Globally, more than 35 million human beings are coerced into such conditions and stripped of their liberty. Slavery is a global, criminal industry, which collectively earns slave handlers $150bn a year in illicit income. Still, while the exploitation is widespread it is concentrated in hotspots: more than two-thirds of the world’s slaves live in just 10 countries. India is the worst offender in terms of absolute numbers.
Philanthropists and activists have come together to try and tackle the scourge. In 2013, private donor fund Freedom Fund was set up with the goal of ending modern slavery. The fund hopes to raise $100m by 2020 to channel resources to NGOs, charities and initiatives to tackle the root causes of slavery.
The 35.8 million people enslaved sounds like a huge number, says Freedom Fund; yet it is the smallest proportion of the world’s population in human history that has been in slavery. With more support, the ancient evil could become a relic of history.