The International Day for the Abolition of Slavery, 2 December, marks the date of the adoption, by the General Assembly, of the United Nations Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others. The focus of this day is on eradicating contemporary forms of slavery, such as trafficking in persons, sexual exploitation, and the worst forms of child labour, forced marriage, and the forced recruitment of children for use in armed conflict.
According to the International Labour Organization, there are currently an estimated 21 million forced labour victims worldwide, creating US$ 150 billion in illegal profits in the private economy each year. ILO has adopted a new legally binding Protocol designed to strengthen global efforts to eliminate forced labour, which is set to enter into force in November 2016.Slavery is not merely a historical relic. According to the International Labour Organization more than 40 million people worldwide are victims of modern slavery. Although modern slavery is not defined in law, it is used as an umbrella term covering practices such as forced labour, debt bondage, forced marriage, and human trafficking.
Essentially, it refers to situations of exploitation that a person cannot refuse or leave because of threats, violence, coercion, deception, and/or abuse of power. In addition, more than 150 million children are subject to child labour, accounting for almost one in ten children around the world. An estimated 40.3 million people are in modern slavery, including 24.9 in forced labour and 15.4 million in forced marriage.
There are 5.4 victims of modern slavery for every 1,000 people in the world. One in 4 victims of modern slavery are children. Out of the 24.9 million people trapped in forced labour, 16 million people are exploited in the private sector such as domestic work, construction or agriculture; 4.8 million people in forced sexual exploitation, and 4 million people in forced labour imposed by state authorities.
The 50 for Freedom campaign aims to persuade at least 50 countries to ratify the Forced Labour Protocol by the end of 2019. Today, trafficking in persons is an issue of global concern, affecting almost all countries, and all regions. UNODC has identified more than 460 individual trafficking flows across the world in the period between 2007 and 2010, with the detection of victims of 136 nationalities in 118 countries. As the scale of the phenomenon becomes clearer, it is evident that the crime of trafficking in persons presents a distinct set of challenges still to be overcome by most countries. While the number of convictions for trafficking in persons crimes, for example, is increasing, most countries’ conviction rates remain very low – despite the widespread prevalence of human trafficking, the most recent Global Report on Trafficking in Persons records that one in three countries covered by the Report were unable to identify any convictions for human trafficking crimes between 2007 and 2010. The most recent effort by the international community to address this crime at the global level is the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime which entered in force on 25 December 2003.
The Trafficking in Persons Protocol provided, for the first time, a universally agreed upon definition of trafficking in persons. It addresses human trafficking as a crime including all forms of exploitation and all types of victims, seeking to foster greater criminal justice action, and the protection and implementation of the rights of victims. The Trafficking in Persons Protocol commits ratifying States to combating trafficking in persons, prosecuting perpetrators, protecting and assisting victims of trafficking and promoting cooperation among states in order to meet those objectives.
Pakistan has ratified 36 conventions, including the two fundamental Conventions on Forced Labour. A national legal and policy framework that protects and promotes the rights of bonded laborers has been in place since 1992. A National Policy and Plan of Action on Bonded Labour was formulated in 2001. The ILO has been providing technical assistance through the government, employers’ and workers’ organizations to implement the existing framework.
Writer is the CEO of Mélange IT Solutions & The Asian Telegraph, an expert on Political Economy, & Director of Bandial Group