A Britain-based nongovernmental organization, Anti-Slavery International, released a report Monday showing that the number of people forced into slavery has risen to an estimated 27 million. The report condemned the trafficking of humans, many of whom are women and children. For example, in the Sindh Province of Pakistan, poverty and starvation force many people to become debt laborers who work without pay, and in cases of total ownership, rape of women is not uncommon. In Sudan, up to 14,000 people have been abducted since 1983 and forced into labor through “false adoption,” forced marriages, or debt bondage. In addition, the report showed the trafficking of boys between to the United Arab Emirates and other Gulf States, continued slavery in Brazil, and inaction to free slaves in Mauritania.
The NGO report also outlined the relationship between child domestic work and sexual exploitation. Many of the millions of girls worldwide who work as domestics are denied their freedom and access to education, suffer physical and verbal abuse, and oftentimes are raped by the men or boys of the household.
The Anti-Slavery International report was released to coincide with the 27th session of the U.N. Working Group on Contemporary Forms of Slavery meeting in Geneva, Switzerland this week. The United Nations estimates that the trafficking of women is a $7 billion a year industry, one of the world’s most lucrative illegal trades. Conference discussions have focused on the trafficking of children from Nigeria, which is the source of an estimated 70 percent of the 70,000 victims of sex-slave trafficking from Africa.
Coinciding with the U.N. Working Group session is an international conference on the sexual exploitation of children being held in Victoria, Canada. U.N. special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa Stephen Lewis reported that 1 million children worldwide are being forced into the sex trade each year. Lewis explained that particular hot spots of the trade are conflict-ridden areas. “Conflict leads to the commercial exploitation of children, particularly girls,” said Lewis.