There are close to 30 million slaves worldwide with India home to nearly half, a new report has claimed.
The Global Slavery Index 2013, the first of its kind, estimates there are 13.9 million people living as slaves in India.
China is a distant second with 2.9m slaves; followed by Pakistan with 2.1m; Nigeria 0.7m; and Ethiopia 0.6m.
But when the number of slaves as a proportion of the country’s population is considered, top is Mauritania, followed by Haiti, Pakistan, India and Nepal.
The index, compiled by the Walk Free Foundation, says modern slavery includes: debt bondage, forced marriage, sale or exploitation of children, human trafficking, forced labour and slavery itself.
The 10 countries with the lowest prevalence of slavery – among the 160 ranked – are all European, except New Zealand: Denmark, Finland, Luxembourg, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, UK, Ireland and Iceland.
The report reads: “The India country study suggests that while this involves the exploitation of some foreign nationals, by far the largest proportion of this problem is the exploitation of Indians citizens within India itself, particularly through debt bondage and bonded labour.
“The China country study suggests that this includes the forced labour of men, women and children in many parts of the economy, including domestic servitude and forced begging, the sexual exploitation of women and children, and forced marriage.”
Hilary Clinton, former US secretary of state, said: “I urge leaders around the world to view this Index as a call to action, and to stay focused on the work of responding to this crime, even if your country receives a positive rank. Now we know the Index isn’t perfect and can’t answer every question about modern slavery, but this is an important starting point.”
Gordon Brown, former UK prime minister, said: “Andrew Forrest and Walk Free’s pioneering work to expose the full scale and horror of child slavery is a landmark moment in the struggle for children’s rights. He has undertaken the vital work of revealing the full evidence that will allow us to campaign for children to move from exploitation into education, from oppression into opportunity, from slavery into school.
“With this evidence, we can now plan the end of child slavery in our generation. If anybody is in any doubt that slavery is a thing of the past you must look at the Global Slavery Index produced by the Walk Free Foundation and Andrew Forrest. It exposes the horror and injustice of millons of people condemned to slavery in the 21st century. It is the most powerful call to action, and that action must be heeded by the international community.”