• GIHR

International Day for the Abolition of Slavery

The history of mankind is not exempt from the various manifestations of oppression and brutality. Nevertheless, slavery remains to be one of most vile manifestations of human cruelty.

In ancient civilizations, slavery was implemented against those with debts, abandoned children or as punishment for a crime. Slavery continued to evolve as civilization evolved and organized cities developed. However, the grim truth is that slavery is not merely a story of the past. According to UN reports, more than 40 million people are still victims of contemporary slavery.

A definition of slavery first appeared in an international agreement in the League of Nations Slavery Convention of 25 September 1926, defining it as “the status or condition of a person over whom any or all of the powers attaching to the right of ownership are exercised.”


In contrast, modern slavery, although not clearly defined under international law, encompasses exploitation of individuals by means of violence, coercion and deception, including forced labor, debt bondage, forced marriage and human trafficking.


Daniela Gross | Street art exhibition to end child slavery

Therefore, a day was designated to focus on eradicating all forms of slavery, coinciding with the date of adoption of the Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others by the UN General Assembly on December 2, 1949, in accordance with Resolution 317 (IV).

International Day for the Abolition of Slavery is an invitation to states, governmental and non-governmental organizations to intensify efforts to eliminate modern slavery by ensuring the integration of justice, non-discrimination and equality in national policy and legal frameworks and spreading awareness of the various forms of modern slavery.

The Geneva Institute for Human Rights reaffirms its commitment to ensuring equality, regardless of race, region, age or economic standing and urges the international community to unite against contemporary slavery that has become widespread.

Slavery has reemerged and manifested in several sinister ways in the 21st century, ranging from :

  • coercing men into servitude to charcoal and mining industries in South America,

  • the enslavement of children by fishermen in Ghana,

  • the exploitation of individuals held by debt bondage

  • and the use of child soldiers by armed groups in the Middle East and North Africa.

Within that context, the Institute urges governments to use the necessary measures to implement international provisions prohibiting slavery in all its forms and enforcing severe sanctions to hold those responsible for such gross human right violations to account. Such heinous and abhorrent practices have no place in the twenty-first century.