Slavery. But what constitutes slavery? How can it be defined in the 21st century?
Professor Jean Allain, Director of the Human Rights Centre at Queen’s School of Law
Research at Queen’s University Belfast is helping to combat one of the most deeply-hidden scourges of modern times – slavery.
Recent figures show that the number of people being held as modern-day slaves in the UK is now 13,000, four times worse than than had been feared.
But what constitutes slavery? How can it be defined in the 21st century? That is the focus of the work of Professor Jean Allain, Director of the Human Rights Centre at Queen’s School of Law.
His research on the legal definition of slavery has transformed attitudes worldwide. It is no longer seen as a phenomenon of the past but a problem which has direct modern relevance in the way people are being exploited – such as women forced into prostitution, imprisoned domestic staff and field and factory workers.
He led a group of global experts in contemporary and historical slavery and property law in developing what became the Bellagio-Harvard Guidelines which have now been established as a benchmark for anti-slavery work around the world.
The key word is control – controlling someone to such an extent that they no longer have the ability to make fundamental decisions about their life. Once such control is established, the person enslaved is powerless to stop any abuse which might be visited upon them.
The Guidelines have been adopted by courts as well as leading NGOs which are mobilising public opinion and helping victims. The Guidelines have also been at the heart of the Modern Slavery Bill which is currently going through the UK Parliament.
Professor Allain’s research is the foundation upon which the Global Slavery Index measures the number of modern slaves worldwide. That Index is developed by Walk Free, a philanthropic initiative by the Australian mining magnate Andrew Forrest, with the mission of ‘eradicating slavery in our lifetime.’