Intended for healthcare professionals


Modern slavery: a global public health concern

BMJ 2019; 364 doi: (Published 26 February 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;364:l838
  1. Elizabeth Such, research fellow1,
  2. Elizabeth Walton, clinical lecturer1,
  3. Toby Bonvoisin, academic foundation year 1 doctor2,
  4. Hanni Stoklosa, instructor in emergency medicine3
  1. 1University of Sheffield, UK
  2. 2Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust, UK
  3. 3Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, USA
  1. e.such{at}

Health professionals are well placed to identify and advocate for victims

Modern slavery is a global public health concern,1 yet health professionals are often unaware of what it is, what it looks like, who it affects, and what, if anything, they can do about it.2 There were over 40 million victims worldwide in 2016, with every region affected.3 It is a largely hidden crime, but one hidden in plain sight. It thrives on human vulnerability, such as where there is poverty or people escaping war. It is evident in our local communities in places such as car washes, beauty salons, farms, and factories.4

Modern slavery—which is often called and is inclusive of human trafficking—is an umbrella term that includes the recruitment, movement, harbouring, or receiving of children, women, or men through the use of force, coercion, abuse of vulnerability, deception, or other means for the purposes of exploitation.5 It includes holding a person in a position of slavery, servitude, or forced or compulsory labour, or facilitating their travel with the intention of exploiting them soon after.6 It includes sex trafficking, forced labour, forced criminality, domestic servitude, and forced marriage.4

Modern slavery is a gross manifestation of …

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