UN defends its new global estimates on slavery
The United Nations on Friday defended its new global estimates on slavery after local media reported that India’s intelligence agency advised Prime Minister Narendra Modi to discredit the research, saying it may tarnish the country’s image and exports.
What is the report?
- A report by International Labour Organization (ILO), the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and Australian rights group Walk Free Foundation published on Sept. 19 found more than 40 million people across the world were victims of modern day slavery last year.
- The report said 62 percent of those in forced marriages or forced labour such as construction or domestic work were in the Asia-Pacific region. It did not provide country-specific data.
India’s Stand on this report
- In a memo from India’s Intelligence Bureau to Modi’s office, the agency questioned the report’s methodology, claiming the data “has enough potential to substantially harm India’s image and exports,” the Indian Express reported on Wednesday.
- The bureau warned that “global documentation on slavery is increasingly targeting India as home to the highest number of slaves in the world,” and called for a strong campaign to “discredit” the information, the newspaper report added.
ILO officials rejected claims India was being targeted and said they had full confidence in the report’s findings.
ILO ground of rejection of claims
- The memo is based on a misunderstanding. There are no national figures in the data. We don’t single out any country,” Beate Andrees, ILO’s chief of the Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, said.
- “We collaborated with Walk Free for a global figure as there was there was a strong demand among practitioners who found it unhelpful to have competing numbers on this.
- There are no national figures on the number of people in slavery in India, but the labour ministry recently announced plans to identify, rescue and help over 18 million bonded labourers by 2030.
- In India, many victims are villagers lured by traffickers with the promise of a good job and an advance payment, only to find themselves forced to toil in fields or brick kilns, enslaved in brothels or confined as maids to pay off debt.
What is modern slavery?
- forced to work – through coercion, or mental or physical threat;
- owned or controlled by an ’employer’, through mental or physical abuse or the threat of abuse;
- dehumanised, treated as a commodity or bought and sold as ‘property’;
- physically constrained or have restrictions placed on their freedom of movement.
Forms of modern slavery
Purposes of exploitation can range from forced prostitution and forced labour to forced marriage and forced organ removal. Here are the most common forms of modern slavery.
- Forced labour – any work or services which people are forced to do against their will under the threat of some form of punishment.
- Debt bondage or bonded labour – the world’s most widespread form of slavery, when people borrow money they cannot repay and are required to work to pay off the debt, then losing control over the conditions of both their employment and the debt.
- Human trafficking– involves transporting, recruiting or harbouring people for the purpose of exploitation, using violence, threats or coercion.
- Descent-based slavery – where people are born into slavery because their ancestors were captured and enslaved; they remain in slavery by descent.
- Child slavery – many people often confuse child slavery with child labour, but it is much worse. Whilst child labour is harmful for children and hinders their education and development, child slavery occurs when a child is exploited for someone else’s gain. It can include child trafficking, child soldiers, child marriage and child domestic slavery.
- Forced and early marriage – when someone is married against their will and cannot leave the marriage. Most child marriages can be considered slavery.