Women and children, main victims of forced labor or marriage, warns the UN

Modern slavery has increased around the world in recent years, particularly as a result of the covid-19 pandemic, with more than 50 million people forced into work or marriage last year, a report said on Monday. United Nations.

The UN wants to eradicate this problem in 2030, but last year 10 million more people were in modern slavery compared to 2016 global estimates. Of the 50 million modern slaves, approximately 27.6 million were people subjected to forced labor and 22 million people married against their will.

Women and girls make up more than two-thirds of people forced into marriage, and about four out of five are people in situations of commercial sexual exploitation, according to the report published by the International Labor Organization (ILO) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) with the NGO Walk Free Foundation.

More than 85% of cases of forced marriages are due to family pressure and nearly two-thirds are confined to the Asia-Pacific region. In Arab countries, the prevalence of forced marriages is around 4.8 per thousand.

According to the UN, around 27.6 million people are subjected to forced labour. – Photo: Guillermo Torres Reina / Week

The covid-19 pandemic, which has caused a deterioration of working conditions and an increase in indebtedness for workers, has reinforced the springs of modern slavery in all its forms. In the whole world, approximately one in 150 people is considered a modern slave.

These data, which come from nationally representative household data, indicate that cases of slavery are not transitory, but last for several years.

It is outrageous that the situation of modern slavery is not improving. Nothing can justify the persistence of this fundamental violation of human rights,” said ILO Director-General Guy Ryder. “Trade unions, professional organisations, civil society and ordinary citizens have a fundamental role to play,” he added.

In pictures: Long queues due to Sri Lanka's fuel crisis
Women and children remain disproportionately vulnerable to modern slavery. – Photo: Reuters

Proposed measures

The report proposes a series of measures that would go a long way towards ending modern slavery. These include improving and enforcing labor laws and inspections, and end state-imposed forced labor.

In addition, it raises the issue of strengthening measures to combat forced labor and human trafficking in businesses and supply chains, expanding social protections and strengthening legal protections, including the recovery from the legal age of marriage to 18 without exception.

Women and children remain disproportionately vulnerable. Nearly one in eight forced laborers is a child and more than half of them are victims of commercial sexual exploitation. On the other hand, migrant workers are three times more likely to be subjected to forced labor than non-migrant adult workers.

António Vitorino, Director General of IOM, stresses “the urgency of ensuring that all migration is safe, orderly and regular”.

“Reducing the vulnerability of migrants to forced labor and human trafficking depends, above all, on national policy and legal frameworks that respect, protect and fulfill the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all migrants” , he adds.

Modern slavery exists in almost every country in the world, and crosses ethnic, cultural and religious boundaries. More than half (52%) of all forced labor and a quarter of all forced marriages occur in upper-middle- or upper-income countries.

*With information from the AFP Agency

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