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UN Report on contemporary forms of slavery

  • Published
    19th Aug, 2022

According to a 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.

  • In March 2020, the Human Rights Council appointed Mr. Tomoya Obokata as Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery.
  • 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.
  • The mandate on contemporary forms of slavery includes: 
    • traditional slavery,
    • forced labour, 
    • debt bondage, 
    • serfdom, 
    • children working in slavery or slavery-like conditions, 
    • domestic servitude, 
    • sexual slavery, and 
    • 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, and domestic servitude in Gulf countries, Brazil and Colombia.
  • Deep-rooted intersecting forms of discrimination, in combination with multiple other factors, are the main causes of contemporary forms of slavery affecting minorities.
  • They are often the result of historical legacies, such as slavery and colonisation, systems of inherited status, and 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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