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SatDec 2

International Day for the Abolition of Slavery – December 2, 2023

International Day for the Abolition of Slavery happens annually on December 2. On this day in 1949, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted the Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others. This day is dedicated to ending modern forms of slavery, such as sexual exploitation, human trafficking, the most heinous kinds of child labor, forced marriage, and the forced recruitment of children for use in armed conflict.

It is about raising awareness and reinforcing global efforts in combatting the scourge of modern slavery. Governments, organizations, and individuals are entreated to take this day specifically as an opportunity to denounce the atrocities of slavery in its modern form that still exist in the world. Fun fact: The aim of International Day for the Abolition of Slavery is different from that of International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition, the latter of which is a day to reflect on the atrocities committed during the Transatlantic Slave Trade Era.

History of International Day for the Abolition of Slavery

The International Day for the Abolition of Slavery focuses on eradicating modern forms of slavery like trafficking, sexual exploitation, child labor, forced marriage, and forced recruitment of children into armed conflict. The Day is observed on December 2, which marks the same date that the U.N. Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others was adopted by its member states on December 2, 1949, and it is expected to be observed by governments, organizations, and people all around the world as a day specifically set aside to rebuke all forms of modern-day slavery that still exist in the world today.

The International Labor Organization puts the number of victims of modern slavery at 40 million worldwide. And although modern slavery is not defined by any binding law, the word encompasses practices such as forced labor, debt bondage, forced marriage, human trafficking, and every other situation of exploitation under which a victim is trapped because of threats of violence, coercion, deception, or abuse of power.

From prehistoric times to the present, slavery has spanned various nations, civilizations, and religions. Similarly, victims of slavery hailed from a wide range of races and religious backgrounds. Enslaved people’s social, economic, and legal standing have varied greatly across times and places. Africans were kidnapped in the 17th and 18th centuries, sold into slavery in the American colonies, and exploited to work as slaves in the production of products such as tobacco and cotton. Though precise estimates are impossible to provide, some historians believe that 6 to 7 million enslaved individuals were carried to the New World during the 18th century alone, robbing Africa of some of its strongest and healthiest men and women.

Lincoln issued a preliminary emancipation proclamation on September 22, 1862, and on January 1, 1863, he made it official that slaves within any U.S. state, or designated part of a state shall be then and forever be free. The Emancipation Proclamation freed almost 3 million enslaved individuals in the rebel states, depriving the Confederacy of the majority of its labor forces and swaying foreign public opinion heavily in favor of the Union. Though the Emancipation Proclamation did not formally end slavery in America—that would come with the passage of the 13th Amendment after the Civil War ended in 1865—some 186,000 Black troops joined the Union Army, and approximately 38,000 died.

Even though slavery is no longer legal anywhere in the world, human trafficking is still nevertheless a global issue. As of 2013, approximately 25-40 million people were enslaved, with the majority of these people living in Asia. People were sold into slavery during Sudan’s Second Civil War, which lasted from 1983 to 2005. Evidence of child trafficking and slavery on cocoa plantations in West Africa appeared in the late 1990s.

Although, since 1995, the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery has shone the spotlight on atrocities of modern slavery and tried to inspire commitment to better humanity, December 2 wasn’t recognized as the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery until exactly a decade after a U.N. Working Group on Slavery submitted a report that tendered the date for consideration as the World Day for the Abolition of Slavery in 1985.

International Day for the Abolition of Slavery timeline

Starting Point Of Slavery In America

A lot of people consider 1619 to be a starting point of slavery in America.

17th Century
Poor Europeans Were Replaced With African Slaves

In North America European settlers turns to African slaves instead of indentured servants who were often poor Europeans.

Crispus Attucks is killed

An escaped slave man is one of the first people to be killed by British soldiers during the Boston Massacre.

Slave Rebellion

Gabriel Prosser rebels against his masters in Richmond, Virginia, in the U.S.

Congress Proscribes Slavery

Congress outlaws the importation of enslaved persons, although the push for this ban began earlier in the northern colonies, during the American Revolution.

Last Dance in Cuba

The last known slave ship carries captives to Cuba in 1866.

First Celebration

International Day for the Abolition of Slavery is first observed in 1995 following the report by a United Nations Working Group on slavery a decade earlier.

U.N.’s Landmark Forced Labor Protocol

The International Labour Organization adopts a “new legally binding Protocol” meant to help in the global efforts to eliminate forced labor, which is implemented in November 2016.

International Day for the Abolition of Slavery FAQs

Which country first abolished slavery?

Britain abolished slavery throughout its empire in 1833; France and the U.S. followed in 1848 and 1865, respectively.

Who is responsible for the abolition of slavery?

William Wilberforce (1759–1833), a British politician and philanthropist, led the movement to abolish the slave trade. 

Which was the last country to abolish slavery?

Although according to records, the last known slave ship carried captives to Cuba in 1866, Mauritania is known as the last country in the world to abolish slavery in 1981, nearly 120 years after Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in the United States.

How To Observe The International Day for the Abolition of Slavery

  1. Become a conscious consumer

    One way to observe the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery and to bring a meaningful change is to commit to only buying goods labeled as 'fair trade,' indicating that those goods are produced ethically. Check the companies you purchase from and their supply chains to ensure there was no slave labor used in producing the goods. You can also call on businesses to end forced labor and slavery in their supply chains.

  2. Commit to ethical labor sourcing

    There’s no better way to support the day for people who own businesses than to commit to producing your goods and delivering your services ethically. You may also persuade fellow entrepreneurs and even mark your goods as being produced through ethical labor to get even more patronage.

  3. Stop oppressing others

    Look inward, you may be oppressing someone or some people in a way. If you find that you are guilty of this then it is not too late to change your ways. After reading about the history of slaves you must understand how those being oppressed feel and you would not want to be the oppressor.

5 Things You Should Know About Slave Trade And The Abolition Of Slavery

  1. 40 million people face modern-day slavery

    According to the International Labour Organisation, more than 40 million people worldwide are victims of modern slavery, such as forced labor, debt bondage, forced marriage, and human trafficking.

  2. Forced labor victims create a $150 billion profit

    The International Labour Organization estimates that there are currently 21 million forced labor victims worldwide creating a total of $150 billion in illegal profits in the private economy each year.

  3. One in four of the enslaved are children

    An estimated one in four people witnessing forms of modern slavery are children.

  4. 12 million enslaved Africans transported

    According to records, the Transatlantic Slave Trade saw an estimated 12 million enslaved Africans transported across the Atlantic Ocean to the Americas from the 16th to the 19th century.

  5. Many were shipped to South America

    The majority of enslaved Africans during the Transatlantic Slave Trade were transported to the Caribbean or Brazil.

Why International Day for the Abolition of Slavery Is Important

  1. It’s an opportunity to make a change

    The goal of the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery is to get enough people to be aware of the scourge of modern slavery and commit to ending it. The day provides an opportunity to make a change. By talking about it to people and persuading them to commit to ending it, the day serves as an avenue to make a lasting impact in our world.

  2. It highlights humanity’s shortcomings

    There’s no better motivation to collectively work towards a better and just future than having a look at the thing we are currently bad at. Because International Day for the Abolition of Slavery highlights our errors in the area of slavery and the traditional beliefs and institutions that have actively supported it, it serves as a motivation for us to demand something better. The slave trade era was not fun, people suffered a lot and were treated as less than humans while working for their masters. As we celebrate International Day for the Abolition of Slavery, we are celebrating the fact that slavery has been put to an end.

  3. It helps recommit us to humanity’s service

    Yes — International Day for the Abolition of Slavery helps to recommit us to the service of those who have been forced into some kind of modern slavery. It serves as a day to further connect with our humanity. When we remember that Abolition Day celebrates the end of slavery, we would be grateful that we were not born in the slave trade era. Knowing the struggles that slaves went through in that era would make us appreciate our freedom more.

International Day for the Abolition of Slavery dates

2023December 2Saturday
2024December 2Monday
2025December 2Tuesday
2026December 2Wednesday
2027December 2Thursday

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