International Day for the Abolition of Slavery 2017

December 2: International Day for the Abolition of Slavery

Psychologists warn: It is unacceptable to tolerate any form of modern slavery


Universal declaration of human rights (UN, 1948) states in Article 4: No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.


At the 25th annual conference of the Croatian Psychological Association held in November this year it was mentioned several times that slightly more than six hundred years ago that the Dubrovnik Republic had abolished slavery. This fact was pointed out because the conference theme was Psychology in promotion and protection of human rights and social justice. Today Dubrovnik is part of Croatia, but on 27th January 1416 the Great Assembly of the autonomous Dubrovnik Republic denounced the slave trade as „shameful, wrong and disgusting“. It was among the first European states to put such an Act into force. Slavery was a legally allowed system in most parts of Europe until the start of the 19th century. However, with its formal abolition, slavery did not vanish, but changed into a variety of modern forms.


The International Labour Organisation (ILO), Walk Free Foundation and the UN International Organization for Migrations (IOM) provide some devastating facts. They report that more than 40 million people on the planet are victims of modern slavery – forced labour and forced marriages, disproportionally affecting women and girls. In addition, more than 150 million children are subject to child labour, accounting for almost one in ten children around the world. It means that there are 5.4 victims of modern slavery for every 1,000 people in the world and 1 in 4 victims of modern slavery are children. They explain that „although modern slavery is not defined in law, it is used as an umbrella term covering practices such as forced labour, debt bondage, forced marriage, and human trafficking. Essentially, it refers to situations of exploitation that a person cannot refuse or leave because of threats, violence, coercion, deception, and/or abuse of power. “


Being able to play an active part in creating your own life and development is crucial for psychological growth and well-being. Being deprived of the possibility of influencing your personal choices or being able to take responsibility for your own life has a harmful impact for building or maintaining your mental health. If you are forced into any unwanted activity, status or relationship you are at the highest risk for numerous damaging consequences. Finding yourself in coercive traumatic and degrading conditions, you will face cognitive, emotional and social deterioration.


Involuntary restrictions and oppressive practices cause distress, humiliation, feelings of insecurity, helplessness, hopelessness, distrustfulness, depression, anxiety, impairment in mental functioning, interpersonal relations, and also may provoke anger, aggression and may lead to other harmful and devastating behaviours.


EFPA Board Human Rights and Psychology reminds that protecting the inviolability of human dignity rests with all of us. We should be informed about these forms of injustice, and support children and adults to make free decisions in safe environments. A mankind with people who deliberately deprive other people of their essential human rights is neither healthy nor sustainable.



More information can be found of the United nations website.