|Pakistani farmers in debt bondage. Photo: BBC|
Debt bondage, also know as bonded labor, is the most common method of enslavement and yet it is also less known, than other forms of slavery.
What is Debt bondage? Debt bondage is when an individual's services as a laborer -a bonded laborer- are required or forced as a form of repayment for a loan. The individual is then coursed, fraudulently tricked or trapped into working off their debt. Individuals -and often entire families- are forced to work for very little, or no pay, in order to repay their debt -often for seven days a week.
Bonded laborers are forced to work to repay debts their employer state they owe, and not allowed to work for anyone else -including themselves. To hold a bonded laborer captive various forms of force are used; including physical threats and violence, surveillance, sometimes they are physically held under lock and key. The laborer is then charged many new and inflated fees for food, shelter, transportation, documents, etc. While the value of their work alone is worth more than the original sum of money borrowed or associated, the slave holder ensures that the debt continues to grow -most often to a never ending amount that then forcibly binds the laborer to their now slave master, the land, job or act for life -often a family may still be tied to a debt of another who has passes on years or even decades ago.
The UN Working Group on Contemporary Forms of Slavery recognizes that some 20 million people are still held in debt bondage around the world. However many estimate that the number of bonded laborers are substantially higher.