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Slavery Convention and the
Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery,
the Slave Trade,
and Institutions and Practices Similar to Slavery
Introduction | Article Summaries | Full Text | Supplimentary Convention

Excerpts from Contemporary Forms of Slavery, Fact Sheet #14, UN Centre for Human Rights:

"The word 'slavery' today covers a variety of human rights violations. In addition to traditional slavery and the slave trade, these abuses include the sale of children, child prostitution, child pornography, the exploitation of child labour, the sexual mutilation of female children, the use of children in armed conflicts, debt bondage, the traffic in persons and in the sale of human organs, the exploitation of prostitution, and certain practices under apartheid and colonial regimes."

"Slavery-like practices may be clandestine. This makes it difficult to have a clear picture of the scale of contemporary slavery, let alone to uncover, punish or eliminate it. The problem is compounded by the fact that the victims of slavery-like abuses are generally from the poorest and most vulnerable social groups. Fear and the need to survive do not encourage them to speak out."

"International concern with slavery and its suppression is the theme of many treaties, declarations and conventions of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The first of three modern conventions directly related to the issue is the Slavery Convention of 1926.... States which have ratified the Convention ... undertake to prevent and suppress the slave trade and to bring about the abolition of slavery in all its forms."

"The 1926 Convention's definition of slavery was broadened to include the practices and institutions of debt bondage, servile forms of marriage, and the exploitation of children and adolescents in the Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery, the Slave Trade, and Institutions and Practices Similar to Slavery, adopted ... in 1956."

Other means of protection

"Protection against abuses of human rights which fall within the broad definition of slavery is a feature of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child."

Introduction | Article Summaries | Full Text | Supplimentary Convention


Unofficial Summary

Article 1

Definition of Slavery: status or condition of a person over whom any or all of the powers of the right of ownership are exercised.

Article 2

States Parties agree, in the territories under their sovereignty or jurisdiction, to prevent and suppress the slave trade and to bring about as soon as possible the complete abolition of slavery in all its forms.

Article 3

States Parties shall adopt measures to prevent and suppress the transport of slaves.

Article 4

States Parties shall assist one another in ending slavery.

Article 5

States Parties recognize that using compulsory or forced labor may have grave consequences. They shall take all necessary steps to prevent compulsory or forced labor from developing into conditions of slavery in the territories under their jurisdiction. It is agreed that compulsory or forced labor may be used for public purposes only. In places where it is used for other purposes, States Parties shall put an end to the practice as soon as possible. If forced or compulsory labor exists, it shall be exceptional, shall receive adequate remuneration, and shall not remove laborers from their usual place of residence.

Article 6

States shall have or adopt laws imposing severe penalties for slavery and slave-like practices.


Unofficial Summary

Article 1

States Parties agree to take all measures to bring about the complete abolition of the following practices:

  • Debt bondage: where a debtor pledges his personal services or those of a person under his control as security for a debt, if the reasonable value of those services is not applied towards payment of the debt, or if the length and nature of those services are not limited and defined;
  • Serfdom: where a tenant is bound to live and labor on land belonging to another person and is not free to change his status;
  • Any practice where a woman, without the right to refuse, is promised or given in marriage in exchange for payment to her parents, guardian, family, or any group or person; or where the husband of a woman or his family or clan has the right to transfer her to another person; or where a woman can be inherited by another person after the death of her husband;
  • Any practice where a child or young person under 18 is delivered by his parent(s) or guardian to another person for exploitation of the child or of his labor.

Article 2

States Parties agree to set a suitable minimum age of marriage and to encourage the registration of marriages.

Article 3

Conveying or attempting to convey slaves from one country to another shall be a criminal offense under the laws of all States Parties, subject to severe penalty. States Parties shall take all effective measures to prevent the conveying of slaves by ships and aircraft authorized to fly their flag, and shall ensure that their ports, airfields, and coasts are not used for conveyance of slaves.

Article 4

Any slave who takes refuge on board any vessel of a State Party shall be free.

Article 5

Where the abolition of slavery or slave-like practices is not complete, mutilating, branding or otherwise marking a slave for any reason shall be a criminal offense punishable by law.

Article 6

Enslaving another person or inducing someone to give himself or a dependent into slavery, or attempting these acts, shall be a criminal offense punishable by law.

For more information, please contact PDHRE:

The People's Movement for Human Rights Education (PDHRE) / NY Office
Shulamith Koenig / Executive Director
526 West 111th Street, New York, NY 10025, USA
tel: +1 212.749-3156; fax: +1 212.666-6325
e-mail: pdhre@igc.org