The United Nations’ (UN) International Day for the Abolition of Slavery is annually observed on December 2 to remind people that modern slavery works against human rights.
The day also encourages people to put meaning to the words of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that “no one shall be held in slavery or servitude” through their actions.
The International Day for the Abolition of Slavery, 2 December, recalls 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 (resolution 317(IV)of 2 December 1949).
By resolution 57/195 of 18 December 2002, the Assembly proclaimed 2004 the International Year to Commemorate the Struggle against Slavery and its Abolition. On 28 November 2006, the Assembly designated 25 March 2007 as the International Day for the Commemoration of the 200th Anniversary of the Abolition of the Transatlantic Slave Trade (resolution 61/19).
Although it is impossible to correctly access the correct number of children in enslavement conditions worldwide, the UN estimates that around 8.7 million are currently involved in some type of modern day child slavery. Most of them, around 5.7 million, are victims of forced or bound labor, the majority of which are sexually exploited young girls. Indeed, in many cases both girls and boys are sold for sexual exploitation and child pornography.
As mentioned before, trafficking is a common feature of this intricate criminal activity. The UN also estimates that around 1.2 million children are currently victims of child trafficking. In this case both the developed and developing worlds are host countries.
The thin boundary between modern slavery and child labor is quite troublesome. A common child labor practice that might be qualified as enslavement is domestic service. In these cases, child laborers are invisible in society and are in many cases subjected to 24 hour labor, inappropriate for their age and strength. They also receive considerably less food than other children their age and are especially vulnerable to psychological and physical abuse. According to UNICEF, in Haiti, 15-year-old domestic workers were 4 centimeters shorter and 40 pounds lighter than 15-year-old children not in domestic service in the same area. The research also points out that in El Salvador, 66% of girls in domestic service have reported abuse, in most cases, sexual.
Many children in Asia are kidnapped or otherwise trapped in servitude, where they work in factories and workshops for no pay and receive constant beatings.
Typically, an agent from the city arrives in the village. He shows great sympathy for the child’s parents and a deep understanding of their plight and financial problems. He purchases two dresses for the mother and purchases a cow for the father (but the cow is an old sick cow which dies after a few months).
In due course, the family’s new friend tells them that he could get a job for the child in the city where the child would be properly trained, receive wages and have good prospects for promotion. The parents, seeing this as the opportunity of a lifetime for their child to escape from rural poverty, agree.
The agent gives them a piece of paper with the name and address of a non-existent employment agency.
They are kidnapped, ”married” off to agents by unsuspecting parents, or enticed by prospects of a better life — but these Bangladeshi and Burmese women end up in the brothels of Pakistan.
After making the perilous journey, often on foot across India, they would probably be luckier if sold into domestic slavery along with their children. But more likely, they are forced into abject prostitution by brothel owners.
The numbers involved in the trafficking of this human cargo are staggering: between 100 to 150 women are estimated to enter Pakistan illegally very day. Few ever return to their homes in remote poverty-stricken areas which are the favourite hunting ground of the ‘dalals’ or agent.
Karachi-based advocate Zia Ahmed Awan, who is with the Lawyers for Human Rights and Legal Aid (LHRLA), estimates that there are over 200,000 undocumented Bangladeshi women in Pakistan, including some 2,000 in jails and shelters across the country.