Slave Britain - The 21st Century Trade in Human Lives At St Paul's Cathedral

By Nick Aldwinckle | 20 February 2007
portrait view of young woman from behind

Slave Britain: The 21st Century Trade in Human Lives © Karen Robinson/Panos Pictures

As the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the Act to abolish the transatlantic slave trade approaches, a revealing and often uncomfortable new exhibition offers a glimpse into the lives of some of the victims of modern-day human trafficking.

Showing at St Paul’s Cathedral until March 29 2007, Slave Britain features a series of intimate portraits with interview transcriptions mounted on an imposing cage structure.

Photographers Karen Robinson and David Rose expose the stark reality facing the thousands of (predominantly female) adults and children sold into an existence of forced, unpaid labour and sexual exploitation and examine the action needed to tackle this problem.

Among the subjects is Danielle, brought from Lithuania aged 15 under the false impression of what a ‘summer job in London’ would entail:

“At the airport we were met by some men who handed £3,500 to the guy who'd travelled with me. To my horror I realised I'd been sold. I was taken to Birmingham by the man who bought me.”

Danielle was then raped and forced to have sex with clients in a brothel for several months, before eventually escaping.

screenshot of slave britain website homepage

A Slave Britain website has been set up to help raise awareness of the surprisingly resurgent slave trade

Other harrowing stories in the exhibition include a woman from India sleeping rough since escaping violent captivity and a young mother seeking refuge in a convent from the traffickers who have targetted her on five separate occasions.

Panos Pictures are working with St Paul’s Cathedral, Amnesty International, Anti-Slavery International, Eaves and UNICEF UK to stage the exhibition. They are lobbying the government to make good on its promise of committing to the Council of Europe Convention on Action Against Trafficking in Human Beings to guarantee minimum standards of protection and support for trafficked people.

Every visitor is encouraged to sign a petition www.slavebritain.org.uk/petition.asp and the campaign is running alongside the Diocese of London’s Lent Appeal to combat contemporary slavery.

Canon Ed Newell, director of the St Paul’s Insitute, says: “Just as the churches played a key role in bringing an end to the slave trade 200 years ago, we hope this exhibition will play a direct role in bringing to an end this demeaning and exploitative trade in human beings.”

The Women’s Library is also presenting a talk with Newsnight presenter Martha Kearney, entitled Human Trafficking: The Action Plan. This will take place on March 7 2007 from 6.30pm at The Graduate Centre, London Metropolitan University. Tickets are free but must be booked in advance. For more information, go to the Women’s Library website.

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