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I was wondering what the status of slavery was in the Imperium.

I know that Penal Colonies/Worlds exist, where prisoners, mutants, psykers, etc. are pressed into work gangs. Also institutions like the Adeptus Astartes, Ordos Malleus/Xenos and such keep serfs; people who will serve for their entire lifetime.

But what about the average citizen of the Imperium? Would the 'Emperor's subjects' be protected by the Adeptus Terra against slavery? What about people who fall into debt: would they be imprisoned (I think I read that somewhere) or would it be possible that they would become slaves to their debtors? Can ordinary citizens own serfs/slaves?
 

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The Emperor abolished slavery, but then, the Emperor also abolished religion, and gods, and well, you get the idea. Much of the Golden Age of the Imperium is lost, and much that once was, none now remember.

Ordinary citizens cannot own slaves, simply for the reason that ordinary is a measure of what's common, and the most common denominator of citizenry in the Imperium is the poor, wretched, downtrodden underhive filth and menials that comprise the majority of the Imperium's population.

The Adeptus Mechanicus has slaves, the Space Marines don't call them slaves, but the chapter serfs are basically former aspirants who, when failing to accept the gene seed, did not die or go mad or need to be made into servitors. Their bodies just rejected the gene seed, so for passing the trials, the Space Marines honor them by keeping them on as serfs.

The Inquisition keeps a lot of slaves, as do most royal houses in most worlds across the Imperium. There are many groups that keep the equivalent of a slave to tend to the master's personal needs, even in the Imperial Navy. Not everyone who could have one has one, though, as some Inquisitors are too deep in the mud to have a menial trudging along with them blowing their cover... and some people disdain slavery, so they don't keep a slave, or if they have the authority, they won't suffer slaves in their presence.

That said, it varies from world to world, but the Imperium no longer holds slavery to be illegal... just a fact of life.

EDIT: It should be noted that you can't enslave someone with Imperial Citizen status, they have to do something that warrants stripping them of said status (though, that could be something as simple as going into severe debt, but I'd figure debt would be temporary enslavement, as the slave would be freed once his debt was paid off... no?).
 

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Belthazor Aurellius you forgot one Imperial Organisation that uses vast amounts of slave power, and can press even the most innocent of Imperial Citizens into slavery.

The Imperial Navy, the larger ships have thousands and thousands of slaves, some are prisoners sentenced to serve out their- life- sentences on board, others citizens that were press-ganged when the ship made port...the Navy is nothing if not ruthless in order to keep it's man power up.
 

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Many servitors are easily considered slaves, also. Those that resemble human figures probably were at one point. It is not uncommon for the Techpriests to mind wipe someone, then convert them into a servant. If a person had at any time committed a crime against the Techpriests, or, offended them, than it is likely that they found themselves without past memories, freewill, limbs, and the such. Criminals that have been converted for servitor use are always branded with a tattoo. While they may have no memory of their former actions, they are none the less criminals.
 

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To some extent... AI is illegal in the Imperium, on the level with the heresy of rebellion or chaos worship. Some servitors have to be "slaved" to a controller, literally because they are machines that resemble humans, other servitors are humans who have had portions of their brains removed, mechanical enhancements to their bodies and are, were it not for their lack of mind power, bionic superhumans... But, again, lacking mind power, they can usually comprehend only the simplest commands, such as "weld (insert object name) onto (insert surface indication)."
 
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