Modern slavery is an update of the term “contemporary forms of slavery” which has been used for decades by the UN to address the same issues .
There is no globally agreed definition of “modern slavery”(Scarpa, 2018); however, it is being increasingly used by advocacy groups, international organisations and governments to refer to a wide range of exploitative practices.
Although modern slavery is not defined in law, it is used as an umbrella term that focuses attention on commonalities across these legal concepts covering multiple forms of exploitation including both defined and undefined concepts under international or regional law. Essentially, it refers to situations of exploitation where a person cannot refuse or leave that exploitation because of threats, violence, coercion, deception and/or abuse of power (ILO/Walk Free Foundation/IOM, 2017).
According to a methodology which developed by the ILO and the Walk Free Foundation, in partnership with the IOM to define and measure “modern slavery”, modern slavery covers a set of specific legal concepts including forced labour, debt bondage, forced marriage, other slavery and slavery like practices and human trafficking (ILO/Walk Free Foundation/IOM, 2017).
In this incoherent and uncoordinated global framework, the EU has yet to clarify its position on the concept of modern forms of slavery. In its Resolution of 5 July 2016 on the fight against trafficking in human beings in the EU’s external relations, the EP labels human trafficking as “a modern kind of slavery”.
Despite the different legal definitions that exist in international instruments, people affected by these violations are not always distinct. A person can be trafficked for the purposes of slavery or forced labour, thus pertaining to two or three of the legal categories described below.
The UK and Turkey have ratified a number of the main international and regional (UN, ILO, COE) instruments that form part of the international or regional legal framework to combat modern forms of slavery. The UK’s and Turkey’s legal frameworks have been directly influenced by these instruments and EU Directives.
The UK enacted the 2015 Modern Slavery Act (“MSA”). The term “modern slavery” is not defined in the Act. The MSA consolidated the existing offences in other legislation under the label “modern slavery”. Under the term, “modern slavery”, offences include slavery, servitude, forced or compulsory labour and human trafficking. The UK’s legislative framework includes a number of other pieces of legislation.
There is no specific national legislation on modern forms of slavery in Turkey. Turkey’s jurisdiction covers a range of exploitative practices which consist of modern forms of slavery.
This article provides an overview of the evolving developments in international, regional and EU law as well as the UK and Turkish jurisdictions in governing the liability of corporate businesses for modern forms of slavery. It does not analyse the issues of forced and child marriages, sexual exploitation of women and children, the sale of children, the use of children in armed conflicts and begging, as these are unlikely to be present in business operations and supply chains.