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Imperial Slavery refers to the traditional system of indentured servitude within the Empire. Imperial Slaves represent the lowest stratum of the Imperial social hierarchy. Unlike conventional slavery, the transportation and treatment of Imperial Slaves is strictly regulated by Imperial law, and they are entitled to various rights and protections.

Most Imperial Slaves enter service voluntarily in order to work off debts, and when their term of service is completed, they are restored to full Imperial citizenship. Since there is no stigma attached to being an Imperial Slave within Imperial society, an emancipated Imperial Slave may potentially rise to high status through loyal and effective service. The apparent virtues of Imperial Slavery conceal a darker side, however: an Imperial Slave working in the household of a wealthy senator will receive a far different level of care and consideration than one toiling in a remote mine for Mastopolos Mining, and independent pilots have been known to make their fortunes smuggling Imperial Slaves to black market traders beyond the Empire's territory.

Overview

Imperial Slavery has been an institution within the Empire for most of its existence. It is unclear exactly when it was first implemented, but its economic and cultural importance were cemented in the first half of 29th century, during the reign of Emperor Trasken Duval II, after large-scale slave labour was utilised for the first time in the Zeesse system.[1]

Although viewed with disdain by many outsiders due its connotation with the brutal and tragic form of slavery seen elsewhere in the galaxy, in practice Imperial Slavery is a regulated form of indentured servitude, and Imperials are quick to point out that Imperial Slaves are often better cared for and rewarded than their free, working-class counterparts in the Federation. Having an unpaid debt is seen as utterly dishonourable in Imperial society, and so an honourable Imperial citizen naturally feels obligated to sell themselves into Imperial Slavery if they have exhausted all other options. Imperial Slaves voluntarily contract themselves out for a predetermined amount of time to earn money to pay debts that they could not otherwise clear or to support their families. Alternatively, Imperial Slaves can buy their freedom using their "tithe", or may earn early release from service by performing admirably in their duties or as a reward for long and loyal service.[1][2]

Rights

Imperial Slaves are guaranteed basic human rights and may exercise free will and self-determination, but still have substantially less freedom than regular Imperial citizens. Despite this, being an Imperial slave is considered more socially acceptable than allowing oneself to languish in debt. The typical Imperial Slave will willingly return to servitude in the event they are forcibly freed before their contract ends, and depending on the circumstances of their premature liberation, they may have no other alternative way to survive anyway. Upon concluding their contract, Imperial Slaves are given new employment and temporary welfare assistance by a registered organisation to help them re-acclimatize to citizenship.[3][4]

Imperial society emphasizes both status and honour, and while it is acceptable to flaunt one's wealth, mistreating people, including Imperial Slaves, is considered highly undignified and shameful.[2]

Regulations

Under Imperial law, citizens are not permitted to sell their Imperial Slaves for service to non-Imperial citizens, nor are they allowed to sell Imperial Slaves on worlds outside of Imperial space. Those found breaking the law run the risk of being forced into service themselves, although in reality Imperial frontier security services tend to turn a blind eye to violations.[5] Slavers who are found to hold Imperial Slaves beyond their fixed term of service will receive a warning. Imperial Slaves discovered in these situations are promptly restored to full citizenship and reimbursed for the labour they performed beyond their established term. Individuals who violate laws concerning the transport and treatment of Imperial Slaves are subject to criminal charges.[6]

The Imperial Slavers Association is responsible for monitoring the transport and treatment of Imperial Slaves. The ISA itself is occasionally audited by the Imperial Senate to ensure that its records and practices are kept in compliance with the law.[6]

Unregulated slavery, in which enslaved individuals are treated as chattel property, is illegal in the Empire. Prominent Imperials such as Senator Zemina Torval have been known to hold campaigns to purchase or otherwise acquire conventional slaves on humanitarian grounds, so that they can be registered as Imperial Slaves and given superior care as well as the opportunity to earn freedom and citizenship.[5] Senator Torval built much of her fortune on Imperial Slavery and supports the institution wholeheartedly, frequently emphasizing its importance to Imperial society and encouraging slaveholders to take proper care of their Imperial Slaves.[7][8]

It is fairly rare, but there are some Imperial-controlled systems do not practice Imperial Slavery at all, and still others classify it as a crime.[1]

Abuses

Some Imperial systems are notorious for their mistreatment of Imperial Slaves, but are not held to account because of their industrial and economic importance. Many acts of abuse tend to go unnoticed among the vast multitude of Imperial Slaves tasked with mining and other forms of hard-labour. In contrast, less strenuous positions such as household servants are much more carefully regulated, and proponents of Imperial Slavery extol them as proof that the institution is humane and dignified.[1][9]

Independent pilots have been known to smuggle massive numbers of Imperial Slaves to sell in black markets controlled by criminal groups such as the Kumo Crew for a quick profit.[5]

An audit of the ISA by a special committee of the Imperial Senate in August 3301 found numerous transportation violations in Imperial border systems, leading to the arrest and indictment of several border security officers and pilots, but no significant violations relating to the treatment of Imperial Slaves were uncovered. The ISA issued a public statement reiterating that selling Imperial Slaves outside of the Empire was illegal.[6]

Opposition

Imperial Slavery is opposed by Unchain, a non-government charitable organization run by prominent abolitionist and Imperial Family member Princess Aisling Duval, as well as activist networks such as Autonomy. These and other critics argue that despite the protections mandated by Imperial law, Imperial Slavery is nonetheless dehumanizing and beneath the dignity of the Empire.[10][4][11]

Princess Aisling has been especially critical of the institution, and her original anti-slavery charity, Stop Slavery Stupid, periodically launched initiatives to accept Imperial Slaves for immediate emancipation and rehabilitation.[12] She also supports efforts against illegal slavery rings that operate within the Empire. In January 3304, she personally funded a peacekeeping operation to break up an illegal slavery ring in the Guuguyni system.[13]

Despite her passion for the cause, Princess Aisling insists that anti-slavery efforts should follow Imperial law. This brought her into conflict with the radical abolitionist group Autonomy in mid-3305, when they purchased 4,000 Imperial Slaves and forcibly emancipated them outside the city of Port Isabelle on Eotienses A 3 without properly following the manumission process.[4] The 4,000 involuntarily freed individuals were left with no means to support themselves or leave the planet, forcing the Imperial Internal Security Service to intervene to prevent civil unrest.[3][14] To resolve the crisis, Unchain purchased the Imperial Slaves so they could receive proper care and work off their debts; Princess Aisling took note of the irony, but explained it was the most practical solution to the problems created by Autonomy's recklessness.[11]

Trivia

References

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