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Modern Slavery: India accounts for almost 40 percent of the worldwide labourers

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Modern Slavery
Modern slavery. Image source: Wikipedia
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  • Global Slavery Index states, about 45.8 million victims of modern slavery are present in the world and India contributes to 18.3 million of them
  • Modern Slavery generates about $150 billion in illegal businesses
  • The Indian Government is coming up with a new comprehensive bill to address the issue of modern slavery

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According to the Global Slavery Index, India has a staggering number of 18 million people trapped in modern forms of enslavement. Modern slavery, as defined by the Walk Free Foundation, is “when one person possesses or controls another person in such a way as to significantly deprive that person of their individual liberty, with the intention of exploiting that person through their use, profit, transfer or disposal.” 45.8 million people are boggled down under the curse of Modern Slavery, a hike of 28 percent as compared to two years ago.

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Walk Free Foundation, famous for coining the Global Slavery Index, was initiated by Australian philanthropists Andrew and Nicola Forrest, and now has partners to enhance the impact of its campaigns in many parts of the world, like Rainforest Action Network, Global March Against Child Labor and Human Rights Watch.

Mining in Africa. Image source: Wikipedia
Mining in Africa. Image source: Wikipedia

Walk Free Foundation claims that modern slavery occurs in almost every country, under the misleading blankets of normalcy. Forced and bonded labor, sexual slavery and human trafficking, which come under the umbrella of human trafficking, have generated $150 worldwide.

“It’s where a person cannot leave their place of existence. Either their passports are taken, or there is a threat of violence against them or a member of their families, so they are stuck there. And, what’s worse, is they’re treated akin to a farm animal,” says Andrew Forrest, chairman of the Walk Free Foundation.

The most common form of bondage is financial debts. These modern day slaves owe massive sums of money to their masters, and due to the growing inflation, they are indebted for their entire lives. “I will be free only when I die,” says one laborer. The revenue that they create through their hard work is all pocketed by the slavers, and they’re only provided meager portions of meals. The fact that majority of these laborers are forced into bonded work by someone they already know or trust is truly heartbreaking.

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Child labour in India. Image source: Wikipedia
Child labour in India. Image source: Wikipedia

Child labor is often abound in these areas, and some are forced to beg on the streets with their limbs cut or eyes blinded to invite pity from pedestrians. They almost always never receive any of the money they earn, and are brainwashed with the most vivid forms of fear to prevent them to report to anyone. According to the Walk Free Foundation, “one in three detected victims” of modern slavery is a child.

Traces of modern slavery are ubiquitous in today’s world, and more importantly, in all sorts of industries. From the fishing industries in Thailand, where victims are forced to fish in small, uncomfortable boats for 20 hours a day, and receive next to nothing in return, all the way to human trafficked victims trapped in Cannabis factories underground and often don’t see the light of day.

The BBC reports that Shandra Woworuntu, an activist against human trafficking was forced into sexual slavery when she traveled to the USA from Indonesia in 2001. She eventually managed to flee her oppressors and helped the FBI locate the brothel where she was forced to work.

India’s figure of 18.3 million dwarfs China’s 3.39 million and Pakistan’s 2.13 million. Even though this news appears discouraging, Walk Free Foundation reports it has made tremendous progress in addressing the issue of modern slavery. “Its (India’s) Prime Minister, its cabinet ministers, its various states and its major Faith Leaders are making their intolerance for its continuance of this practice clear,” says Andrew Forrest. India’s Minister for Women & Children unveiled a draft of the country’s first-ever comprehensive anti-human trafficking law, which would treat survivors as victims in need of assistance and protection, rather than criminals, Thomson Reuters Foundation reported.

-by Saurabh Bodas

Saurabh is pursuing engineering and is an intern at NewsGram. Twitter handle: @saurabhbodas96

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  • Shivang Goel

    people here are more concerned with the issues like Malya’s bankruptcy and actually the rural issues are often or I say most of the times neglected, no wonder why India tops pollution and population graph,when children here arent expected to learn but to work ,unwillingly but forcefully

  • Vrushali Mahajan

    There should be more organisations like the Walk Free to ensure that the labors are well managed or not. Also sexual slavery is a very serious issue to be taken care of

Next Story

Across Asia’s Borders, Survivors Of Human Trafficking, Dial in for Justice

The trial has been ongoing since 2013

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Tara Khokon Miya is seen in her village home in Shipur, Bangladesh, Feb. 26, 2018. She is helping to prepare her 27-year-old daughter to testify via videoconferencing technology against the men who trafficked her to India.
Tara Khokon Miya is seen in her village home in Shipur, Bangladesh, Feb. 26, 2018. She is helping to prepare her 27-year-old daughter to testify via videoconferencing technology against the men who trafficked her to India. VOA

When Neha Maldar testified against the traffickers who enslaved her as a sex worker in India, she spoke from the safety of her own country, Bangladesh, via videoconferencing, a technology that could revolutionize the pursuit of justice in such cases.

The men in the western city of Mumbai appeared via video link more than 2,000 km (1,243 miles) west of Maldar as she sat in a government office in Jessore, a major regional hub for sex trafficking, 50 km from Bangladesh’s border with India.

“I saw the people who had trafficked me on the screen and I wasn’t scared to identify them,” Maldar, who now runs a beauty parlor from her home near Jessore, told Reuters. “I was determined to see them behind bars.”

“I told them how I was beaten for refusing to work in the brothel in the beginning and how the money I made was taken away,” she said, adding that she had lied to Indian authorities about her situation after being rescued, out of fear.

Thousands of people from Bangladesh and Nepal — mainly poor, rural women

and children — are lured to India each year by traffickers who promise good jobs but sell them into prostitution or domestic servitude, anti-slavery activists say.

Activists hope the safe, convenient technology could boost convictions. A Bangladeshi sex trafficker was jailed for the first time in 2016 on the strength of a victim’s testimony to a court in Mumbai via video link from Dhaka, Bangladesh’s capital.

Convictions for cross-border trafficking in the region are rare as most victims choose not to pursue cases that have traditionally required them to testify in Indian courts, which meant staying in a shelter for the duration of the trial.

“They have always wanted to go back home, to their families,” said Shiny Padiyara, a legal counsel at the Indian charity Rescue Foundation that has facilitated videoconferencing cases and runs shelters for trafficking victims. “And most never return to testify.”

But videoconferencing is making it easier to pursue justice. Survivors have given statements, identified their traffickers, and been cross examined in at least 10 other ongoing international cases in Bangladesh, advocates said.

“Enabling victims to testify via video conference will lead to a possible decrease in acquittal rates for want of prime witnesses,” said Adrian Phillips of Justice and Care, a charity that supports the use of video testimony to help secure justice.

Even then, it is tough. During Maldar’s three-hour deposition, she withstood a tough cross-examination, showed identity documents to prove her age and countered allegations by the defense lawyer that she was lying about her identity.

Students Combat Human Trafficking
Students Combat Human Trafficking, flickr

‘Unpardonable’

Tara Khokon Miya is preparing her 27-year-old daughter to testify against the men who trafficked her to India from Dhaka, where she had been working in a garment factory.

“I almost lost my daughter forever,” she said, sitting in her home in Magura, less than 50 km from Jessore, describing how she disappeared after work and was taken to a brothel in India, and raped and beaten for almost a year before being rescued.

“What the traffickers did to my daughter was unpardonable,” Miya said, wiping her tears. “We seek justice. I nurtured her in my womb and can’t describe what it felt like to not know about her whereabouts.”

The trial has been ongoing since 2013 when the young woman, who declined to be named, was repatriated. The charity Rights Jessore is helping the family through the process, by providing counseling and rehearsing cross-examination.

“The best thing is her father will be by her side when she talks in court,” Miya said, finally breaking into a smile.

India signed a bilateral agreement with Bangladesh in 2015 to ensure faster trafficking investigations and prosecutions, and with Nepal in 2017, and laid down basic procedures to encourage the use of videoconferencing in court proceedings.

“The procedure is very transparent,” said judge K M Mamun Uzzaman at Jessore courthouse, which often converts its conference hall into a courtroom for videoconferencing cases to protect survivors’ privacy.

“I’m usually present and victims are able to testify confidently … it is easy and cost effective for us,” he said. “But the biggest beneficiaries are the survivors.”

Silencing Victims
Silencing Victims, pixabay

The future

Videoconferencing in Bangladesh has been plagued by technical glitches such as power cuts and poor connections.

“Sometimes the internet connection is weak or it gets disconnected during the testimony,” said Binoy Krishna Mallick head of Rights Jessore, a pioneer in using this technology to encourage trafficking survivors to pursue justice. “But these are just teething troubles.”

The bigger challenge, activists say, is to ensure survivors remain committed to the trial despite delays caused by a backlog of cases and witnesses’ failure to appear to testify.

Swati Chauhan, one of the first judges to experiment with video testimony in 2010, is convinced that technology can eliminate many of these hurdles.

Also read: Imagining Panun Kashmir: Dissent And Detente in South Asia

“Victims go through a lot of trauma, so it is natural that they don’t want to confront their trafficker in a court — but that doesn’t mean they don’t want the trafficker to be punished,” she said. “A videoconference requires meticulous planning and it is not easy coordinating between departments and countries. But it is the future for many seeking justice.” (VOA)