Slav­ery re­port

The Pak Banker - - FRONT PAGE -

Aglobal sur­vey re­leased re­cently says that over 50 mil­lion peo­ple are liv­ing as slaves glob­ally with the largest num­ber in In­dia. Un­like his­tor­i­cal def­i­ni­tions of slav­ery in which peo­ple were held as le­gal prop­erty, a prac­tice that has been uni­ver­sally banned, mod­ern slav­ery is gen­er­ally de­fined as hu­man traf­fick­ing, forced la­bor, bondage from in­debt­ed­ness, forced or servile mar­riage or com­mer­cial sex­ual ex­ploita­tion.In­ci­dences of slav­ery were found in all 167 coun­tries sur­veyed, with In­dia hav­ing an es­ti­mated 18.4 mil­lion slaves among its 1.3 bil­lion pop­u­la­tion, top­ping the list. North Korea ranked as worst in terms of con­cen­tra­tion with one in ev­ery 20 peo­ple - or 4.4 per­cent of its 25 mil­lion pop­u­la­tion - in slav­ery and state-sanc­tioned forced labour. Data shows that more than half the pop­u­la­tion of mod­ern slaves are in five coun­tries - In­dia, with 18.35 mil­lion, China 3.39 mil­lion, Pak­istan 2.13 mil­lion, Bangladesh 1.53 mil­lion, and Uzbek­istan 1.23 mil­lion.

Af­ter North Korea, the next high­est preva­lence of slav­ery is found in Uzbek­istan - 3.97 per­cent, fol­lowed by Cam­bo­dia 1.65 per­cent, In­dia 1.4 per­cent, and Qatar 1.36 per­cent. The coun­tries with the low­est per capita rates of mod­ern slav­ery - de­fined as 0.02 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion or less, are: Lux­em­bourg, New Zealand, Ire­land, Nor­way, Den­mark, Switzer­land, Aus­tria, Swe­den, Bel­gium, Aus­tralia, Canada, Spain, Britain, France, Ger­many and the United States.The global slav­ery re­port also keeps a record of govern­ment ac­tions and re­sponses to mod­ern slav­ery. Of the 161 coun­tries sur­veyed, 124 coun­tries have crim­i­nalised hu­man traf­fick­ing in line with the UN Traf­fick­ing Pro­to­col and 96 have de­vel­oped na­tional ac­tion plans to co­or­di­nate govern­ment re­sponse. The gov­ern­ments lead­ing the charge against mod­ern slav­ery are The Nether­lands, the United States of Amer­ica, the United King­dom, Swe­den, Aus­tralia, Por­tu­gal, Croa­tia, Spain, Bel­gium and Nor­way.

The re­port has placed Pak­istan among the top five coun­tries with the high­est rates of en­slaved peo­ple. Slav­ery in Pak­istan is mostly in the form of debt bondage. The prov­inces of Pun­jab and Sindh are said to be hot­beds of bonded labour, which is mainly found in the brick mak­ing, agri­cul­ture, and car­pet weav­ing in­dus­tries. Re­cently it was es­ti­mated that the brick kiln in­dus­try em­ploys around 4.5 mil­lion peo­ple across the coun­try. The Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion of Pak­istan in a re­cent re­port said that in Sindh and Pun­jab some bonded labour­ers in brick kilns are "ei­ther kept in cap­tiv­ity by armed guards or their fam­ily mem­bers be­come vir­tual hostages." The fam­ily mem­bers, in­clud­ing young chil­dren, are chained to the cy­cle as the debt is trans­ferred to them in the case an adult worker dies or is dis­abled. Those who man­age to es­cape are of­ten hunted and forced to re­turn and pay off the debt. This cy­cle is re­in­forced by con­tem­po­rary agri­cul­tural poli­cies which give land­lords priv­i­leged ac­cess to land, re­sources, and credit. The Hu­man Rights Watch says that the papers the il­lit­er­ate haaris sign with the land­lords are of­ten ma­nip­u­lated in such a way that the poor peas­ants re­main in debt for the whole of their lives.

The sys­tem of bonded labour should have ended in Pak­istan af­ter the Bonded Labour Sys­tem (Abo­li­tion) Act was passed in 1992. But the land­lords in Sindh and Pun­jab are still free to mal­treat the slave work­ers work­ing on their farms or in brick kilns. There is an ur­gent need to de­vise an in­te­grated na­tional strat­egy with ac­com­pa­ny­ing re­sources to im­ple­ment the anti-slav­ery laws. Some im­por­tant steps in this re­gard should in­clude more ef­fec­tive reg­is­tra­tion and reg­u­la­tion of brick kilns and other in­for­mal sec­tor work­places, en­sur­ing that all work­ers are paid the min­i­mum wage. There is also a need to strengthen rel­e­vant govern­ment in­sti­tu­tions such as the po­lice, the FIA, so­cial se­cu­rity, labour and hu­man re­source de­part­ments and the ju­di­ciary to pre­vent slav­ery and pros­e­cute those in­volved in the crime. Hope­fully, the re­port should pres­sure politi­cians to ad­dress this ne­glected is­sue. What we need is for politi­cians to not just pay lip-ser­vice to com­bat slav­ery, but to chal­lenge the sta­tus quo to em­power labour­ers.

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