Slavery beyond the sex trade

November 28, 2012

In Haiti, it’s the little girl who is kept home from school and forced to clean her sister’s house or else be beaten with electric cables.

Thousands of miles away in India, it’s the shy, young woman left at the mercy of an agent who finds her a job as a maid but takes her earnings. In Bahrain, it’s the Filippino domestic worker who, abused and exploited by her employer, cannot leave.

Millions of people around the world today are trapped in slavery, like seven-year-old Wisline was in Haiti.

“My sister came to get me at my mother’s house, saying she would put me in school but when I got to her house, she started making me work and cook for her and she began mistreating me,” says Wisline, who now lives in a refuge with other former child slaves outside of Port-au-Prince.

Exactly how many people are enslaved is impossible to know.

Estimates range from 27 million, cited by advocacy group, Free the Slaves, to the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) figure of 20.9 million people – of which about 2.2 million are forced labourers of the state, for example, working in prisons.

While women and girls account for the greater share of 21st century slaves, coverage of their plight has been dominated by stories of sex trafficking and lurid tales of being forced to sell their bodies in brothels and on street corners.

Yet data from the ILO suggests that far more women and girls are victims of domestic servitude and other types of forced labour than they are of the sex trade.

Of the estimated 11.4 million women and girls in forced labour globally, around 4.4 million are subjected to sexual exploitation in foreign countries, according to the ILO.

That leaves some 7 million trapped in labour exploitation. Unlike sex trafficking, most of it is taking place in the victims’ own countries.

For more, please visit TrustLaw

Picture Credit: A 19-year-old trafficking victim from central Myanmar who, two years ago, managed to escape two brokers who promised a job in a nearby town but instead took her to a town in the far north and tried to get her to become a sex worker. October 12, 2012. REUTERS/Minzayar Oo

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