As the world celebrates International Day for the Abolition of Slavery on December 2, the United Nations stresses that women and children are at high risk of being pushed into contemporary forms of slavery.
In a statement issued as part of the international day, UN Experts warned that global challenges such as COVID-19, climate change and armed conflicts amplified existing vulnerabilities.
According to figures released by the UNICEF and ILO in June, almost 80 million children aged 5 to 17, are subjected to hazardous work, which is classified as a contemporary form of slavery. The United Nations said that these children may be working longer hours or under worsening conditions, as a result of the economic recession and school closures caused by the pandemic.
Women and girls
According to unofficial estimates, one in every 130 women and girls is subjected to contemporary forms of slavery such as child and forced marriage, domestic servitude, forced labour and debt bondage.
“High levels of exploitation also prevail in global supply chains, which often rely on and reinforce labour exploitation and deepen gender inequality”, the experts said.
They explained that women and children faced a particularly high risk of being pushed into slavery as they endure the most of crises caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change and humanitarian emergencies. “As many become displaced or migrate in the fight for survival, the risk of becoming trapped into forced labour or sexual exploitation increases exponentially. They face retaliation in the form of brutal punishment and even death if they try to escape and/or denounce their situation,” the UN said.
The UN experts urged States to establish safe migration pathways, along with easier access to decent work and more cooperation with the business sector, civil society organisations and trade unions. They noted that human rights defenders and civil society organizations should work to end contemporary forms of slavery. They also asked to strengthen accountability of perpetrators of contemporary forms of slavery as a matter of priority, as currently impunity prevails in far too many instances.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the UN Voluntary Trust Fund on Contemporary Forms of Slavery. To mark the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery, the experts appeal to all Member States to increase their contribution to the Fund, or to make one for the first time.
SOME KNOWN FACTS
- 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.
- 1 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.
- Women and girls are disproportionately affected by forced labour, accounting for 99% of victims in the commercial sex industry, and 58% in other sectors.