Pakistan ranks high on Global Slavery Index 2014

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The Global Slavery Index 2014 released Monday reveals that of the 35.8 million people enslaved globally, around 45 per cent are found in Pakistan and India.

Modern slavery, according to the report, “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 exploding that person through their use, management, profit, transfer or disposal.”Slavery is no longer as simple as paying money to buy a human being, it has over the course of the last couple of decades changed its face and shape.

Pakistan has the 6th highest population of people stuck in modern slavery with an estimated 2,058,200 people living as slaves. Its vulnerability to modern slavery rests at 69.5 per cent which is a significant number. While it has such a high ranking in terms of slavery, the government response is ranked in quite the opposite manner. Of the 167 countries surveyed Pakistan is on the 125th position.

Pakistan is ranked third for countries with the highest number of people in modern slavery. Outlining the various segments and sectors that enslave people the report states, “Across South Asia individuals, and sometimes entire families, are enslaved through debt bondage and bonded labour in the construction, agriculture, brick making, garment factories, and manufacturing sectors, reflecting the low-skilled labour used at the production stage of the global supply chain.”

The report additionally pointed out migration to the Middle East as a culprit in terms of forced labour and slavery. This information hits home as the country loses many men and women go try to immigrate to Middle Eastern countries looking for a better life only to find themselves stuck in situations they cannot get out of.

Factors that make slavery a reality for Pakistan include, “a weak rule of law, wide spread corruption, and poverty”.

The situation is made worse by cultural practices that do not see slavery as an actual problem. Lower cast groups for instance are not seen as people who have equal rights. The Dalits are one example of this. The police and government structures, instead of helping alleviate the problem, only serve to worsen it.

The Index has also outlined the different steps that Pakistan needs to take to be able to rectify the situation. This includes facilitating survivors and bonded labour to financial resources, loans and microfinance so that they can break the chains. The authorities dealing with such scenarios need extensive training so that they know what bonded labour is when they see it and prevent or stop it instead of perpetuating it. Labour standards should be developed and maintained under provisions of the federal and provincial governments. The payment of minimum wage along with regulation of brick kilns and other workplaces is also of utmost importance.

The report also states that Pakistan needs to create a single agency which is a collaborative effort between the federal and provincial governments so that a strategy to combat slavery can be developed and implemented.

The Global Slavery Index is a flagship research study undertaken by the Walk Free Foundation, an organisation that is currently working on ensuring human rights and eradicating modern slavery.

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