In the past, children have been sold off into slavery in order for their family to pay debts off. Sometimes this is also to give the children a better life than what they had with their family.
In most institutions of slavery throughout the world, the children of slaves became the property of the master; this was the case with, for example, thralls and American slaves. In other cases, children were enslaved as if they were adults. Usually the status of the mother determined if the child was a slave, but some local laws varied the decision to the father. In many cultures, slaves could earn their freedom through hard work and buying their own freedom. The infamous Children's Crusade is believed to have led to the enslavement of many young pilgrimsees.
Though the abolition of slavery in much of the world has greatly reduced child slavery, the phenomenon lives on, especially in Third World countries. According to the Anti-Slavery Society, "Although there is no longer any state which legally recognizes, or which will enforce, a claim by a person to a right of property over another, the abolition of slavery does not mean that it ceased to exist. There are millions of people throughout the world — mainly children — in conditions of virtual slavery, as well as in various forms of servitude which are in many respects similar to slavery." It further notes that slavery, particularly child slavery, was on the rise in 2003. It points out that there are countless others in other forms of servitude (such as peonage, bonded labor and servile concubinage) which are not slavery in the narrow legal sense. Critics claim they are stretching the definition and practice of slavery beyond its original meaning, and are actually referring to forms of unfree labour other than slavery.
A recent story of child slavery involved the use of children as jockeys for camel racing in the Middle East. The children were being deliberately undernourished so they were lighter for races. Since the discovery of this instance, hundreds of children have been rescued and an HBO documentary on the matter has been made.
The trafficking in human beings includes recruiting, harbouring, obtaining, and transporting people by use of force or fraud for the purpose of subjecting them to involuntary acts, such as commercial sexual exploitation (including prostitution) or involuntary labour, i.e., enslavement. Some see human trafficking as the modern form of slavery. Human trafficking is the trade of human beings and their use by criminals to make money. The majority of victims are adults, predominantly women (although men are ‘trafficked’ as well), forced into prostitution. However, children also make up a significant number of victims forced into prostitution.
In Ukraine, a survey conducted by the non-governmental organization (NGO) “La Strada-Ukraine” in 2001-2003, based on a sample of 106 women being trafficked out of Ukraine found that 3% were under 18, and the US State Department reported in 2004 that incidents of minors being trafficked was increasing. In Thailand, NGOs have estimated that up to a third of prostitutes are children under 18, many trafficked from outside Thailand.
Following the 2010 Haiti earthquake, Save the Children, World Vision and the British Red Cross have called for an immediate halt to adoptions of Haitian children not approved before the earthquake, warning that child traffickers could exploit the lack of regulation. An Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights spokesman said that child enslavement and trafficking was "an existing problem and could easily emerge as a serious issue over the coming weeks and months".