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child labor facts
The act of using children for free or cheap labor has been around for centuries, and while it is not often brought up in conversation, this dirty little secret lives on in numerous countries, including the U.S.

Here are eight Child Labor facts from all over the world:

1.  Child labor is not just something that happens overseas
China, Asia and Africa are not the only nations that use children for cheap labor. Tobacco fields in the U.S. use young children to pick the plants. These children are exposed to dangerous pesticides and nicotine on a regular basis and sometimes get so sick they can hardly stand.

2. Child labor in tobacco fields is legal in the U.S.
The U.S. allows children as young as 11 to legally work in tobacco fields where they spray harmful chemicals so close to them they can hardly breathe. To put this in perspective: a child working in tobacco fields is illegal in countries like Russia and Kazakhstan, but is legal in the United States.

3.  Pakistan participates in selling children as slaves
Children in Pakistan can be sold by their parents or, more often, are abducted and sold into slavery to companies for profit. Companies that have utilized this backwards practice include Nike and the Punjub province, which is the largest seller of stitched rugs, musical instruments and sports equipment.

4.   Afghanistan gives away young girls to pay off debts
Another fact about child labor comes from Afghanistan where children make up roughly half of the population. Children often work in the textile industry, the poppy fields, cement and food processing. Parents may also sell their underage daughters into slavery in order to pay off a debt.

5.  Zimbabwe’s Learn as You Earn Program
The Learn as You Earn Program in Zimbabwe may not sound too bad at first glance, but it is another ploy to bring in children for cheap labor. The program brings children into the forestry and agricultural sectors so they can “learn” about those markets. Children often choose this in place of a formal education.

6.  Child Soldiers
Children who are displaced in war-torn countries like Afghanistan or Sudan are often put to work as child soldiers. These children are given guns and minor training and are told to defend their country. Some children may even be used as suicide bombers.

7.  Underage girls and sexual slavery
Young girls from all over the world who are either displaced by war, abducted while visiting foreign countries or even sold by their parents for money often find themselves in forced sexual slavery.  This problem is growing in Sudan, Somalia, Thailand, Japan, India and the United States.

8.  North Korea outlaws underage labor, continues to hire children
The government of North Korea officially outlawed child labor, but children still make up a large percentage of the people who work in factories. They also have labor camps where they send children to work in order to be re-educated for any type of political offenses.

These facts about child labor around the world can seem gruesome and a maybe a little far-fetched, but the point is that there are children who live these nightmares every single day.

– Cara Morgan

Sources: Business Insider, CNN, The Nation
Photo: Flickr

slavery-in-china
The global slavery market has taken a new foothold in China, with women being trafficked, sold, kidnapped and abused. Some of the more fortunate women are able to escape their captors, but others live a life as human property.

This is due in part to China’s One Child Policy. Though the restrictions have been relaxed in recent years, the gender gap is still prevalent. Women are both prized and subordinated with the current structure. Particularly in more rural areas, women and girls are looked to for brides for when sons grow up.

Though the government is combatting the gender gap by trying to outlaw sex-selective abortions and have a “Care for Girls” campaign, the consequences of the gap persist. With a long-rooted patriarchal society, changing centuries of culture will be difficult. In only a few decades, according to The Washington Times, around 25 million Chinese men will be without wives.

Since the gender ratio is unequal, many adult men are unable to find spouses. Young girls have been kidnapped by families who have sons and are raised in preparation for marriage. Though the One Child Policy was not conceived with this effect in mind, the gender gap has fostered a new market for human trafficking. There are stories of young girls being taken from their parents homes. The documentary “It’s a Girl” highlights the struggles of some families whose daughters were kidnapped and trafficked for such purposes in China.

 

Facts on Modern Slavery

 

Not all of the women trafficked, though, are native Chinese. Among some of the problems women from other countries face are the paperwork of bureaucracy. Because they entered China illegally, they don’t have the adequate documentation to get assistance from the embassies. Additionally, many of these women are unable to speak Chinese and getting help is even more difficult with the barrier.

Though the Chinese government is scurrying to find a solution, the problem of slavery in China is unlikely to be solved in the near future. With extensive borders with neighboring countries as well as unequal policing, China is a haven for modern slavery.

– Kristin Ronzi

Sources: The Cambodia Daily, The Washington Times
Photo: The Australian

 

nigeria_boko_haram
Boko Haram is an Islamic extremist group from Nigeria with an anti-western world thought. Over 4,000 people have been killed since 2002 when the extremist group began. A month ago Boko Haram kidnapped over 200 Nigerian girls ranging from age 12 to 15 while they were attending school. Recently, the group released a video to the press threatening to sell the girls into slavery and have yet to be rescued. The motive behind these killings and kidnappings is the resistance of anything socially or politically western or modern, such as education. The Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau, stated that “all schools are targets.”

The Nigerian universities have come to a halt due to the fear surrounding the campuses because of these attacks by the extremists. The English translation of Boko Haram is “western education is forbidden,” and over 20 schools have been burnt to the ground by the militant group. The extremist group believes that the secularized, western way of life is corrupting the government and society in Nigeria. The goal of Boko Haram’s leader is to create an Islamic nation, and give rise to “People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad,” which is also the Arabic meaning of Boko Haram.

The crusade of the attacks on schools by the group is claiming a toll on Nigerian standards of education. Poverty in Nigeria is rising, and a large number of students are not attending, especially Nigerian girls who are living in fear because of the recent abductions. The Nigerian government has had to close down schools and universities for long periods of time due to these growing issues of security.

The fear Boko Haram has instilled in Nigeria is increasing poverty, and lowering human development rates every day. The acts committed by the group are violations of human rights, and are continuing to impede the advancement of female education. The efforts to encourage education for children, especially in young girls, is important to continue to grow the Nigerian economy and prevent the spread of poverty through rural areas. Female education brings empowerment to young girls and is also an investment in Nigeria’s future, in areas including the health sector. Health services like protection against HIV and AIDS, and lowering pregnancy in the community is also a significant factor in female education.

Boko Haram is mainly composed of young, poor Nigerian men. This is another consequence of the rising poverty and employment rate, causing these young men to become conflicted with religious righteousness and the justification of these killings and abductions. The religious extremist group recruits young members from Islamic schools and turn them to violence to extend the message of a non-secular Islamic state. Religious terrorism is a dangerous problem not only for the Nigerian civilians, but the country’s resources and economy as well.

– Rachel Cannon

Sources: The Guardian, BBC

Pakistan

According to The Nation, women in Pakistan are forced to make bricks in order to pay off the debt their families have incurred.

“Living without running water, and often trapped by their employers for the rest of their lives, these women are forced to work in brick kilns, agricultural fields and other hard labour industries to clear debts which overshadow their families’ lives,” said the Pakistani news agency.

There is no reliable statistic regarding the number of Pakistanis who are currently enslaved as bonded laborers. However, according to the National Coalition Against Bonded Labour, these individuals exist throughout the country not only in the brick industry, but also the agriculture and carpet industries.

Moreover, the Associated Press estimates that “tens of thousands” of poor Pakistanis work within these industries.

“Bonded labor is the most widely used method of enslaving people around the world,” The Nation said. “The person is then tricked or trapped into working for very little or no pay, often for seven days a week.”

In many instances, the amount of work that debt slaves put throughout their lives far exceeds the amount of money they initially borrowed. But instead of quitting, the victims continue to work because they are constantly threatened with physical violence.

 

Facts on Modern Slavery

 

The Pakistani government, along with the world community, prohibits the practice of debt slavery. However, it is highly inefficient when it comes to enforcing the laws and punishing the people who profit from slavery.

Developed countries and humanitarian organizations are highly critical of modern day slavery. Human Rights Watch (HRW) argues that bonded labor is more common in the southern Punjab and Sindh regions of Pakistan.

“Bondage in agrarian regions involves the purchase and sale of peasants among landlords, the maintenance of private jails to discipline and punish peasants, the forcible transference of teachers who train peasants to maintain proper financial accounts and a patter of rape of peasant women by landlords and the police,” said the organization.

HRW also ties this issue into poverty by explaining that bonded laborers either work in the agricultural industry or the “informal economy.”

This is a vicious circle in which the landless poor “are denied access to institutional forms of credit and must therefore rely on landlords, moneylenders and employers.”

To end debt slavery in Pakistan, the government can work harder to enforce the laws already banning the practice. With debt slavery, individuals are fooled into working in horrible conditions for the rest of their lives.

– Juan Campos

Sources: AP, The Nation, Human Rights Watch

Slavery Today
“Elementary students across America are taught that slavery ended in the 19th Century. But, sadly, nearly 150 years later, the fight to end this global scourge is far from over.”

Hillary Clinton wrote these words in an op-ed she penned as Secretary of State. Her words were calling the world’s attention to the hideous prevalence of modern slavery. Slave owners often hide the practice behind words and phrases such as “bonded labor,” “human trafficking” and “forced labor,” yet nothing changes the fact that human beings are being enslaved.

Calling for people, organizations and governments to “redouble our efforts to fight modern slavery,” Secretary Clinton advocated for using “every available tool” to set the international community on a course toward the eradication of modern slavery.

 

Slavery Statistics

 

1. An estimated 29.8 million people live in modern slavery today

2. Slavery generates $32 billion for traffickers globally each year

3. Approximately 78% of victims are enslaved for labor, 22% of victims are enslaved for sex

4. 55% of slavery victims are women and girls

5. 26% of slaves today are children under the age of 18

6. An estimated 60,000 victims of slavery are enslaved in the United States.

  •  The 2013 Walk Free Global Slavery Index places U.S. at 134th out of 162 countries
  •  Rankings were determined based on three factors: a country’s estimated slavery prevalence by population, a measure of child marriage and a measure of human trafficking.

7. Iceland, Ireland and the United Kingdom tied for the ranking of 160 in the 2013 Global Slavery Index. However, even with the top ranking in the survey, these countries are not free from slavery. In the United Kingdom alone, there are an estimated 4,200 to 4,600 victims of slavery.

8. The country with the highest percentage of of its population in slavery is Mauritania with approximately 4% of the total population enslaved. This amounts to roughly 140,000 to 160,000 people enslaved — Mauritania’s total population is only a mere 3.8 million.

9. India has the largest number of slavery victims at a horrifying 14 million.

10. The top 10 per-capita slavery hot spots are:

Mauritania
Haiti
Pakistan
India
Nepal
Moldova
Benin
Cote d’Ivoire
Gambia
Gabon

Kelley Calkins 

Sources: Free the Slaves, Walk Free Foundation, US State Department
Photo: Exposing the Truth

12yearsaslave
As the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War approaches, the issue of slavery continues to raise discussions in a variety of mediums, especially film. Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave has recently joined the ranks of slavery-focused movies produced in the last few years. The film follows the struggles of Solomon Northup, a free African American man who is kidnapped and sold into slavery for over a decade.

While the production company has remained confident that the film will receive prestigious film awards, overall popularity is questionable. Fox Searchlight admits to facing difficulty in marketing the movie to the public due to the discomforting subject matter. But should comfort even be considered due to the focus? The film is unapologetic in its depictions of lynching, beating, and rape suffered by those enslaved, and for good reason.

Despite widespread legislation against such practices, an estimated 21 million people are currently suffering from the effects of modern-day slavery as human trafficking continues to be a global problem, often leading to forced prostitution, unpaid labor, and other injustices. Many Americans believe that slavery has been abolished and eradicated in its entirety, but forms of slavery continue to be practiced in nearly every state.

Change.org editor Amanda Kloer argues that people need to be aware that today’s slaves come from every social, economic, and racial background. Common beliefs about slaves tend to include underprivileged girls in distant, undeveloped countries. While such circumstances exist, modern day slavery continues to be a billion dollar industry in first world countries, as well. Kloer states that trafficking pervades nearly every industry in the world including retail, cosmetics, technology, and food preparation and distribution.

Facts on Modern Slavery

Fortunately, technological advances have made it easier to combat this persuasive problem. Individuals are able to use websites like Change.org to start awareness campaigns to inform others of the facts concerning current slavery practices. Information on identifying potential slavery situations and ways to contact the proper authorities may be found on sites such as PolarisProject.org. Individuals can also call in suspicions to the National Human Trafficking Hotline.

As Mr. McQueen revisits America’s past, it becomes increasingly apparent that this country continues to be plagued by issues of slavery and injustice. But with due diligence and increasing awareness, the future may bring an end to the practice worldwide.

– Jasmine D. Smith

Sources: LA Times, CNN, CNN Freedom Project, Polaris Project
Photo: Ace Showbiz

brazil_human_trafficking
Ranked the third largest source of slaves in the Western Hemisphere behind Mexico and Colombia, Brazil‘s human trafficking situation is grim. In 2009, the Brazilian Federal Police estimated that 250,000 to 400,000 children are exploited by domestic prostitution. An estimated 75,000 Brazilian women and girls work as prostitutes throughout neighboring South American countries, the United States, and Europe–most of them are trafficked. Additionally, around 25,000 Brazilians, mainly rural workers, are enslaved domestically each year.

As Brazil emerges as an economic powerhouse, it’s human trafficking situation only worsens. More migrants from neighboring countries and as far away as Asia are increasingly attracted to the promise of jobs in Brazil. Many of them are duped by traffickers into exploitative work situations. Preparations for the upcoming Olympic games and World Cup are significantly driving up labor needs and fueling exploitative labor practices. Just last month, an investigation into the expansion of Sao Paulo international airport discovered migrant workers in “slave-like” conditions.

Fortunately, this has not gone unnoticed by the Brazilian government. The government announced its first anti-trafficking plan in 2008 and introduced its second this year. The new plan includes tougher border controls, a revision of the penal code, and the training of 400 staff for victim services.

However, many are skeptical that the government’s funding and efforts will be enough. Enter: the Slavery, No Way! campaign. Since its launch in 2004, the Slavery, No Way! campaign has trained and provided on-going support to more than 2,200 educators and community group leaders, ultimately reaching over 60,000 people. Together with partners Reporter Brasil, Pastoral Land Commission, and Free the Slaves, Slavery, No Way! works to “enable communities to prevent trafficking of workers into slavery.”

In response to teachers’ asking for innovative approaches to engage children on the issue, Slavery, No Way! created a board game to teach children about trafficking and how to address it. In order to win, players must utilize dialogue, strategic thinking, and reason to end slavery outbreaks. The game emphasizes cooperation over competition and entails three lines of action: preventing vulnerable populations of Brazilians from becoming enslaved, aiding those already enslaved, and combating the root causes of slavery. Characters in the game include justice officials, activists, slaves, and traffickers.

Reports of human trafficking in Brazil have risen 1,500% in 2013 alone, according to government figures. Such a dramatic rise in reporting suggests that campaigns like Slavery, No Way! are bearing fruit in confronting Brazil’s stark slavery issue.

Kelley Calkins

Sources: Free the Slaves, U.S. State Department, In Sight Crime, BBC, UNODC, Slavery, No Way!

ghana_slavery
A report released by the Walk Free Foundation has revealed that approximately 29.6 million people are kept in various forms of slavery. Among these are sexual exploitation, debt bondage, and forced marriage.

China, India, and Pakistan are among the worst offenders, with an estimated 18 million slaves combined. Although there are fewer slaves, Mauritania and Haiti have the highest proportion of slaves, with approximately 3 and 2 percent of their respective populations being held in slavery.

“Today some people are still being born into hereditary slavery, a staggering but harsh reality, particularly in parts of West Africa and South Asia,” the report states.

“Other victims are captured or kidnapped before being sold or kept for exploitation, whether through ‘marriage,’ unpaid labor on fishing boats, or as domestic workers…Others are tricked and lured into situations they cannot escape, with false promises of a good job or an education.”

 

Facts on Modern Slavery

 

Many of the slaves in Haiti are children, which stems from the cultural practice called “restavek,” where poor families send their children to work for richer families in exchange for room and board. This arrangement often leads to abuse, as well as the children running away. These runaways can end up being trafficked into prostitution or forced begging.

Servile marriages make up a large portion of the problem in India. With an inefficient legal system, victims are discouraged from seeking help from law enforcement. Those without identification papers are especially vulnerable, with no means of proving their identity.

The report also shows that no country is free from slavery, with 59,000 people enslaved in the United States, 6,000 in Canada, and 4,500 in the United Kingdom. Iceland is at the bottom of the list in both absolute and per capita, with less than 100 slaves.

David Smith

Sources: Al Jazeera, Global Slavery Index
Photo: The CNN Freedom Project

modern day slavery shocking facts
The facts about modern day slavery are shocking and remain largely unknown to much of society. Below are the top modern day slavery facts.

 

Top Modern Day Slavery Facts

 

1. When Americans think about slavery, what often comes to mind is the transatlantic slave trade, Africans displaced from their homeland and the Underground Railroad. Though slavery has officially been abolished, modern day slavery exists. Slavery is not simply a thing of the past. It is estimated that there are anywhere from 20 to 30 million people who are in slavery at this moment. This is a large increase from the 12.3 million slaves estimated in the 2005 study done by the International Labour Organization (ILO). The number is huge and leaves many wondering what can be done to help those who endure the cruelties of others who enslaved and stripped these individuals of their freedom.

2. Contemporary slavery is not restricted to just one area. Forced labor lies within the realms of sexual abuse and prostitution, state-enforced work and many others. According to the ILO, someone is enslaved if he or she is:

  • forced to work through mental or physical threat
  • owned or controlled by an “employer,” usually through mental or physical abuse or the threat of abuse
  • dehumanized, treated as a commodity or bought and sold as “property”
  • physically constrained or has restrictions placed on freedom of movement

3. As of 1981, slavery is not considered legal anywhere. That year, Mauritania became the last country in the world to abolish slavery. However, the act of owning slaves didn’t become a crime in Mauritania until 2007. That being said, many in the country defied the law regardless. In fact, only one slave-owner has been successfully prosecuted in Mauritania. Despite the fact that slavery is illegal, it continues to happen and the practice affects all ages, races and genders.

4. Slave-owners often use euphemisms instead of the term “slavery” in order to avoid getting caught. Such euphemisms include: debt bondage, bonded labor, attached labor, restavec (a French word that means “one who stays with”), forced labor and indentured servitude.

5. According to the U.S. Department of State’s 2007 Trafficking in Persons report, there are 800,000 people trafficked across international borders every year; 80 percent of those victims being female. Even more shocking is the fact that 50 percent of these people are children under the age of 18. These victims live within 161 different countries.

6. Slavery doesn’t just reach adults; children are a very large part of contemporary slavery, especially in prostitution. According to the U.S. Department of State, one million children are exploited by the global sex trade every year. The average age a teen enters the American sex trade is 12-14 years of age. These children are typically runaways who were abused sexually at an even younger age.

7. The average cost of a slave is about $90.

Samantha Davis

Sources:  CNN: Freedom ProjectAntislavery.orgCNNAbolitionMedia.org
Photo: Lisa Kristine

 

taiwan_human_trafficking
October 1, 2013 marked the opening ceremony of the International Workshop on Strategies for Combating Human Trafficking in Taipei City, Taiwan. The workshop serves to stimulate conversation and collaboration for human rights protection and is organized by the National Immigration Agency under the Ministry of the Interior. Around 200 policy experts and officials from Taiwan and abroad attended, including those from Brazil, Canada, Vietnam, the U.K. and 16 other countries.

Vice President of the Republic of China (ROC), otherwise known as Taiwan, Wu Den-yih, took a staunch stance against human trafficking at the opening ceremony. He stated that protecting human rights is a universal value that needs international attention. He also highlighted the firm commitment of the ROC government against human trafficking and violations of human rights.

In the days after the opening ceremony, the workshop hosted six discussion panels ranging from topics pertaining the protecting the youth from sex crimes to trying to prevent modern-day slavery and labor exploitation. Many guest speakers were featured at panels, including officials from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

This year was the fourth consecutive year that the U.S. State Department awarded Taiwan the Tier 1 status of the U.S. State Department Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report, based on the government’s effort to fight human trafficking. While the Department of State places countries into one of three tiers, this ranking has no indication of the prevalence of human trafficking in the country, or lack thereof. The ranking simply acknowledges the effort a government has made to make human trafficking a pressing concern in the national political discourse and to attempt to address the problem.

Nevertheless, Taiwan’s ranking demonstrates its commitment of protecting human rights and ending human trafficking. In recent years, Taiwan has been improving law enforcement training, strengthening support services by building shelters and providing temporary work, and establishing policy strictly prosecuting traffickers, such as the Human Trafficking Prevention Act.

– Rahul Shah

Sources: UNPO, AIT, US State Department
Photo: American Institute in Taiwan