Because 2007 marks the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the British slave trade, many people believe that slavery has disappeared. Yet at least twelve million people in Europe and North America as well as in Asia, the Middle East and Africa, live and work in contemporary forms of slavery. One of the most common forms is debt bondage where an individual offers their labour in exchange for a loan or to pay for travel, but then loses control over their conditions of work and the amount they are paid. Other forms of slavery include forced recruitment for use in armed conflict, forced labour and the trafficking of individuals for prostitution, pornography and other illicit activities. Women and children are particularly vulnerable, as are people from minority or marginalised groups, and people living in extreme poverty.
For many years human rights organisations, individuals and charities have campaigned to raise public awareness of contemporary slavery and to encourage governments worldwide to work together to prevent its continued existence. As the final part of the Gallery Trail Portraits, People and the Abolition of the Slave Trade which runs throughout the Collection, the National Portrait Gallery has invited five individuals who have an interest in this area - Diane Abbot MP, Kwame Kwei Armah, Shami Chakrabarti, Aidan McQuade and Simon Schama - to describe what the 2007 Bicentenary means to them, and what still needs to be done to eradicate slavery . Their comments appear with their photographs.