In our City of Rhum supplement, we tried to tie the whole city together as opposed to our previous supplements where we were detailing neighborhoods. One of the things that may have seemed like a throwaway comment in there is that children are legally the property of their parents and as such can be sold into slavery by their parents. We didn’t get into that as deeply as maybe we should have, but to do so would have seemed out of place - too much emphasis on that one topic. But it kind of bothers me that people may have the wrong impression.
Here’s how it really works: First off, abortion is considered completely immoral in Rhum. The killing of an innocent is seen as one of the worst things possible. The women of Rhum have spoken and there is no one who believes that those babies moving around within their mothers are anything but “life”. So to kill the unborn child is evil. But not every mother/family can afford to raise a child or more commonly another child. So they will commonly “sell” them to one of the plantations outside of the city.
While everyone in Rhum would describe this as selling the baby into slavery, our modern society might instead see this as an indentured servant contract. Contracts differ with each of the various plantations, but in general the contract is something along the lines of: The plantation and its owners promise to raise the child in a safe manner until the child turns 18-21 years of age. At that point the child will have repaid the plantation for his raising and would be free to leave if he/she chose to. At issue is that after 20 years of only knowing the plantation, a high percentage of those newly freed from their contract of indenture stay on. After all, they move from a shared bunk house to a “cottage” of their own with the right to marry and have children (though any children will be automatically entered into their own indentured contracts). These freed men are treated basically the same as the indentured servants, and they are paid only in room and board and a few extras, never in money that they could accumulate and take with them. Think of it as a form of Stockholm syndrome if you will, but they rarely go anywhere.
Now, from the point of view of the mothers - They perceive their choices as being between raising a child on the streets or in a home far too small for the family with an uncertainty if this child will be the extra mouth that causes her whole family to starve to death vs. going to work for a plantation where the child will be raised to adulthood, fed, clothed, and sheltered - most often in a means that the mother herself might consider far better than what she gets. Further, the child will at least be taught to be a field hand if not gaining a better career, such as brewer, weaver, or cattle hand.
Not to try and rationalize indentured servant contracts or convince anyone that slavery is a good thing, but there is no question in the morality of the Rhorics - an indentured servant contract gives the child a legitimate chance at a life - difficult but reasonably safe. Abortion is evil and gives the child no chance. Just wanted to clarify City of Rhum a little bit and maybe make you think about how certain things considered so horrid in our culture might be seen in a completely different light in another. If you’re a world builder, that matters.
Of course, I never did put any details into the hobo towns made up of those folks who do leave the plantations and serve as migrant farm workers. Trying to get some reasonable details there may not be easy.