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UN Report on contemporary forms of slavery

Published: 25th Aug, 2022

UN Report on contemporary forms of slavery


A recent U.N. report which highlighted contemporary forms of slavery, pointed out that Child labour, caste-based discrimination and poverty are closely inter-linked in India.


  • Article 4 of the UDHR states that ‘No one shall be held in slavery or servitude: slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms’.
  • Slavery was the first human rights issue to arouse wide international concern yet it still continues today and slavery-like practices also remain a grave and persistent problem.

Contemporary forms of slavery

  • traditional slavery
  • forced labour
  • debt bondage
  • serfdom


  • children working in slavery or slavery-like conditions
  • domestic servitude
  • sexual slavery
  • servile forms of marriage


Key Findings:

  • Contemporary forms of slavery are widely practiced around the world, including:
    • forced labour for China’s Uyghur minority
    • bonded labour for the lowest caste Dalits in South Asia
    • domestic servitude in Gulf countries, Brazil and Colombia
  • Main causes of contemporary forms of slavery
    • Deep-rooted intersecting forms of discrimination,
    • Result of historical legacies, such as
      • slavery and colonisation
      • systems of inherited status
      • formalised and State-sponsored discrimination
  • Child Labour:
    • Child labour (among children 5 to 17 years of age), including its worst forms, exists in all regions of the world.
    • In Asia and the Pacific, the Middle East, the Americas and Europe, between 4% and 6% of children are said to be in child labour, and the percentage is much higher in Africa (21.6%), with the highest rate in sub-Saharan Africa (23.9%).
    • In India, child labour, caste-based discrimination and poverty are closely interlinked
  • Dalits in South Asia:
    • Dalit women in South Asia face severe discrimination, and as a result they are systematically denied choices and freedoms in all spheres of life.
    • Manual scavenging, predominantly carried out by Dalit women, is widely regarded as forced labour and a contemporary form of slavery, entailing harsh working conditions that have a negative impact on mental and physical health.
    • Dalits in Bangladesh are forced to undertake certain types of labour as a consequence of their assigned caste status and are almost exclusively working in “unclean” jobs in urban areas, like street sweeping and burying the dead.
  • Forced marriage:
    • Forced marriage of women and girls is a concern in Asia, including Cambodia, India, Kazakhstan, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam.
    • In parts of the Balkans, half of all Roma women ages 20 to 24 are married before age 18, compared to around 10% nationally.

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