Modern slavery, the two main components of which are forced labor and forced marriage, has increased dramatically over the past five years, according to a report prepared this week jointly by the International Labor Organization (ILO), the Organization for Migration (IOM) and the NGO Walk Free.
They are, according to the definition of specialists, situations of exploitation that a person cannot refuse or cannot leave because of threats, violence, coercion, deception or abuse of power. A situation that affected at least 50 million people in 2021 – 10 million more than the global estimates for 2016 – including 3,300,000 girls and boys.
The document states that “some 28 million people were subjected to forced labor and another 22 million were trapped in forced marriages”. A tragedy that particularly affects women, boys and girls, and which “occurs in almost every country in the world”, in addition to “crossing ethnic, cultural and religious borders”.
The study, however, warns that “the true incidence of forced marriages, particularly those involving boys and girls aged 16 and under, is likely much higher than current estimates can capture”, as the calculations “are based on a narrow definition that does not include all child marriages.”
The report points out that forced marriages “are closely linked to deep-rooted patriarchal attitudes and practices that are highly context-dependent” and that approximately “two-thirds of them occur in Asia and the Pacific”, a prevalence which “is higher in the Arab States”, where it reaches “4.8 people per 1,000”.
With regard to forced labor, the document indicates that 52% of the estimated cases are recorded in upper-middle or high income countries, and are linked to situations of commercial sexual exploitation, a condition that affects nearly four of the nearly five women and girls subjected to forced labor and who, for the most part, are migrants fleeing their country of origin driven by poverty and/or war.
“Migrant workers are three times more likely to be in forced labor than non-migrant adult workers. While labor migration has a broadly positive effect on individuals, households, communities and societies, this finding shows how migrants are particularly vulnerable to forced labor and human trafficking, whether due to irregular migration or poorly managed by the authorities, or through unfair hiring practices. “, emphasize the authors of the book.
“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. “We know what needs to be done, and we know it can be done. It is essential to have effective national policies and regulations,” added the head of the agency during the presentation of the report.
The official clarified that “international standards provide a solid foundation” for tackling modern slavery, although he stressed the need for the approach to include not only governments, but also “trade unions, organizations professionals, civil society and citizens”, he attributed to them “a fundamental role to play”.
For his part, António Vitorino, Director General of the IOM, assured that the “report underlines the urgency of guaranteeing that all migration is safe”. Vitorino said that “reducing the vulnerability of migrants to forced labor and human trafficking depends, above all, on national legal frameworks that respect, protect and fulfill the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all migrants, all over the world, at the stages of the migration process.
The book, presented at the ILO headquarters in the Swiss city of Geneva, proposes a series of measures. These include improving and enforcing labor laws and inspections, ending state-imposed forced labor, strengthening anti-trafficking measures, expanding protection social security and inspecting the supply chains of large companies, as well as increased support for women, girls and vulnerable people. .
“Modern slavery is the antithesis of sustainable development. Yet, in 2022, it continues to underpin our global economy. It is a man-made problem, linked to both historic slavery and structural inequalities. At a time of deepening crises, real political will is key to ending these abuses,” said Grace Forrest, Director and Founder of Walk Free.