Slavery is not an obsolete term. More than 40 million people were victims of modern slavery in 2016, the first joint report by key anti-slavery groups reveals.

Almost three out of every four slaves were women and girls and one in four was a child with modern slavery most prevalent in Africa followed by Asia and Pacific, said the report.
Almost three out of every four slaves were women and girls and one in four was a child with modern slavery most prevalent in Africa followed by Asia and Pacific, said the report. (Getty)

More than 40 million people were trapped as slaves last year in forced labour and forced marriages, a joint report by key international rights groups revealed on Tuesday.

The International Labour Organization (ILO), the Walk Free Foundation, and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) added that this number was a conservative estimate. 

Modern slavery

The term “modern slavery” has not been defined by any international instrument. But it is widely used as an umbrella term to describe various forms of coercion prohibited in international instruments on human rights and labour standards.

These include human trafficking, forced labour, debt bondage, sex trafficking, forced marriage and other slave-like exploitation.

Modern slavery affects all population groups, young and old, male and female. But some groups are more vulnerable than others. Women and girls are disproportionately affected by modern slavery, accounting for 28.7 million, or 71 percent of the total.
Modern slavery affects all population groups, young and old, male and female. But some groups are more vulnerable than others. Women and girls are disproportionately affected by modern slavery, accounting for 28.7 million, or 71 percent of the total. (Reuters)

Forced labour

Forced labour refers to situations in which people are forced to work, usually for no or inadequate payment, as a result of violence or intimidation. 

An estimated 24.9 million people were trapped working in factories, on construction sites, farms and fishing boats, and as domestic or sex workers, the report said.

Half of them were victims of debt bondage—people made to work to repay a debt or other obligation.

“The vast majority of forced labour today exists in the private economy. This underscores the importance of partnering with the business community to eradicate forced labour in supply chains,” the report said.
“The vast majority of forced labour today exists in the private economy. This underscores the importance of partnering with the business community to eradicate forced labour in supply chains,” the report said. (Reuters)

Child labour

The ILO also released a separate report showing 152 million children were victims of child labor, which amounted to nearly one in every 10 children worldwide with almost half of them engaged in hazardous work. 

More than two-thirds of these children were working on a family farm or in a family business, with 71 percent overall working in agriculture. 

Watson Saint Fleur balances a heavy load of water he will sell in the streets of Haiti. Hes one of the countrys restaveks, a term used to describe children whose poor parents hand them over to others in the hope theyll have opportunities to escape a dead-end life, or at least get more food.
Watson Saint Fleur balances a heavy load of water he will sell in the streets of Haiti. Hes one of the countrys restaveks, a term used to describe children whose poor parents hand them over to others in the hope theyll have opportunities to escape a dead-end life, or at least get more food. (AP)

Forced marriage 

Forced marriage refers to situations in which people, usually girls and women, are married without their consent and forced into sexual and domestic servitude.

The report found that around 15.4 million people were in marriages to which they had not consented.

Many of them were taken from their homes, raped, and treated like property that could sometimes be bought, sold or passed on as inheritance, said Fiona David, executive director of global research at Australia-based Walk Free. 

Medege Dorlus, 13, does housework in Haiti. She lives with five members of the family that took her in when her mother died. Living with your mom isnt the same as living with your extended family, she said.
Medege Dorlus, 13, does housework in Haiti. She lives with five members of the family that took her in when her mother died. Living with your mom isnt the same as living with your extended family, she said. (TRT World and Agencies)

“Really the label 'marriage' is actually a little bit misleading. When you look at what’s behind it, it could also be called sexual slavery,” David said. 

The report found more than a third of the 15 million victims of forced marriage were aged under 18 when wed, and nearly half of those were younger than 15. Nearly all were female. 

Albertina Ricardo, 17, with her child, in southern Mozambique. She dropped out of school and married when she was 15.
Albertina Ricardo, 17, with her child, in southern Mozambique. She dropped out of school and married when she was 15. (TRT World and Agencies)

First such collaboration

The findings mark the first time the groups collaborated on an international estimate and prompted calls for stronger labor rights, improved governance of migrants, action to address root causes of debt bondage, and better victim identification. 

“Given that a large share of modern slavery can be traced to migration, improved migration governance is vitally important to preventing forced labor and protecting victims,” they said.

Modern slavery was most prevalent in Africa (7.6 per 1,000 people), followed by Asia and the Pacific (6.1 per 1,000) then Europe and Central Asia (3.9 per 1,000). These results should be interpreted cautiously, due to a lack of available data in some regions, notably from the Arab states and the Americas.
Modern slavery was most prevalent in Africa (7.6 per 1,000 people), followed by Asia and the Pacific (6.1 per 1,000) then Europe and Central Asia (3.9 per 1,000). These results should be interpreted cautiously, due to a lack of available data in some regions, notably from the Arab states and the Americas. (TRT World and Agencies)

The latest report follows a 2016 Walk Free finding that 45.8 million people were slaves and an ILO figure of 21 million in forced labour.

But Houtan Homayounpour, a specialist on forced labour at the ILO, cautioned the newer numbers cannot be used to show progress or failure in anti-slavery efforts. 

Previously the groups had used different data, definitions and methodologies, he said.

Click here to read the full report. 

Source: TRTWorld and agencies