Anti-Slavery International

Anti-Slavery International, founded as the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society in 1839,[1][2] is an international non-governmental organisation, registered charity[3] and advocacy group, based in the United Kingdom. It is the world's oldest international human rights organisation, and works exclusively against slavery and related abuses.[4]

Anti-Slavery International
Founded1839 (1839)
HeadquartersLondon, SW9
United Kingdom
Region served
Jasmine O'Connor

In 1909, the society merged with the Aborigines' Protection Society to form the Anti-Slavery and Aborigines' Protection Society,[2] whose prominent member was Kathleen Simon, Viscountess Simon. It became the Anti-Slavery Society in July 1947,[5] and from 1956 to 1990 it was named the Anti-Slavery Society for the Protection of Human Rights. In 1990 it was renamed Anti-Slavery International for the Protection of Human Rights, and in 1995 relaunched as Anti-Slavery International.[6]

It owes its origins to the radical element of an older organisation also commonly referred to as the "Anti-Slavery Society", the Society for the Mitigation and Gradual Abolition of Slavery Throughout the British Dominions, which had substantially achieved abolition of slavery in the British Empire by August 1838.[1]

The new British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society was created to campaign against the practice of slavery in other countries.


A painting of the 1840 World's Anti-Slavery Convention. Use a cursor to see who is who.[7]


Buxton Memorial Fountain, celebrating the emancipation of slaves in the British Empire in 1834, in Victoria Tower Gardens, Millbank, Westminster, London

The Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade, founded in 1787, also referred to as the Abolition Society, was responsible for achieving abolition of the international slave trade, when the British Parliament passed the Slave Trade Act 1807.

The Society for the Mitigation and Gradual Abolition of Slavery Throughout the British Dominions, later known as the (London) Anti-slavery Society, was founded in 1823 and was committed to the abolition of slavery in the British Empire, which was substantially achieved in 1838 under the terms of the Slavery Abolition Act 1833.

Foundation (1839)

With abolition of slavery throughout the British dominions achieved, British abolitionists in the Agency Committee of the Anti-Slavery Society considered that a successor organisation was needed to tackle slavery worldwide. Largely under the guidance of English activist Joseph Sturge, the committee duly formed a new society, British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society on 17 April 1839,[8][9] which worked to outlaw slavery in other countries. It became widely known as the Anti-Slavery Society, as had the earlier society.

The first secretary was John Harfield Tredgold, the first treasurer, George William Alexander of Stoke Newington. Along with the founding committee, which included the Anglican Thomas Fowell Buxton, the Quaker William Allen, and the Congregationalist Josiah Conder, they organised the first World Anti-Slavery Convention in London in 1840,[10] that attracted delegates from around the world (including from the United States of America, in the South of which slavery was at times referred to as "our peculiar institution") to the Freemasons' Hall, London on 12 June 1840. Many delegates were notable abolitionists, with Thomas Clarkson the key speaker, and the image of the meeting was captured in a remarkable painting that still hangs in the National Portrait Gallery in London.[11] The convention had been advertised as a "whole world" convention, but the delegates representing anti-slavery societies in the United States included several women, among them Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who later were instrumental in the movement for women's rights. Convention leaders refused to seat the women delegates from America, and prominent male abolitionists such as Thomas Knight were outraged. He went on to form his own society.

In the 1850s, under Louis Chamerovzow, the society helped John Brown write and publish his autobiography a decade before the American Civil War ended slavery in the United States.

The second secretary of the Anti-Slavery Society, appointed under the honorary secretaries Joseph Cooper and Edmund Sturge, was the Rev. Aaron Buzacott (1829–81), the son of a South Seas missionary also named Aaron Buzacott. With American slavery abolished in 1865, Buzacott worked closely with Joseph Cooper in researching and publishing work designed to help abolish slavery in elsewhere, particularly in the Middle East, Turkey and Africa.

20th century

At the beginning of the 20th century Anti-Slavery Society campaigned against slavery practices perpetrated in the Congo Free State by King Leopold II of Belgium. It was the first campaign in history that used photography to document the abuses (photographs were taken by the missionary Alice Seeley Harris). The campaign eventually helped bring an end to Leopold's tyranny.

In 1909, the society merged with the Aborigines' Protection Society[12] to form the Anti-Slavery and Aborigines' Protection Society. Kathleen Simon, Viscountess Simon was a prominent member and stalwart of the society.[13][14][15]

In the 1920s the Society helped end the indentured labour system in the British colonies after campaigning against the use of Indian and Chinese "coolies". In 1921 Played a pivotal role in ending the activities of the Peruvian Amazon Company, which was using indigenous slave labour in rubber production. The organisation also successfully lobbied for the League of Nations inquiry into slavery, which resulted in the 1926 Slavery Convention that obliged all ratifying states to end slavery. It also heavily influenced the content of the 1956 UN Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery.

In 1944, a Journalist James Ewing Ritchie issued a paper to the society on sugar trade and slavery.[10]

From 1947 to 1956 it was called the Anti-Slavery Society, and from 1956 to 1990 the Anti-Slavery Society for the Protection of Human Rights. In 1990 it was renamed Anti-Slavery International for the Protection of Human Rights, and in 1995 Anti-Slavery International.[6]

Anti-Slavery International was one of the original supporters of the "End Child Prostitution, Pornography and Trafficking" campaign (ECPAT), and helped set up the UK branch in the 1990s. It also helped to organise the 1998 Global March against Child Labour, which helped lead to the adoption of a new International Labour Organization Convention on the Worst Forms of Child Labour in 1999.[15]

21st century

In the 21st century it worked with Nepalese NGO INSEC to secure Government backing to abolish the Kamaiya form of bonded labour; in 2003 with local NGO Timidria conducted a survey that led to the criminalisation of slavery in Niger, and lobbied the Brazilian government to introduce a National Plan for the Eradication of Slavery. Two years later ASI organised a major campaign on child camel jockeys in the Gulf States, which influenced the UAE's decision to rescue and repatriate up to 3,000 child camel jockeys.

In the UK, it successfully lobbied to make trafficking of sexual and labour exploitation a criminal offence in 2004.

In 2008 it was amongst groups that supported a former slave, Hadijatou Mani, in obtaining the verdict of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) court that found the state of Niger guilty of failing to protect her from slavery. The ruling set a legal precedent with respect to the obligations of states to protect its citizens from slavery[16]

In June 2010, following the campaign by Anti-Slavery International and Liberty the UK Parliament introduced a criminal offence of forced labour in the Coroners and Justice Act 2009. In 2010 the organisation also exposed the routine use of the forced labour of girls and young women in the manufacture of garments in Southern India for Western high streets, prompting, eventually, business and international civil society efforts to end the practice.

Anti-Slavery lobbied the UK government to sign up to an EU anti-trafficking law to protect the victims and secure justice for people who have been trafficked (2011). It also played a big part in lobbying the International Labour Organization to adopt a Convention on Decent Work for Domestic Workers in June 2011.

In 2021 Anti-Slavery International has pressured businesses and governments to address conditions in the Xinjiang cotton industry.[17]


Anti-Slavery International is the world's oldest international human rights organisation, and bases its work on the United Nations treaties against slavery. It has consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council and observer status at the International Labour Organization. It is a non-religious, non-political independent organisation. It works closely with partner organisations from around the world to tackle all forms of slavery.


The society published The Anti-Slavery Reporter from 1839, taking over from the earlier organisation (named the London Anti-slavery Society in its last year of existence[18]).[19]

The journal merged with the Aborigines' Friend to form the Anti-Slavery Reporter and Aborigines' Friend in 1909,[19] when the BFASS merged with the Aborigines' Protection Society.[20]

Modern-day slavery

Human trafficking is the illegal transportation of kidnapped women, children, and men across international borders in order to put them into slavery at the destination. This form of modern slavery is one of the most common and may affect the most people: it is estimated that between 500,000 and 800,000 victims enter the trade each year.

The International Labour Organization[21] estimates that, by their definitions, over 40 million people are in some form of slavery today. 24.9 million people are in forced labor, of whom 16 million people are exploited in the private sector such as domestic work, construction or agriculture; 4.8 million persons in forced sexual exploitation, and 4 million persons in forced labour imposed by state authorities. 15.4 million people are in forced marriage.

Anti-Slavery International points to the lack of enforcement of existing laws as a barrier to stopping human trafficking. Discrimination on the basis of social status, religion, ethnicity, gender and immigration status operate as additional barriers.[22] The organization joined more than 180 other groups in a campaign to pressure retailers such as Nike, Apple and Gap to stop using forced labour of Uighurs in their factories located in China.[23]

Anti-Slavery Award

Anti-Slavery International instituted the Anti-Slavery Award in 1991 to draw attention to the continuing problem of slavery in the world today and to provide recognition for long-term, courageous campaigning by organisations or individuals in the countries most affected.

  • 1991: Bonded Labour Liberation Front (India)
  • 1992: Ricardo Rezende
  • 1993: End Child Prostitution in Asian Tourism (ECPAT)
  • 1994: Edwin Paraison
  • 1995: Harry Wu
  • 1996: Regional Indigenous Organisation of Atalaya (OIRA)
  • 1997: Pureza Lopes Loiola
  • 1998: Cheïkh Saad Bouh Kamara
  • 1999: Vivek and Vidyullata Pandit
  • 2000: George Omona
  • 2001: Association for Community Development (ACD)
  • 2002: Backward Society Education (BASE)
  • 2003: Vera Lesko
  • 2004: Timidria
  • 2005: Cecilia Flores-Oebanda, (Visayan Forum Foundation)
  • 2006: James Aguer Figueira
  • 2007: Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW)[24]
  • 2009: SOS Esclaves
  • 2010: Justice 4 Domestic Workers
  • 2012: Temedt, a social movement in Mali

See also

  • List of organizations that combat human trafficking


  1. Sharman, Anne-Marie, ed. (1993). "Anti-Slavery Reporter". 13 (8). London: Anti-Slavery International. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  2. "[Search name authorities]: British and Foreign Anti-slavery Society [Authority record]". Library of Congress Authorities. Library of Congress. 2 December 2020. Retrieved 3 December 2020.
  3. "Anti-Slavery International, registered charity no. 1049160". Charity Commission for England and Wales.
  4. Anti-Slavery International UNESCO.
  5. "[Search name authorities]: Anti-slavery Society (Great Britain) [Authority record – click on Heading IXX)]". Library of Congress Authorities. British Library name authority is Anti-slavery Society; [with] reference from Anti-Slavery Society for the Protection of Human Rights. Library of Congress. 2 December 2020. Retrieved 3 December 2020. changed from Anti-slavery and Aborigines Protection Society, July 1947{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: others (link)
  6. Kaye, Mike (2005). 1807–2007: Over 200 years of campaigning against slavery (PDF). Anti-Slavery International. p. [i]. ISBN 0-900918-61-6.
  7. Anti-Slavery Society Convention, 1840, National Portrait Gallery, London
  8. About Anti-Slavery International Archived 26 June 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  9. Patricia Hollis (1974). Pressure from without in early Victorian England. p.39.
  10. Ritchie, James Ewing. 1944. Thoughts on Slavery and Cheap Sugar, a Letter to The Members and Friends of The British And Foreign Anti-Slavery Society.
  11. "The Anti-Slavery Society Convention, 1840". National Portrait Gallery, London. Retrieved 20 December 2020.
  12. Anti-slavery and Aborigines Protection Society (Great Britain). (1909). The Anti-slavery and Aborigines Protection Society: being the amalgamation, effected on 1st July 1909, of the British and Foreign Anti-slavery Society and the Aborigines Protection Society (Ebook). WorldCat catalogue entry only. Anti-slavery and Aborigines Protection Society. OCLC 231587915.
  13. Pennybacker, Susan D. (2009). From Scottsboro to Munich: Race and Political Culture in 1930s Britain. Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0691088280. (Chapter 3, Lady Kathleen Simon and Antislavery, pages 103–145)
  14. Matera, M. (2015). Black London: The Imperial Metropolis and Decolonization in the Twentieth Century. California World History Library. University of California Press. p. 60. ISBN 978-0-520-28430-2. Retrieved 5 December 2020.
  15. "Our history". Anti-Slavery International. Retrieved 4 December 2020.
  16. Walker, Peter; agencies (27 October 2008). "Niger guilty in landmark slavery case". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 26 June 2017.
  17. SUTHERLAND, EMILY (2 March 2021). "Are you selling China's slave cotton?". Drapers. Retrieved 13 July 2021.
  18. "[Search name authorities]: "Society for the Mitigation and Gradual Abolition of Slavery Throughout the British Dominions"". Library of Congress Authorities. 2 December 2020. Retrieved 3 December 2020. (Click on the link labelled "Heading (1XX)" for further detail)
  19. "The Anti-slavery reporter / under the sanction of the British and Foreign Anti-slavery Society [1846–1909] [Catalogue entry]". National Library of Australia. Retrieved 5 December 2020. New ser., vols. 3–8 (1855–1860) include the 16th–21st annual reports of the British and Foreign Anti-slavery Society. The 22nd–24th annual reports are appended to v. 9-11 (1861–1863)...Volume title pages for 1846–1852 read: The British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Reporter.
  20. "British and Foreign Anti-slavery Society [Authority record]". Library of Congress Authorities. Library of Congress. 2 December 2020. Retrieved 4 December 2020.
  21. Global Estimates of Modern Slavery: Forced Labour and Forced Marriage, International Labour Organization, 19 September 2017
  22. Darnell, Christie (29 July 2020). "Will coronavirus thwart global efforts to end human trafficking?". Reuters. Retrieved 25 August 2020.
  23. "Apple and Nike urged to cut 'China Uighur ties'". BBC News. 23 July 2020. Retrieved 25 August 2020.
  24. "Awards winners". Anti-Slavery International. Archived from the original on 25 February 2009.
  • Anti-Slavery International. Anti-Slavery International and Adam Matthew Publications. 2001.

Further reading

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