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Dwain confirms the elements of a slavery definition on which there is consensus. But he also goes beyond the exercise of power over him to discuss slavery as the use of his power. By assuming that power for their own purpose, slaveholders diminished his ability to have influence and authority, to create change and to be independent.

Slavery denied intentionality, his sense of agency and his ability to self-realise.

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Definitions of freedom can also reveal the characteristics of slavery. Survivor narratives indicate that understanding and defining slavery often requires understanding slavery in relationship to freedom. There is little scholarship on the meaning of freedom for survivors of slavery. Defining freedom, Dwain said:. That would be freedom to me. It really is. How can I be a criminal? So, because of that, why am I still being punished? So it [freedom] would take a lot, it would wind me probably, it would take all the wind out of me but positively.

Because then the new wind that would come would be a positive energy, a more vibrant optimistic, looking forward to the futures you know, because I feel like I can make a difference in my future now rather than sleeping on it …. Scream on it? Ultimately, for Dwain, freedom is not just the ability to travel, with the choice that travel implies.

Are DUI Checkpoints Legal? Legal Survival Guide Ep 3

To be acknowledged by society and to integrate with it fully is to gain approval as a free human being. Slavery, then, is the converse of acceptance. It is the rejection of his value to society and his own identity within it. In , we also interviewed Tung, a young Vietnamese man who was trafficked, exploited and enslaved in the UK. Like Dwain, Tung identified definitional nuances for slavery that go beyond the Bellagio-Harvard Guidelines and the suggestions of scholars. At the age of fifteen years, Tung believed he was being sent from his village to the UK to reunite with his father.

He was excited and happy, not knowing that his parents had incurred considerable debt. He was brought to the UK via Russia and the French migrant camps. On arrival, he was taken to work in a Chinese takeaway. He was made to work up to 19 hours a day without breaks or pay, sleeping on the floor of a small storage room behind the kitchen with several others.

He was allowed out once a week, accompanied, to buy basic provisions. Over a period of six years, he was trafficked within the UK and forced to manage cannabis farms. Eventually, he was forced into sexual slavery, suffering genital mutilation and severe impacts on his health. Discussing the meaning of slavery and freedom, Tung explained:.

Right now I do think that I am like a slave, I was a slave. I just thought what I had to do, I had to go through it, because my mum and dad owed the big debt and I thought I had to work to pay off the debt. It was only brought to me on the first interview by somebody from the Home Office. The lady who came and asked me lots of questions, after I answered the questions she stopped the interview and she explained to me that I may be the victim of human traffickers and what I had to go through was like human slavery.

So that lady helped me to fill in the forms for asylum, and it was then I was more aware of what I had been through …. To me, slave probably means being someone that had to do something that they are made to do without knowing the purpose of the action or being someone who had to do something under some kind of threat, or doing something without being paid or for any kind of reward for that ….

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Freedom is not being arrested, not being kept in any way. The slave experiences a disconnection between choice and action, for actions are at the will of the slaveholder and have no purpose or meaning to the enslaved. He is aimless and motiveless. The second measure of slavery for Tung revolves around his understanding of freedom. Freedom means a private life—a life without being watched. Conversely, slavery is a denial of privacy.

Writing in , one of this article's co-authors, Dang, noted the limitations of current slavery definitions:. As a survivor of human trafficking and slavery, I am most concerned that the way we think about the problem will be in the best interest of the victims and survivors. Currently, I don't think this is the case …. There is currently no victim-centred definition of human trafficking or slavery.

The definitions fail to sufficiently describe the condition of the person experiencing the criminal act s done to them …. Human trafficking and slavery are fundamentally problems because they cause harm. Thus, the definition needs to convey the social and interpersonal impact.

Slavery is a social phenomenon existing on the far end of a continuum of oppression, where human beings completely dominate and exploit other human beings and this domination results in physical, psychological, and interpersonal trauma; financial and social instability and inequities; and dilution of the fundamental principles of democracy. So too do the contemporary narratives we have gathered and analysed. But they also reveal at least five new criteria for the operation of a slavery definition: 1 stasis , the denial of temporal and spatial movement so that the enslaved experience a lack of access to the future; 2 spectralisation or destruction of identity , due to objectification, dehumanisation and othering; 3 lack of purpose , where actions lose their meaning; 4 denial of privacy , with the corresponding loss of agency and dignity; and 5 a disregard for well-being.

Victims’ Bill of Rights

Current definitions of slavery emphasise the function or purpose of control for slaveholders and are therefore primarily framed from the perspective of the perpetrator. This means that government bodies and non-governmental organisations NGOs currently organise antislavery efforts around a perpetrator-centred definition. Survivors instead emphasise the impact of control. Current legal definitions provide guidelines for law enforcement to detect slavery and respond to it as a crime.

Interventions are aimed at criminal justice rather than social justice and survivor restoration. But Tung, for example, was almost dismissive about the fact that his traffickers had not been caught and prosecuted. Throughout the interview, this was not his concern or an expressed need in terms of his view of justice. He also spoke of the shame and fear that he experienced until he was able to compare his experiences with others held in a detention centre.

Those feelings diminished when he told his story, he explained. At the same time, our interviews and analysis reveal that while many survivors do not see prosecution as central to their own sense of justice, they do nonetheless care deeply about how their experiences are assessed and labelled by courts. A court statement that slavery occurred can create feelings of shame but can also be validating as a formal acknowledgement of their mistreatment and their entitlement to rights. The definition validates that an experience has been harmful.

It means they are no longer spectralised, but present in the world and its systems, and it asks the State to take responsibility. It also opens access to a survivor community where experiences, choices and actions have a shared context. In fact, the definitions of survivors contain a potential blueprint for that recovery process, because in defining slavery through its consequences, they suggest that freedom has the inverse effect. Trauma recovery could therefore focus on processes of accepting victimhood and innocence in response to shame , building community in response to a loss of a sense of common humanity and developing a new identity and purpose that incorporates the experiences of slavery in response to a sense of stunted growth.

As we have learned from survivor narratives, freedom and slavery must be understood in relationship to each other. Work by and with survivors to reclaim their identity may therefore need to avoid denying or compartmentalising the experiences of slavery.


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By taking a survivor-informed approach to defining slavery, we may even be able to map survivor definitions of slavery—and their blueprint for recovery—onto mental health concepts of well-being. Ryff outlines the six dimensions of well-being as self-acceptance, personal growth, autonomy, purpose in life, positive relationships and environmental mastery. The authors would like to thank Kevin Bales and Todd Landman for insightful feedback on a draft version.

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Volume Article Contents. Corresponding author: lzaan1 exmail. Oxford Academic. Google Scholar. Minh Dang. Zoe Trodd. Article history. Revision Received:. Cite Citation. Permissions Icon Permissions. Abstract This article examines key debates on the legal definition of slavery from the perspective of survivors. Pranus, as told to Andrea Nicholson, 20 January on file with authors. Our thanks to Migrant Legal Action for their assistance. Douglass, My Bondage and My Freedom. Part I. Life as a Slave.

Part II. Life as a Freeman at Murphy ed. Court The Palestinian intervenors seek to hold the settlers accountable for their role in war crimes, crimes against humanity, as well as unjust enrichment and trespass, and detail their direct involvement in the illegal Israeli settlement enterprise.

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