Global Slavery at All-Time High
There are nearly 36m slaves worldwide, rights group says
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 18, 2014 4:19 AM CST
People stand outside their home in a poor neighborhood of Nouakchott, Mauritania.   (AP Photo/Schalk van Zuydam, File)

(Newser) – The latest report from a rights group drives home the disturbing fact that the peak of slavery in human history wasn't during the Roman Empire or some other distant time—it's happening right now. Nearly 36 million people around the world (more than ever before) are slaves, according to the Walk Free Foundation's Global Slavery Index, which includes victims of forced labor, human trafficking, forced marriage, and debt bondage, the Smithsonian reports. With 4% of the population in slavery, Mauritania has the highest percentage of its population in bondage. The country only outlawed slavery in 2007, but hereditary slavery continues to this day. The foundation says its slave estimate has soared from 30 million last year because of better methodology, reports the BBC.

The group's report found that India has the highest number of slaves—more than 14 million—but some form of slavery exists in all 167 countries on the index, including the US. "We are all responsible for the most appalling situations where modern slavery exists and the desperate misery it brings upon our fellow human beings," the foundation's chairman tells the Guardian. "The first step in eradicating slavery is to measure it. And with that critical information, we must all come together—governments, businesses, and civil society—to finally bring an end to the most severe form of exploitation." (Last year, New Hampshire finally freed 14 slaves.)