Human Rights Language

How to use human rights language

By Nina Haysler

Language shapes thoughts and action. The use of certain words can empower or disenfranchise individuals and communities.

Words like “slave” should be avoided, as it is a term that disempowers people as the identifying factor is the terrible situation that the individual has been forced into.

For example, people are not “slaves” they are “enslaved”.  Preferred language to use is survivor victim of modern slavery.

People who have experienced more general human rights abuses can be referred as:

  • Victims
  • Survivors
  • Affected persons

People at risk of having their human rights abused as potentially affected persons. It is important to note too, that individuals may request to be referred to in a certain manner, and these requests should be respected.

People responsible for these human rights crime “Slave master” or “slave owner” are terms that should also be avoided and replaced by:

  • Perpetrator
  • Exploiter

There are of course, specific legal words that can be used, such as claimants and respondent. However, one should note that it is rare for survivors/victims of modern slavery to receive legal justice.

Download the Human Rights language flyer – here

If you would like to explore this topic further please reach out to Nina Haysler