"Slaves" freed in London


Why the quotation marks? Were they not really slaves in your estimation?


There are some serious details missing here. Apparently they were not sexually abused, so I guess they were being kept as housekeepers? They were able to just walk out of the house but they thought they were in great danger. There is a lot of information missing from this article.


My second thought was that he’s quoting others’ statements, rather than making personal assertions, until more information is available; which is actually pretty good journalistic practice. It does look weird, though.

Though technically, those would be prisoners/captives, not slaves.

Not mutually exclusive.

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They weren’t, since the rest of society would not have recognized their status as slaves. There might be countries where slavery is in fact being tolerated by society and government, but the UK doesn’t belong to those.

You’re saying their treatment doesn’t fit the criteria of “slavery” because slavery is illegal in the UK? That makes no sense. It’s like saying someone wasn’t really a “captive” if they were illegally held in captivity.

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if they are held captive indefinitely and made to work, then they are slaves.

prisoners have presumably been convicted of a crime and given a sentence by a court.

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lol that makes no fucking sense at all.


I disagree with the second part of your comment (people can be imprisoned illegally too) but I agree with the first. Futurama nailed it:

FRY: You know what the worst thing about being a slave is? They make you work all day but they don’t pay you or let you go!

LEELA: That’s the ONLY thing about being a slave.

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Because it’s a quote.

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It looks weird because if “slaves” is in responsible-journalism quotes, “freed” seems odd without them. Freed from what? Some form of confinement is assumed to be true, but not that it meets the claim of slavery.

For brevity’s sake, it’s left hanging. RTA!

Not really a captive if illegally held in captivity? Isn’t that how the major world powers already see things, though?

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“Slavery” describes a specific legal status of a person, “captive“ does not. Sometimes terms are being collapsed into one, like prisoner referring to any kind of captive, but I don’t see this with the term slave, which historically was applied to people owned by other people, as recognized by the rest of society.

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This story has just appeared in the past few hours, so obviously none of us can say anything authoritative or definitive here. But if I can be allowed a “gut response” based on my general impressions of the United Kingdom - to which I have just returned after 12 years away - my feeling is that the scare quotes around “slaves” will probably turn out to be justified and more than justified, once the facts emerge. A striking and disturbing feature of life in the UK in 2013 is how there seems to have come into existence some sort of vast two-headed moral-surveillance entity in the form of the police acting on the dictates of the media in the form of certain very dubious and ill-defined buzzwords like “trafficking”, “child sexual abuse” and so on. It is well-known that organizations and coalitions of various interests (a certain purported feminism, a new authoritarianism and “soft fascism”) are springing up in the UK that hallucinate “sexual violence”, “exploitation”, “oppression” and “intimidation” everywhere and consider themselves morally justified to use the most heavy-handed means to “counter” it. If these women were indeed held as slaves or prisoners for years à la Natascha Kampusch, then of course moral outrage and swift and firm action were and are imperative. But as other posters have pointed out, isn’t there more than one detail that is a little odd here? Some “slaves” held forcibly in a house for decades were brought to an awareness of the improper nature of their condition by a TV programme? And once aware of it, they could arrange to walk out of that condition of imprisonment and slavery simply by making a telephone call? As I say, it is impossible to say anything definitive until we know more of the facts. But my gut instinct tells me that the sense in which these women will turn out to have been “slaves” and the people just arrested “slave-holders” will probably be a sense roughly comparable to the sense in which many of the ageing media figures from the 70s currently being rounded up and put on massively publicized trials under the “…and others” category of the UK’s post-Jimmy Saville Operation Yewtree are “sex-abusers” and “child-molestors”.

That’s a very narrow definition of “slavery” that most human rights groups would take issue with. For example, Wikipedia’s entry on slavery states:

Historically, slavery was institutionally recognized by many societies; in more recent times, slavery has been outlawed in most societies but continues through the practices of debt bondage, indentured servitude, serfdom, domestic servants kept in captivity, certain adoptions in which children are forced to work as slaves, child soldiers, and forced marriage. Slavery is illegal in every country in the world, but there are still an estimated 29.8 million slaves worldwide.


Perhaps they promised to let them go after 40 years, in which case they wouldn’t be…

That’s why I mentioned “countries where slavery is in fact being tolerated“. Banning slavery in law doesn’t mean zilch when authorities don’t follow their own laws.

In any case, I don’t feel like discussing nomenclature tonight, as I think we all agree that whatever we call it, it was a horrible abuse of fellow human beings and should be acted upon with the full power of the law.

But I have the bad feeling that an embassy is being involved. Lots of those in Lambeth.

So according to your definition, the distinction between a “slave” and a “non-slave” isn’t determined by a person’s legal status or what kind treatment they’re forced to endure, but by whether or not the neighbors approve. Interesting.