Article 4:
No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.


The practice of holding people in slavery is an ancient as well as a globally widespread phenomenon. The earliest historical record of institutionalized slavery comes from the Shang Dynasty, a Chinese empire active between the 18th and 12th centuries BC. Other well-known slave societies existed in ancient Athens, as well as in the Roman and Ottoman Empires. Most institutionalized slave societies did not allow for the enslavement of their own people. This meant that slaves were usually taken from cultural, religious, or national groups different from that of their captors. Perhaps the clearest example of this selection procedure is the Transatlantic slave trade that arose during the 1500s when Africans slaves were systematically captured, sold and shipped to the New World and Europe. During the sea journey to Europe, death tolls were as high as twenty per cent among African slaves as a direct result of the atrocious conditions aboard the ships.

The term “slavery” can be described as an involuntary condition of servitude imposed on prisoners of war, criminals, peons, or civilian abductees. The most common form of slavery was domestic slavery, which for women, in addition to working the land or conducting household chores, usually involved providing their masters with sexual services. Since slaves have historically been regarded as property, they have had few, if any, rights attached to themselves as autonomous persons. (Encyclopedia Brittanica)

Adapted from Encyclopedia Brittanica