social equality of the former slaves. This continuity of dependency is particularly well documented in the case of slavery in the United States . Slavery-like forms of subjugation of people can, however, be observed again and again even in cultures in which slavery in the narrow sense has no tradition; such as the Nazi forced labor .

Working through history

Men, women and children worked under the control of a mounted overseer on a cotton plantation in the southern
United States around 1850

Although slavery is now officially abolished in all countries of the world, there are difficulties in facing the issue. This applies to both the Islamic world and how Europe deals with its own past.

On the occasion of the 200th anniversary of the French Revolution , the French philosopher Louis Sala-Molins , who taught at the Sorbonne until 2001, pointed out that none of the enlighteners was interested in the abolition of slavery in the French colonies - neither Condorcet , Diderot , Montesquieu nor Rousseau . A well-known exception was the Marquis de La Fayette . Sala-Molins considers the attitude to the slave question and the blacks to be the decisive weak point in the enlightenment claim to the universally propagated human rights. The Code Noir , enacted in 1685 under Louis XIV. For the colonies, was valid there for 163 years without interruption until 1848. Then it fell into oblivion until it was republished by Sala-Molins in 1987 as "the most monstrous legal text of the modern age".

The French medievalist Jacques Heers stated in 1996 that slavery, as an obvious fact alongside peasant serfdom, in spite of some studies on the Mediterranean area dedicated to it, hardly appears in contemporary depictions of the Middle Ages, and this more or less deliberately.

In the course of anti-racist protests in the United States and Europe led in 2020 to iconoclastic acts against statues and monuments . The depicted historical personalities are often associated with the unreflected memory of slavery and colonialism.


Society forms based on slavery were widespread around the world by the 19th century. Meanwhile, despite its prohibition, slavery continues in places in the 21st century. This can be due to the fact that the slaves, under different names in different cultures, each had a special status in the social environment, because societies are intrinsically highly complex structures. In his study of slavery in the Islamic world, the French anthropologist Malek Chebel comes to an estimate of 21 to 22 million slaves that Christians captured over the course of 1,400 years as prisoners of war, concubines, servants, slaves from Africa or in the Mediterranean slave trade Lost freedom. Chebel also includes the Filipinos, Indians and Pakistanis currently active in the Gulf States, who lose their human rights there, but expressly does not take into account, for example, African minorities in the Maghreb, Turkey, Iran or Afghanistan.

The Walk Free Foundation , founded in 2010 by Australian entrepreneur Andrew Forrest , takes part in the fight against modern forms of slavery. The Foundation has published a Global Slavery Index every year since 2013 with estimates of the prevalence of slavery in 162 countries (2013) and 167 countries (since 2014). The current index from 2018 comes to an estimated total of 40.3 million enslaved men, women and children worldwide.


In almost all epochs, keeping slaves was also underpinned ideologically. The Greeks divided mankind into Greeks and barbarians (from Greek βάρβαρος - the original name in ancient Greece for all those who did not (or badly) spoke Greek) and it seemed only good and fair to make barbarians slaves. In addition, the Greeks enslaved residents of conquered cities even if they were Greeks themselves. According to the Melierdialog of Thucydides , for example, the inhabitants of Milos resisted at the time of the Peloponnesian War in the 5th century BC. BC the mighty Athens and were enslaved by the Athenians. Xenophon fundamentally formulates the right of the fittest:

"For it is an eternal law in the whole world: if an enemy city is conquered, the person and property of the inhabitants are the property of the conquerors"

- Xenophon : Kyrupädie , VII 5.73

On the other hand, the free Greeks found the existence of enslaved Greeks a shame, and enslavement of entire cities remained highly controversial. Some military leaders refused to practice this, such as the Spartians Agesilaus II and Kallikratidas . It was also occasionally banned by treaties between cities. For example, Miletus and Knossos committed themselves in the 3rd century BC. BC to each other not to enslave the citizens of the other city.

In ancient Greece, Aristotle naturally defined the slave as a property. If one leaves aside the problematic substantive philosophy and natural law justification of this property relationship, then Aristotle continues to characterize the slaves by two properties. On the one hand, such possessions have the peculiarity of being a special tool that can replace many other tools. According to Aristotelian teleology , tools have no purpose of their own, but must subordinate themselves to a purpose which is determined by a perfect whole, of which they are only an imperfect part. In contrast to other, inanimate tools, these human tools have a certain anticipatory ability. Aristotle writes that slaves are able to anticipate orders by themselves and not just act on orders from others. As such anticipatory tools, they have souls but are incapable of full, reasonable training. Therefore it is better for the slave to serve superior people as slaves.

Cicero later speaks of Jews and Syrians as "people born to be slaves," suggesting that it is good for some nations to be in a state of total political submission. Above all, the views of Aristotle were used later to give slavery an ideological justification.

In the Bible , slavery is described as a fact of ancient Jewish society. At the beginning of the Old Testament, Noah's curse about his son Ham - ancestor of the Canaanites - justifies permanent bondage (Genesis 9: 18-27). The Mosaic Law differentiated between native and foreign slaves according to their origin (Lev 25: 44–46). Only the latter were considered slaves in the narrower sense - i. H. property that can be sold for life - allowed. Even free-born Hebrews could fall into bondage through indebtedness . However, they were exempt from certain work and had to be released in the seventh year ( sabbatical year ) ( Ex 21.2  EU and Dtn 15.12  EU ). There were no special regulations for the treatment of slaves. It was expressly forbidden to kill slaves (Ex 21: 20-21). In addition, slaves were to be released if they were severely physically abused by their owner (Ex 21: 26-27).

In the New Testament Gospels, however, there is no explicit mention of slavery as a rulership practice. Only in the letters of the apostle Paul does this come up several times. With a view to the heterogeneously composed congregations of the early church, Paul emphasizes that among Christians there is no difference between slaves and free people ( Gal 3.28  EU ; Col 3.11  EU ; 1 Cor 12.13  EU ). This becomes particularly clear in Paul's letter to Philemon when he asks Philemon to accept his runaway and now baptized slave Onesimus as his beloved brother (Phm 15-17). With this, early Christianity formulated the value and dignity of slaves for the first time in antiquity. That Christianity, according to Paul’s understanding, does not contain a social revolutionary message is shown in the first letter to Timothy ( 1 Tim 6,1–2  EU ). Paul argues that the freedom that Jesus Christ gives is not dependent on the external civil status ( 1 Cor 7:22  EU ). He leaves slavery untouched as a socially established form of property, but reminds slaves and masters of their mutual duties (Col 3,22-4,1 ; Eph 6,1-9  EU ). Slavery is part of the divine order in which people have different statuses and have to come to terms with it.

In the Middle Ages, the argument for slavery and slave trade was added that this promoted the Christianization of pagans. With the papal bulls Dum diversas (1452) and Romanus Pontifex (1455) Christians were allowed to enslave Saracens , pagans and other enemies of Christianity and to take their property. In the case of the Dalmatian fante , whose lack of freedom was limited in time, it was emphasized that a few years in slave-like employment were necessary in order for them to have sufficient time to study.

Some medieval popes spoke out strongly against slavery. John VIII declared in 873 in the bull Unum est that it could not be justified according to the teaching of Christ. In a letter Pius II called the slave trade a "magnum scelus" , a great crime, and condemned slavery in a bull of October 7, 1462.

In 1510, Aristotle's theories were first applied to the American Indians by the Scottish scholar John Major. Only in 1537 was it established with the bull Sublimis Deus that other, non-European ethnic groups, e.g. B. Indians that real people are capable of understanding the Catholic faith. Now it was forbidden to take away their freedom and property. However, opposing views were still held in the 19th century. George Fitzhugh, for example, published a book in 1854 in which he wrote: “Some people are born with a saddle on their back, and others are booted and spurred to ride them. And it's good for them! "

Slavery and slavery-like addiction today

“Modern slavery is seen as an exploitative life situation from which the victims cannot escape because of threats, violence, coercion, abuse of power or misleading. In many cases, those affected are detained on fishing boats in Asia, exploited as domestic workers or forced into prostitution in brothels . "

In April 2006 Terre des hommes published figures according to which more than 12 million people must be considered slaves. These numbers were later confirmed by the United Nations . About half of them are children and adolescents. They are victims of human trafficking and forced labor. Most of the forced laborers live in India , Bangladesh and Pakistan . In the industrialized countries too, women in particular live as forced prostitutes under conditions similar to slavery. In addition, construction, domestic and agricultural workers are illegally employed without rights. Individual cases of employment similar to slavery are known in Central Europe. For example, a Yemeni cultural attaché who enjoyed diplomatic immunity held an unpaid domestic servant in conditions similar to slavery for years in Berlin .

Even recently, the history of slavery in Islam is not over. This is how slavery is reported in the Islamic State .

Published for a mid-2016 report by the Walk Free Foundation , one of the Australian entrepreneur and billionaire Andrew Forrest and his wife Nicola in the fight against contemporary forms of slavery, founded Foundation are nearly 46 million people as slaves or slave-like workers worldwide live; two-thirds of them in the Asia-Pacific region. With more than 18 million, India is the country with the most people affected, followed by China with 3.4 million and Pakistan with 2.1 million. North Korea with 4.37%, the highest rate in relation to the own population, it is also the only country in the world that does nothing against slavery. Furthermore, Russia, China, North Korea, Nigeria, Iraq, Indonesia, Congo and the Philippines were among the ten countries in which, according to the Walk Free Foundation's 2018 rating, 60% of the total number of slaves in the world exist.

The Walk Free Foundation has designed and created a Global Slavery Index : In addition to collecting data, it also provides an overview of political engagement around the world.

Situation in individual countries


Working conditions similar to slavery are widespread in rural regions of Brazil to this day, and the phenomenon goes well beyond individual cases. For years there has been an intense debate in the media, among human rights activists and in the scientific community. The keyword is the trabalho escravo , i. e. "Modern slavery". The results of the debate are an adaptation of Brazilian labor law , which defines slavery-like working conditions for the first time and makes them a criminal offense. The definition of “modern slavery” does not include the actual property of people, which has been abolished in Brazil since 1888, but describes working conditions such as debt bondage, deprivation of liberty at work, excessively long and draining working days. These conditions correspond to the form of contractual wage labor, but in fact come close to slavery. With this modern definition, labor law, if implemented locally, can capture modern slavery and punish the profiteers.


According to a report by Kindernothilfe, around 300,000 children of both sexes lived in Haiti in 2009 as house slaves, so-called restavecs (from French : rester avec , `` to stay with someone '') in families of the upper and middle classes, primarily in the capital, Port-au-Prince . Most of them come from rural families who can barely feed their children and therefore usually leave them to better-off families free of charge. There they have to do all the household chores every day with free board and lodging , but without the possibility of schooling and without payment. Physical punishment and sexual abuse without penal consequences for the perpetrators are commonplace. Although the Constitution of Haiti after the end of slavery and the declaration of independence in 1804 also once included a passage that basically guarantees children a "right to love, affection and understanding" and also regulates the "freedom of work", these resolutions are not implemented in everyday reality .

Dominican Republic

According to estimates by the International Organization for Migration (OIM), about 2,000 Haitian children are illegally transported across the border to the Dominican Republic by smugglers every year, where they are sold as domestic slaves and agricultural workers.


Slavery in Mauritania continues despite its repeated official abolition - most recently in 2007 - and affects the descendants of people who were enslaved generations ago and who have not been released until today, the ʿAbīd ( Sing . Abd ), the "white Moors" ( Bidhan ) as slaves to serve. Their number is unknown but is estimated by human rights groups to be in the hundreds of thousands.


The persistence of slavery in Sudan and South Sudan mainly affected the ethnic groups of the Dinka and Nuba and became internationally known through reports from former slaves such as Mende Nazer and Francis Bok . It is not known exactly how many people were enslaved there or still live in slavery; estimates range from a few tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands.

Ivory Coast

According to Anti-Slavery International , according to Greenpeace , around 200,000 child slaves, some of them from neighboring countries, are to be used as harvest workers in Ivory Coast , where 40% of the global cocoa harvest comes from. They are boys and girls between the ages of 10 and 14 who mostly come from Mali , Burkina Faso , Niger , Nigeria , Togo and Benin and only work for room and board without wages. You would have to carry 90% heavy loads and two-thirds spray unprotected pesticides . Around the year 2000, chocolate manufacturers committed themselves to changing this situation. According to a study by the church-related Südwind Institute , hardly anything happened afterwards. As is often the case in international trade, a low purchase price is promoted with almost all means. A court case against Nestlé for slavery and kidnapping of children from Mali is pending in the USA .


The centuries-old tradition of “ baccha baazi ” (literally “boy play”), which is still widely accepted by society, is still practiced in northern Afghanistan : this form of child prostitution , which one UN employee calls child slavery , is dancing a boy disguised as a woman (Bacchá) first in front of men and then mostly has to satisfy them sexually. The “dance boys” are between eight and around fourteen years old, are often bought from poor families, some are kidnapped or are orphans from the street. They are initially trained as dancers for entertainment events similar to sex parties, but at the latest after the onset of the beard growth they are exchanged for younger boys by their "owners", at best married to an older, no longer virgin woman, occasionally also settled with a small house and yard, but mostly simply violated without compensation. Quite a few “Baccha Baazis” have been murdered after trying to escape their “masters” during their “attractive” time.

This happens even though, according to the (not undisputed) interpretation of some exegetes, the Qur'an in the fourth sura calls for the punishment of same-sex sexual acts :

“And those who do it [disgraceful] of you [men] punish both of you. And if they repent and get better, leave them alone. Behold, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful. "

- Sura 4 , verse 16

and although the current law in Afghanistan prohibits sexual intercourse with boys or adolescents under the age of 18 and with girls under the age of 16, and a large number of Afghan men reject homosexuality in everyday public discussions as repulsive and repulsive.


In Nepal which is servitude prohibited by law since 2000th Nevertheless, thousands of underage girls are sold every year, mostly from the age of five, some even from the age of four to 15, in order to do all kinds of work in the houses of wealthy landowners as so-called Kamalaris without any rights and without any protection for up to 16 hours a day. 10 percent of them are also sexually abused by their owners .

Recognition of modern forms of bondage as slavery

Article 4 of the European Convention on Human Rights prohibits slavery. Many politicians and human rights organizations who are committed to combating modern forms of bondage - especially forced prostitution , forced labor , child labor and the recruitment of children as soldiers - are trying to get these phenomena recognized as slavery. There are said to be more slaves in the world today than ever before in human history. In Section 104 of the Austrian Criminal Code , slave trade and the enslavement of others are threatened with imprisonment of ten to twenty years; In Germany the perpetrator faces 6 months to 10 years (work slave: § 233, sexual exploitation: § 232, kidnapping: § 234 StGB ) imprisonment.

The Council of Europe condemns and criminalizes all forms of slavery under Article 4 of the European Convention on Human Rights. But even today people can find themselves in situations that are comparable to the state of slavery. One example is the criminal trafficking in human beings and the detention of women for sexual exploitation. Since the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe and the ongoing instability in the area of ​​the former Yugoslavia, forced prostitution of women and girls has increased.

Human rights organizations advocate that forced prostitution is legally treated as slavery and thus as a violation of human rights. This also affects the democratic states of Central Europe. In some cases, the existing legal provisions are inadequately implemented.

Abolition of Slavery in the Present

See also





  • Robert C. Davis: Christian Slaves and Muslim Masters - White Slavery in the Mediterranean, the Barbary Coast, and Italy, 1500-1800. Palgrave Macmillan, Houndmills GB 2003, ISBN 0-333-71966-2 .
  • Seymour Drescher: Abolition - A History of Slavery and Antislavery. Cambridge University Press, New York 2009, ISBN 978-0-521-60085-9 .
  • Frederick C. Knight: Working the Diaspora - The Impact of African Labor on the Anglo-American World 1650-1850. New York University Press, New York / London 2010, ISBN 978-0-8147-4818-3 .
  • Kenneth Morgan: A Short History of Transatlantic Slavery. Tauris, London / New York 2016, ISBN 978-1-78076-386-6 .
  • Orlando Patterson: Slavery and Social Death. A Comparative Study. Harvard University Press, Cambridge MA / London 1982, ISBN 0-674-81083-X .
  • Johannes Postma: The Atlantic Slave Trade . University Press of Florida, Gainesville et al. 2005.
  • Joel Qirk: The Anti-Slavery Project. From the slave trade to human trafficking . University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia 2011, ISBN 978-0-8122-4333-8 .
  • Jonathan Schorsch: Jews and Blacks in the Early Modern World. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2004, ISBN 0-521-82021-9 .
  • Eric Eustace Williams : Capitalism and Slavery. University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill 1944.
  • The Cambridge World History of Slavery. 4 volumes, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge / New York 2011 ff. (Volume 2 on the Middle Ages not yet published).





  • Slaves Today - Business Without Mercy , Italo-French Documentary (1964)
  • Daniel Cattier, Juan Gélas, Fanny Glissant (Directors): Human Trafficking - A Brief History of Slavery. France, documentation, 2018. Original title: Les routes de l'esclavage.

Web links

Commons : Slavery  - Album containing pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: slavery  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wikisource: Slavery  - Sources and Full Texts

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Friedrich Kluge , Alfred Götze : Etymological dictionary of the German language . 20th edition. Edited by Walther Mitzka . De Gruyter, Berlin / New York 1967; Reprint (“21st unchanged edition”) ibid 1975, ISBN 3-11-005709-3 , p. 711 f.
  2. slave. In: F. Kluge: Etymological dictionary of the German language . 1891.
  3. ^ Friedrich Kluge : Etymological dictionary of the German language . 7th edition, edited by Walther Mitzka . Walter de Gruyter, Berlin 1957, ISBN 978-3-11-154374-1 , p. 712 (accessed via De Gruyter Online).
  4. See Malek Chebel: L'Esclavage en Terre d'Islam. Un tabou bien gardé. Fayard, Paris 2007, ISBN 978-2-213-63058-8 , p. 35. - For the French medievalist Jacques Heers, this etymology is clear.
  5. Alexandre Skirda, La traite des Slaves. L'esclavage des Blancs du VIIIe au XVIIIe siècle , Les Éditions de Paris: Paris 2010, p. 5.
  6. Jacques Heers: Esclaves et domestiques au Moyen Âge dans le monde méditerranéen. Hachette, Paris 1996, ISBN 2-01-279335-5 , pp. 24-30.
  7. See Jacques Heers (1996), p. 7.
  8. ^ O. Patterson: Slavery and Social Death. 1982, pp. 35-101.
  9. Georg Klaus, Manfred Buhr (Ed.): Marxist-Leninist Dictionary of Philosophy. Rowohlt, Reinbek 1983, ISBN 3-499-16157-5 , p. 1109.
  10. Ira Berlin: Generations of Captivity: A History of African-American Slaves. The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge / London 2003, ISBN 0-674-01061-2 , p. 8 f.
  11. The genesis of slave-holding societies is described in more detail in Richard S. Dunn: Sugar and Slaves: The Rise of the Planter Class in the English West Indies, 1624-1713. Chapel Hill 1972; and in Richard B. Sheridan: Sugar and Slavery: An Economic History of the British West Indies, 1623-1775. Baltimore 1973.
  12. Michael Zeuske: Handbook history of slavery. A global story from the beginning until today. De Gruyter, New York / Berlin 2019, ISBN 978-3-11-055884-5 , p. 213.
  13. ^ Richard Konetzke : South and Central America I. The Indian cultures of ancient America and the Spanish-Portuguese colonial rule (=  Fischer Weltgeschichte , vol. 22). Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 1965, pp. 173-204.
  14. ^ Robert Delort : Le petit peuple des esclaves en Toscane, à la fin du Moyen Âge. In: Pierre Boglioni, Robert Delort, Claude Gauvard: Le petit peuple dans l'Occident médiéval. Terminologies, perceptions, réalités: Actes du Congrès international tenu à l'Université de Montréal 18–23 October 1999 (=  Publications de la Sorbonne. / Histoire ancienne et médiévale , Volume 71). Publications de la Sorbonne, Paris 2002, ISBN 978-2-85944-477-8 , pp. 379-394.
  15. Contracted and suppressed. Up until 40 years ago, children were abused as work slaves in Switzerland. In: Süddeutsche Zeitung. from October 19, 2009, p. 9.
  16. Traditional or Chattel Slavery Brandeis University
  17. Additional Convention on the Abolition of Slavery, the Slave Trade and Institutions and Practices Similar to Slavery (here on the website of the Federal Authorities of the Swiss Confederation), see Article 7.
  18. Slave or Enslaved Person? It's not just an academic debate for historians of American slavery. . In: Slate , May 19, 2015. Retrieved May 20, 2015. 
  19. Michael Zeuske : Handbook history of slavery. A global story from the beginning until today. De Gruyter, New York / Berlin 2019, ISBN 978-3-11-055884-5 , pp. 445 f.
  20. ^ Abdul Sheriff: The Zanj Rebellion and the Transition from Plantation to Military Slavery . In: Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East . tape 38 , no. 2 , August 1, 2018, ISSN  1089-201X , p. 246-260 , doi : 10.1215 / 1089201x-6982029 .
  21. ^ Ernst Emmering: Regensburg and European history . In: Konrad Maria Färber (Ed.): Regensburger Almanach . tape 2008 . MZ Buchverlag, Regensburg 2008, ISBN 978-3-934863-44-6 , p. 26-27 .
  22. ^ Matthias Hardt: Slavs. in: Michael Borgolte (Ed.): Migrations im Mittelalter. A manual. Akademie, Berlin 2014, ISBN 978-3-05-006474-1 , pp. 171–181, here p. 179.
  23. See the French book by Jacques Heers: Esclaves et domestiques au Moyen Âge dans le monde méditerranéen. (Slaves and domestic servants in the Middle Ages in the Mediterranean world.) Paris 1996.
  24. Egon Flaig: World history of slavery. Munich 2009, p. 158 f.
  25. a b Mario Klarer: Introduction. In: the same (Ed.): Piracy and Captivity in the Mediterranean 1550-1810 (= Routledge research in Early Modern History. ). Routledge, London / New York 20189, ISBN 978-1-138-64027-6 , pp. 1–22.
  26. Gerald MacLean: Slavery and Sensibility: A Historical Dilemma. In: Brycchan Carey, Peter J. Kitson (Ed.): Slavery and the Cultures of Abolition: Essays Marking the Bicentennial of the British Abolition Act of 1807 (= Essays in art and culture. ). DS Brewer, Cambridge 2007, ISBN 978-1-84384-120-3 , pp. 173-194.
  27. ^ Robert C. Davis: Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters: White Slavery in the Mediterranean, the Barbary Coast, and Italy, 1500-1800. Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke 2003, Houndmills GB 2003 ,.
  28. Jürgen Osterhammel: The transformation of the world. A nineteenth century story . Special edition, 2nd edition. Beck, Munich 2011, ISBN 978-3-406-61481-1 , pp. 1191 .
  29. Jürgen Osterhammel: The transformation of the world. A nineteenth century story . Special edition, 2nd edition. Beck, Munich 2011, ISBN 978-3-406-61481-1 , pp. 1190 .
  30. ^ Mauritanian MPs pass slavery law . In: BBC News , August 9, 2007. Retrieved January 17, 2011. 
  31. ^ Louis Sala-Molins, Les misères des Lumières. Sous la Raison l'outrage , Homnisphères: Paris 2008 ( reprint of the first edition from 1992), ISBN 2-915129-32-0 , p. 22.
  32. ^ Louis Sala-Molins: Le Code Noir ou le calvaire de Canaan. Quadrige / PUF, Paris 1987. (New edition: 2007, ISBN 978-2-13-055802-6 ).
  33. Jacques Heers (1996), p. 7 f.
  34. ^ Deutsche Welle: Columbus statue beheaded in Boston, another toppled in Richmond. June 10, 2020, accessed June 15, 2020 .
  35. Malek Chebel (2007), p. 91.
  36. 2018 Global Slavery Index: Findings , accessed on May 30, 2021
  37. Greek dictionary-online . Input: βάρβαρος On:
  38. Thucydides ; The Peloponnesian War. - Melierdialog. / Translation: Thukydides [v400], Georg Peter Landmann (Hrsg.): The Peloponnesian War (= library of the old world; Historiae ). Artemis & Winkler, Düsseldorf / Zurich 2002, ISBN 3-7608-4103-1 .
  39. Wolfgang Will : The downfall of Melos. (Power politics in the judgment of Thucydides and some contemporaries). Habelt, Bonn 2006, ISBN 3-7749-3441-X .
  40. Plutarch : Life of Agesilaus 7, 6 .
  41. Xenophon , Helleniká ( 1, 6, 14 ).
  42. ^ Yvon Garlan: Les Esclaves en Grèce ancienne. La Découverte, Paris 1982, p. 57.
  43. Aristotle , Politics I. 6.
  44. Aristotle: Politics. 1254a, 20ff.
  45. Ronald Daus: The Invention of Colonialism. Hammer, Wuppertal 1983, ISBN 3-87294-202-6 .
  46. Josef Spindelböck : The moral assessment of slavery. A lesson on the problem of the knowledge of generally applicable moral norms. In: The new order. Volume 68, 2014, p. 175 f. ( Online ).
  47. ^ Lewis Hanke: Aristotle and the American Indians, A study in Race Prejudice in the Modern World. 1959, p. 14.
  48. ^ Sociology of the South, or the Failure of Free Society. Richmond 1854, p. 179.
  49. a b , Abroad , June 1, 2016, AFP : 45 million people should live as slaves (June 19, 2016)
  50. Death of a slave. In: Die Zeit , February 21, 2008.
  51. , March 30, 2008: Embassy compensates slave
  52. See for example IS issued fatwa for dealing with enslaved women ORF News, December 29, 2015.
  53. a b
  54. a b
  55. Global Slavery Index: There are 800,000 victims of modern slavery in Russia , Novaya Gazeta, July 22, 2018.
  56. Cf. Julia Harnoncourt: Trabalho escravo? A historical comparison on a global level, in: Yearbook for Research on the History of the Labor Movement , Volume III / 2015.
  57. On the legal debate about “modern slavery” in Brazil, see Giselle Sakamoto Souza Vianna: Coercion and formal freedom in the modern slavery in Brazil: Concepts under discussion , in: Work - Movement - History. Journal for Historical Studies , Issue I / 2016.
  58. Gaby Herzog: The slave children of Port-au-Prince. In: Berliner Zeitung. August 25, 2009, p. 8 , accessed August 26, 2009 .
  59. Jürgen Schübelin: Without rights, dependent, extradited: Child slaves in Haiti. (No longer available online.) In: Kindernothilfe - Topics - Child Labor - Report: Child slaves in Haiti. Formerly in the original ; Retrieved August 26, 2009 .  ( Page no longer available , search in web archives )@1@ 2Template: Toter Link /
  60. ^ OIM - Assistance for Children Victims of Human Trafficking in Haiti
  61. So sweet and yet so bitter. In: The time. December 17, 2009 No. 52.
  62. Visit of the Special Representative for Children & Armed Conflict to Afghanistan. (PDF) UN, February 2010, p. 9 , archived from the original on August 29, 2010 ; accessed on August 29, 2010 .
  63. a b c d e f Florian Flade: Baccha Baazi - Afghanistan's child prostitutes: a form of child abuse that is hushed up in Afghanistan is practiced under the eyes of Western troops. In: The world. August 27, 2010. Retrieved August 29, 2010 .
  64. , April 1, 2010, Antonia Rados: Sex slaves in Afghanistan
  65. Abused and Murdered - Child molester in Afghanistan. Film by Jamie Doran, (Original title: Dancing Boys of Afghanistan , 2010), German first broadcast: Phoenix 11 August 2011, 11 p.m.
  66. ^ Unaccounted for translation from the Internet. - Does anyone have the original wording for this from the translation (Khoury) on which this surah quote is based ?!
  67. ^ Adel Theodor Khoury: The Koran. Arabic-German. Gütersloh 2004, p. 154.
  68. UN urges end to Nepalese practice of using young girls as domestic workers. UN News Center
  69. ^ Human trafficking: The uprising of Nepalese child slaves. In: Der Spiegel. No. 10, March 5, 2011, pp. 54-58.
  70. Urmila Chaudhary, Nathalie Schwaiger: Slave Child: Sold, Deported, Forgotten - My Struggle for Nepal's Daughters. Droemer Knaur, Munich 2011, ISBN 978-3-426-65497-2 .
  71. Dialika Krahe: The slave revolt . On: Der Spiegel from March 5, 2011; last accessed on February 11, 2016.
  72. Education is the most effective weapon against exploitation. In: greenpeace magazine 6.00 ( memento from June 20, 2012 in the Internet Archive )
  73. ^ Child labor. On: ( Memento from March 1, 2009 in the Internet Archive )
  74. ^ Roland Kirbach: Modern slavery: Interview with Andreas Rister from terre des hommes . On: Die Zeit from August 28, 2003; last accessed on February 11, 2016.
  75. Melanie Gow (Anti-Slavery Society): Child Soldiers . On: from 2002; last accessed on February 11, 2016.
  76. Immorfo: E. Benjamin Skinner: A World Enslaved ( Memento of February 8, 2016 in the Internet Archive ). On: of December 27, 2008 ( Foreign Policy. Of March / April 2008); last accessed on February 11, 2016.
  77. ^ Criminal Code Legal Information System of the Republic of Austria On: ; last accessed on February 11, 2016.
  78. Boris Chancellor: European Union gets the "human trafficking hub" going . On: (heise online) from August 1, 2002; last accessed on February 11, 2016.
  79. ( online at arte -tv)