Secretary-General’s message on the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade

Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. UN Photo/Mark Garten

Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. UN Photo/Mark Garten

New York, 25 March 2015 – To mark this International Day, I will unveil a permanent and fitting Memorial to honour the victims of slavery and the Trans-Atlantic slave trade at the United Nations in New York.

The “Ark of the Return” Memorial will bring home to visitors from around the world, the terrible legacy of the slave trade. It will enable them to reflect on a core goal of the United Nations: the promotion and preservation of the dignity, freedom and equality of all human beings

This year we pay a particular tribute to the many women who suffered and died during the slave trade. They experienced appalling violence, including sexual and reproductive enslavement, prostitution, repeated sexual assault, as well as forced childbearing and the sale of their own children. They were deprived of the right to choose whether, and with whom, to have sexual relationships; and whether, when, and with whom, to have children.

Yet women slaves played a key role in maintaining the dignity of their communities. Too often their leadership and brave resistance has been under-estimated, or forgotten

In all, some 12 million Africans were shipped across the Atlantic over four centuries, although the number purchased by slave traders was far higher.

The Transatlantic slave trade remains a monstrous crime and a stain on human history.

Tragically, slavery has still not ended. In the past year, thousands of women, men and children in Syria and Iraq have been abducted. Many women have been sold to fighters in public slave-markets. Slavery stubbornly persists in other parts of the world.

This despicable trade could not exist without deep-seated racism. It is absolutely vital that the dangers inherent in racism are made crystal clear to all.

On this important day we must re-double our efforts to end modern slavery, once and for all.