Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Modern Slavery. A shameful hidden reality! (Part III)

Positive initiatives

Today, as in the past, people of different faiths and cultures, all over the world, are working to end slavery for good. They don’t seem to be more successful than in the past. The first international document against slavery [1] was adopted in 1815. Since then more than 300 international agreements and many more national legislatures have adopted motions to suppress slavery. The 1957 UN Convention [2] is the most important. However, they lack adequate institutions and procedures to ensure their enforcement. Legislation is needed but it is not enough. Now  is the time for implementation!

Campaigns and organizations, including Religious are active in ending slavery. Efforts from all sides are being made, for instance, ex-slaves are working to free others, men risk their lives to rescue children, and different groups of women help women and girls to escape from slavery.  Solwodi (Solidarity with Women in Distress) started by Lea Ackerman (MSOLA) in Mombasa, Kenya, in 1985 and later on in Germany to protect and council women who were victims of human trafficking, forced prostitution, domestic violence, abuse, or escaping from forced marriage.

Many governments have a department to combat trafficking. UNODC [3] has a model law that helps member States to prepare national laws. The UN has a Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking [4]In Africa, governments are passing legislation and civil society is working directly with the victims, rescuing and welcoming them. The community watch system in Benin prevents the abduction of some 1,000 children per year.

Though still very few, a number of corporations are fighting slavery, human trafficking, and child labour, by improving working conditions all along the supply chain. Some hotel chains carry out advocacy campaigns against sex trafficking.

The preventive measures taken in Germany (2006) and South Africa (2010) for the Football World Cup, and, now in the UK for the Olympic Games, prevents an increase in the trafficking of women and children for prostitution.

The way forward

Greater efforts are needed to end slavery definitively. Everyone has a role to play: governments, international organizations, corporations, consumers, the victims, the population and YOU. The political, economic and social dimensions of the slave labour system need to be addressed. The needed political will come only as a result of public demand. We have to work at the root causes to create a society and an economy at the service of life for all, where the human being is at the centre and creation is respected (Kingdom of God). This demands advocacy work to change the minds and attitudes that will eliminate any segregation. It is necessary to advocate for a change of policies, structures and economics that will bring a fairer distribution of wealth and the eradication of poverty. Respect for the rule of law is also essential. It is the lack of commitment in these areas that are the main causes of slavery. YOUR commitment is needed.
The demand for cheaper goods creates a demand for slaves, as the cheapest way of production is forced labour. Often by buying “very cheap” goods we are promoting injustice and slavery. The one paying the difference between the real and the cheap price is the worker producing it. If we don’t take action the products of slavery will continue to be sold. Cheap goods have nothing to do with the vow of poverty and a lot to do with injustice towards the most vulnerable, in many cases the slaves.
National-international legislation has to be passed, together with mechanisms and means for implementation. Business executives and companies must be legally accountable for extra-territorial breaches of international law. 

What we can do
  • Open our eyes to see and denounce situations of slavery and injustice. Circulate the information to create awareness in religious, the public and the media.
  • Collaborate with organizations working against slavery.  Join their campaigns.
  • Make sure not to invest, not to buy, nor to use products from companies benefiting from forced labour.
  • Lobby governments to implement their anti-slavery laws and to make the fight against slavery a priority.
  • Look out for the implementation of international commitments, and  respect for Human rights.
  • Fight against any law, agreement, institution and structure that create inequality.

Begoña Iñarra, MSOLA

[1] Declaration Relative to the Universal Abolition of the Slave Trade.
[2] UN Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery, the Slave Trade and Institutions and Practices Similar to Slavery.
[3] UNODC United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.