40 Million People Are Victims of Modern Slavery -ILO

Today, the world marks International Day for the Abolition of Slavery. The focus is on eradicating contemporary forms of slavery, such as trafficking in persons, sexual exploitation, the worst forms of child labour, forced marriage, and the forced recruitment of children for use in armed conflict.

According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) more than 40 million people worldwide are victims of modern slavery. Although modern slavery is not defined in law, it is used as an umbrella term covering practices such as forced labour, debt bondage, forced marriage, and human trafficking.

Essentially, it refers to situations of exploitation that a person cannot refuse or leave because of threats, violence, coercion, deception, and/or abuse of power.

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UN Human Rights experts say the effects of current global challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic, economic crisis, climate change and armed conflict are pushing an increased number of people into contemporary forms of slavery with the situation of women and children of particular concern.

As many become displaced or migrate in the fight for survival, the risk of becoming trapped into forced labour or sexual exploitation increases exponentially. They face retaliation in the form of brutal punishment and even death if they try to escape and/or denounce their situation.

According to unofficial estimates, one in every 130 women and girls is subjected to contemporary forms of slavery such as child and forced marriage, domestic servitude, forced labour and debt bondage which entail highly gendered experiences.

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While gender inequalities lie at the heart of contemporary forms of slavery, these practices are also fuelled by intersecting forms of discrimination, oppression and inequalities based on race, ethnic origin, caste, social and economic status, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity and migration status.

Year 2021 marks the 30th anniversary of the UN Voluntary Trust Fund on Contemporary Forms of Slavery.

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