WebCT Group is Up

The POLI0078 WebCT group is now up and running. I have uploaded Ben Skinner’s piece on slavery from the World Policy Journal on to the course content area.

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5 Responses to “WebCT Group is Up”


  1. 1 Genevieve Antono 04/09/2009 at 6:11 pm

    With a black man leading the United States and your average Hong Kong taxi-driver perfectly well versed in rights-talk, slavery is probably something that most of us would associate most with our history textbooks; an unfortunate relic of the past that has no place in our wonderful, shiny modern present.

    Skinner’s article left me completely outraged.

    It is absolutely shameful that so many of us manage to get through our lives blissfully ignorant that slavery still exists. And, not only are governments dallying/not doing anything to stop the problem, they have the cheek to try evade taking responsibility by muddying the issue with denials, euphemisms and silly little debates over definitions!

    I’ve never taken a course in International Law, so don’t quote me on the following, but I assume that one of the reasons why the Bilhari official mentioned would “categorically deny” the presence of slavery in India, is because it has not only signed, but ratified a whole lot of international conventions/treaties against slavery. Presumably therefore, admitting that slavery exists in your own country would lead to a positive duty under international law to act against it.

    A quick search on Google lends some support to this suggestion- for instance, Article 2 of the 1926 Slavery Convention (which India ratified in 1927) states: “The High Contracting Parties undertake, each in respect of the territories placed under its sovereignty, jurisdiction, protection, suzerainty or tutelage, so far as they have not already taken the necessary steps: (a) To prevent and suppress the slave trade; (b) To bring about, progressively and as soon as possible, the complete abolition of slavery in all its forms.”

    In sum, it appears to me that some governments, like India, are dithering over whether to admit slavery exists because they’re too bloody lazy to act on their legal obligations to abolish this terrible practice. And other governments, like the USA, would rather turn a blind eye because it doesn’t wish to aggravate its “key regional ally”.

    How incredibly lame!

  2. 2 Chan Pui Ki 07/09/2009 at 2:49 pm

    Just as Bales suggests, poverty is one of the main causes of slavery. Desperation of people in the developing world drives them into slavery. Sometimes, parents simply have to choose either food or freedom for their children. And as Skinner proposes, liberation of slaves, prosecution of traffickers and provision of microcredit structures, healthcare and education are crucial.

    Sadly, even in a country as developed as the United States, 17,500 people each year are brought into it and enslaved. Domestic service and sweatshop labour are two examples of their forced work. This makes me think of the domestic helpers in Hong Kong and the workers in South China. In Hong Kong’s case, occasionally, the media reveals that some of these helpers are paid less than their normal wages but work more than their usual working hours, deprived of holidays and even abused. These fit into the three features of slavery, namely economic exploitation, loss of free will and violence.

    Though such situation may well be the exception rather than the rule in Hong Kong, the plight of sweatshop labour in South China is more common. In this “factory of the world”, even a small proportion its factories being sweatshop may mean the suffering of considerable workers. They may not be different from the slaves in the hand-knotted carpet industry in India because there is factory owners’ demand for their work and our demand for the product of this very work.

    Governments should not argue over if there is slavery but what to do with it. And for us, we may not change how governments act given such priorities as security and climate change, but we can change what not to consume, which is those linked to slavery, and support those who advocate the eradication of poverty and hopefully slavery.

  3. 3 Brent Bowers 15/09/2009 at 7:15 am

    If poverty leads the worker to be the slave, then what leads the employer to be the slave master? What kind of misanthropic person could bring themselves to willfully keep another under slavery? Is it the myopic pursuit of profit? Racism? Intrinsic hatred?

    Is this the consequence of globalized economies? As I was reading this article and viewing the documentary last week, I am somewhat reminded of colonial regimes in Africa, Asia, and the Americas. Global economics began long before the 20th and 21st centuries, and it came in the same form: materials and goods being produced as pleasure items for the industrialized world — with little to no benefit to the producer.

    On another note, I was particularly shocked by the presence of slavery in the domestic world of the United States. As a US citizen, I am grateful to become aware of this issue — and I find it interesting (and marginally amusing) that I never heard about it until I came overseas.

    In American secondary education (particularly in the American South, where I come from) it is drilled and beaten into our brains that slavery is the bane of our nation’s history — the scar that stains the supposed ‘purity’ of the American story. How ironic (and pitiful) that we would become so ignorant of its reemergence in our own backyard.

  4. 4 Liu Ka Yu, Athena 15/09/2009 at 3:37 pm

    After reading Skinner’s article, it drives me to think more on slavery. What constitues slavery? What makes people trafficking human? Is it serious? What policies do we have now in order to against it? What further policies or directions should we have in order to deal with it? These questions are all in my mind and they trigger me to drill on this topic.

    As pointed out in the article, Kumar mentioned one important contributing factor in promoting slavery, that it the role played by parents. They have no information about slavery. They have no information in protecting their children. Where can they seek help from? What can they do when they see human traffickers? What should they do to protect their children? Under such low awareness, they never help the situation. There will be continuing children being trafficked. And therefore I see the need for education.

    Secondly, I see the drawbacks of those signed treaty. As mentioned in the article, there are hundreds of treatied signed throughout these decades. Countries forbid any slavery trade. But are they being implemented or enforced? Are they really helping slaves? I am so curious about that. What else steps can we take apart from signing all these so-called “black and white” documents?

    Finally, I see the need to find solutions to all these questions. Before we can solve the problem of slavery, we have to see the real hidden causes of this problem? What drives human to become human traffickers? Because of its profitability? Under this unequal share of wealth, people are difficult to share same ground of human rights and justice. In my opinion, education is the most efficient way to deal with it. Expanding education in developing countries, teaching them how to protect themselves from any harm, how to deal with strangers. To parents, education helps to increase their awareness to this problem and notive ways they can do if their children are missed.

    Apart from education, fair trade agreement is also a good way to against slavery. Under fair trade, countries are on equal footing and they are all profitable in trading their commodities. They wont being exploited by any side in the trading. What can make this happen would be the increasing bargaining power of thos developing countries. I believe power speaks. With more bargaining power, developing countries would bargain more and having more profits which may help in improving their local living standard. Or else, we have to make sure that the productions each commodity are from legal labour and trading. Make sure that there ll be no slaves involved. With no market in getting lower sales price, there ll be no market for slaves and human trafficking ll be diminishing. Though I know it takes time, it would be a good direction for further strengthen the will and the fight to end global slavery.

  5. 5 Anna 19/09/2009 at 1:10 pm

    It seemed, to me, slavery is a sign of those undeveloped countries only, but after watching the documentary and reading the article, I find my perception is utterly wrong.
    To many, slavery is a dire phenomenon which is gravely connected with poverty. We usually think that only people in the less developed countries are cheated and trafficked to work as slaves while they innocently believe they will be paid. Thus, many suggest combating poverty will help to alleviate the problem of slavery. Definitely, poverty contributes a lot to slavery but it is not the sole cause. Otherwise, under the economic improvement of many countries, slavery should vanish.
    I realized, after watching the documentary, slavery is more than that. It is not only a result of poverty rather it is a ‘joint crime’ committed by governments, societies and even us. We demand the government to pay attention to the environment, aging issues or domestic violence, but we rarely think about the slaves while they are around us indeed.
    We should understand the role we are playing in fighting against slavery. It may not be that severe in our city, but we all play a part in it. It is a global issue which worth our attention and prompt action because we are all born with freedom and equality.


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