Modern slavery is not what you think it is, Emily Kenway tells Jon Robins in this week’s Justice Gap podcast. Her new book begins with a quote from the former prime minister, then Home Secretary, Theresa May in 2016 involving William Wilberforce and setting out her determination to ‘rid our world of this barbaric evil’. The episode is produced by Calum McCrae.
May said: ‘Just as it was Britain that took an historic stand to ban slavery two centuries ago, so Britain will once again lead the way in defeating modern slavery and preserving the freedoms and values that have defined our country for generations.’
Emily Kenway, formerly an adviser for the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, argues how ‘modern slavery’ operates as ‘a moral cloak’ legitimising big brands’ exploitation of the poorest, oppressing sex workers and enabling governments to provide ‘a sense of balance to policies otherwise focussed on kowtowing to UKIP’s anti-migrant base’ .
- Read Krishnendu Mukherjee’s review of the Truth about Modern Slavery here.
- Listen to other episodes in the Justice Gap podcast here.
Theresa May’s flagship legislation the Modern Slavery Act 2015 appeared between the Immigration Acts 2014 and 2016 which built the so-called hostile environment – as though making life more miserable for undocumented migrants had nothing to do with the exploitation of the poorest.
Rebranding extreme forms of exploitation as modern slavery suggests these problems are the fault of individual criminals. Kenway argues. She points out that the truth is more complicated and what is labelled as modern slavery is inextricably bound up with our global economy.
‘If we really want to end modern slavery for good, we need to strike at the heart of the reasons people are being exploited in the first place. It’s political choices, not individual criminals, that create the conditions for modern slavery to thrive.’
You can order Emily Kenway’s The Truth About Modern Slavery (Pluto Books) here