LONDON: With over 14.2 million in India being involved in forced labour and being victims of trafficking – for sexual exploitation and forced marriage, the country is home to the largest number of people trapped in modern slavery. Globally, 35.8 million people are enslaved across the world. Of them, 23.5 million people are in Asia, two-thirds of global total in 2014 (65.8%).
The Global Slavery Index 2014 announced on Monday that India and Pakistan alone account for over 45% of total global enslaved population and have highest prevalence of modern slavery in Asia.
The Index said, “Particularly in countries such as India and Pakistan, nationals – often including entire families – are enslaved through bonded labour in construction, agriculture, brick making, garment factories and manufacturing.”
The report this year found 23% more people across the world are involved in modern slavery than previous estimated.
Modern slavery exists in all 167 countries with five countries accounting for 61% of the world’s population living in modern slavery.
The 2014 Global Slavery Index (GSI) has been published by the Walk Free Foundation, a global human rights organization with a mission to end modern slavery in a generation.
The report looks at prevalence (the percentage of a country’s population that is enslaved) as well as the total number of people living in modern slavery in each country.
It estimates that over 23.5 million people in Asia are living in modern slavery. This is equivalent to almost two-thirds of the global total number of people enslaved. Of these, over 14.2 million are in India and over 2.05 million are in Pakistan, which demonstrate the highest prevalence of modern slavery in Asia (1.141% and 1.13% of their populations respectively).
In South Asia, these countries are followed in prevalence by Nepal (0.823% of the population, 228,700 people), Bangladesh (0.435%, 680,900), Afghanistan (0.435, 132,800) and Sri Lanka (0.359%, 73,600).
“Some countries with the biggest challenges are also taking important steps to tackle the problem. India for example has strengthened its criminal justice framework through legislative amendments and has established 215 Anti- Human Trafficking Police Units. Much more needs to be done,” said the global report.
Commenting on the report’s findings, Andrew Forrest, chairman of Walk Free Foundation, said: “There is an assumption that slavery is an issue from a bygone era. Or that it only exists in countries ravaged by war and poverty. These findings show that modern slavery exists in every country. We are all responsible for the most appalling situations where modern slavery exists and the desperate misery it brings upon our fellow human beings. The first step in eradicating slavery is to measure it. And with that critical information, we must all come together – governments, businesses and civil society – to finally bring an end to the most severe form of exploitation.”
Mauritania has the highest proportion (prevalence) of its population in modern slavery, at 4%, followed by Uzbekistan (3.97%), Haiti (2.3%), Qatar (1.36%) and India (1.14%).
Iceland and Luxembourg have the lowest number of people enslaved in both prevalence and in absolute numbers, estimated at less than 100 each, closely followed by Ireland with under 300.
Modern slavery involves one person possessing or controlling another person in such as a way as to significantly deprive that person of their individual liberty, with the intention of exploiting that person through their use, management, profit, transfer or disposal.
Modern slavery contributes to the production of at least 122 goods from 58 countries worldwide. The International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates the illicit profits of forced labour to be $150 billion a year.
The report says, “India’s modern slavery challenges are immense. Across India’s population of over 1.2 billion people, all forms of modern slavery, including inter-generational bonded labour, trafficking for sexual exploitation and forced marriage, exist. Evidence suggests that members of lower castes and tribes, religious minorities and migrant workers are disproportionately affected by modern slavery. Modern slavery occurs in brick kilns, carpet weaving, embroidery and other textile manufacturing, forced prostitution, agriculture, domestic servitude, mining, and organised begging rings. labour is particularly prevalent throughout India with families enslaved for generations.”
“There are reports of women and children from India being recruited with promises of non-existent jobs and later sold for sexual exploitation, or forced into sham marriages. In some religious groups, pre-pubescent girls are sold for sexual servitude in temples. Recent reports suggest that one child goes missing every eight minutes; it is feared that some are sold into forced begging, domestic work, and commercial sexual exploitation.”
According to the report, on paper, criminal justice reforms specific to human trafficking are the strongest component of India’s response to modern slavery. In 2013, the government amended the Indian Penal code to include specific anti-trafficking provisions. In 2014, the government expanded the number of police anti-human trafficking units across the country to 215 units, aiming to establish a unit in 650 districts.
The judiciary and over 20,000 law enforcement have received training on victim identification, the new legal framework, and victim-centered investigations.
The report says: “Dalits have the least social protections and are highly vulnerable to severe forms of exploitation and modern slavery. Approximately 90 percent of India’s labourers are in the informal economy.”