Summary on the report of the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, including its causes and consequences, Gulnara Shahinian1
The report of the Special Rapporteur (SR) highlights the issue of forced labour, with a specific focus on bonded labour as a contemporary form of slavery. It is based on the information submitted to the SR through a questionnaire sent to the permanent missions in Geneva and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working with victims of forced and bonded labour. Over the last year, the SR attended various conferences covering issues related to forced labour and human trafficking. She believes that issues of slavery and child rights issues are connected. As such, she often addressed the issues of child labour while giving presentations covering issues related to forced labour and human trafficking. For example, in November 2008, the SR attended the Third World Congress on the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children and Adolescents in Rio de Janeiro where she worked jointly with the SR on the sale of the children, child prostitution and child pornography and the SR on the human rights aspects of trafficking in persons, especially women and children. There she covered issues of different forms of child labour and slavery as well as presented best practices and methodologies to fight against child labour. At the end of June 2009, a seminar was organized by the SR, the SR on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography and the SR on the human rights aspects of the victims of trafficking in persons, especially women and children, in order to promote and organize a better collaboration within the three mandates, as well as deepening relationships with the special rapporteurs of the United Nations agencies, NGOs and other United Nations human rights mechanisms. The main outcome of this seminar was meant to create a platform to exchange information about the three mandates, as well as information from NGOs, United Nations (UN) agencies andother human rights mechanisms relevant to the three mandates. Furthermore, the SR visited various countries in order to promote her beliefs and the application of her mandate. Her visit to Haiti was regarding the challenges posed by the ‘restavek’ children. She was pleased with the cooperation of the Haitian government. The SR defines different kinds of labour. She emphasises the dangers of bonded labour for children because of its nature. Based on information collected from NGOs, children carry the burden of debt long with their parents and are made to work to help repay the debt. Crucially, children will inherit their parents’ debts in the event of their parents’ deaths. This process perpetuates the cycle from generation to generation, thus extending slavery and establishing new slavery precedents in modern reality2. The inheritance of this debt creates a situation where the children are bonded for their entire life. The SR also adds that factors such as legislation prohibiting bonded labour and globalisation have
A/HRC/12/21, available at:http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/12session/reports.htm A/HCR/12/21 B. Bonded Labour, page 11
worsened the state of bonded labour for women and girls. Instead of one bond for one family, now everyone is individually bonded, making the tie stronger. The SR strongly believes that bonded labour as a form of slavery is a global issue. The SR concluded by reiterating her main claim that forced and bonded labour is becoming a major human rights issue. She recommended that the international community, public authorities, civil society, and private actors take specific prevention, prosecution and protection measures in order to combat the phenomenon. To that end, human rights should be mainstreamed in development programs, including those on poverty reduction, microcredit, agriculture, employment empowerment programs, as well as immigration and foreign employment programs, addressing the root causes of slavery. As regards the preventive measures, the SR recommended inter alia the organization of public awareness campaigns on causes and consequences of bonded labour; the inclusion of promotion and protection of the victims in educational programmes on forced labour; as well as further research on bonded labour containing gender-and age-specific data. Moreover, the development programs should be audited from the perspective of human rights protection and inclusion; policies should be adopted to ensure the effective access of vulnerable groups of the society to their rights to education, food, health, land and secure employment; and businesses should include human rights principles in their work. With regard to the prosecution of violators and the protection of victims the SR recommended that forced labour in all its different forms should be criminalized in the domestic legislation and the violators should be punished. Moreover, compensation schemes and reintegration programmes should be developed in order to protect and restore the rights of the victims of forced and bonded labour.