Tomorrow, Free the Slaves President Kevin Bales will be on Voice America radio’s ‘Disability Matters’ show, hosted by Joyce Bender at 2pm ET. Bales was a guest on this one-hour show in February, 2010. Hear audio of that interview here. Around the 34 minute mark, Joyce talks about the lack of public knowledge on modern-day slavery—she asks, “Why doesn’t CNN talk about this all the time?”
Since the time of that interview, we are happy to report that CNN has begun to talk about modern-day slavery in a big way. They recently launched the Freedom Project, a one-year initiative in which every CNN show will cover slavery around the world, and show the work being done to eradicate it. Free the Slaves’ work in India was featured in a three-part series during the first week of this initiative.
This video, produced by Free the Slaves, takes a big picture look at slavery in Nepal, and how FTS works to end it.
We’ve told you about Human Goods, a magazine-style website that publishes feature-length articles on modern-day slavery around the world. Christa Hillstrom is the journalist who founded and manages the magazine-style website. She has reported on human rights issues both in the U.S. and in India. (Learn more about Hillstrom here.)
Her most recent article on Human Goods is a profile of Shanta Sapkota, founder of the Peace Rehabilitation Center (PRC) in Kathmandu, Nepal. PRC is a safehouse where survivors of sex trafficking find sanctuary and rehabilitation.
Hillstrom’s article focuses on the slow, often unglamorous work of rehabilitation. Often, news stories focus on raids and rescues—the action-packed moments when victims are pulled from enslavement. Experience has taught us that, without holistic programs that deal with the root causes of slavery, people find themselves re-enslaved, re-victimized. Raids and rescues are not enough to eradicate slavery. Hillstrom writes:
“In the media, sex trafficking has become the most tantalizing. There’s a tremor of something excitement-like when women are plucked out of the red-light squalor of ‘Third World’ megacities on camera. There’s a glamour in the raids.” But the work doesn’t end there. For survivors, the long road to recover has only just begun. Hillstrom continues: “Behind the unremarkable walls of safehouses like PRC… the plodding work of rehabilitation takes place. For caregivers like Sapkota, it’s gradual, wrenching, and also rewarding.”
Here is Christa Hillstrom’s article, ‘Peace on Earth’:
It’s a well-worn path, several lanes wide, that flows from one nation into the other: sprawling, spectacular India, and the snug mountain gem of Nepal. The actual border is hard to discern because passports are rarely examined where the meager sprawl of Nepal’s Birgunj breaks for India’s simmering sister town, Raxaul. No one stops the men in trucks carting Indian goods up into the Himalayas, sides ablaze with folk art. Or the auto-rickshaws and chortling buses that taxi day laborers back and forth in the clingy heat. Hundreds of migrants snake through the traffic—pedestrians spilling out on a sunbaked floodplain; past two tan-clad officials smoking bidis at a card table, shunted almost out of sight and sprayed with what looks like hand-drawn letters: “Indian Customs.”
As with most major crossings, the lanes bubble with commerce, ambition, and the promise of futures both real and imagined. For some, these will shortly be swapped for confinement, betrayal, and death.
It was a few miles from a passage like this that a broker of women ushered a small band of girls through the brush to avoid the border’s activity. When the authorities caught him, they discovered that he’d trafficked women down this route before, including his own pregnant wife. He sold her to the Indian brothel circuit for $100.
The third installment of CNN’s series on debt bondage slavery in Uttar Pradesh, India is now live. Earlier pieces showed how entire families bec0me embroiled in bonded labor for generations, and depicted the efforts of NGOs like Free the Slaves to stage raids and rescues, and help bring victims to freedom.
Today’s piece shows how, through holistic anti-slavery programs, former slaves can not only become free, they can thrive, and even become leaders in their communities.
In the video above, Free the Slaves’ South Asia Director Supriya Awasthi discusses how Free the Slaves’ Free a Village Build a Movement initiative creates real, lasting change, by going beyond raids and rescues to empower survivors with knowledge of their rights, and the ability to become economically independent. The process of freeing a village, Awasthi says, “starts with opening a school in a highly prone village which is under debt bondage.”
Education can be the vaccine that prevents a community from falling into bondage. In an earlier CNN report, a woman enslaved in debt bondage said she was illiterate, so there was no way to know how much money she owed to her debtor. Many enslaved people did not even know that debt bondage was illegal—that they had a right to freedom.
By learning her rights, and receiving education, one former slave, Pholwati Devi, was empowered to not only break free from slavery, but to become an elected village representative. Truly inspiring. Many of the most inspiring leaders of the anti-slavery movement are former slaves who now dedicate their lives to ensuring that others can live in freedom.
See more of her story in the video above. And learn more about our Free a Village Build a Movement initiative here.
CNN’s coverage of anti-slavery efforts in Uttar Pradesh, India continued yesterday, with Indian Labor Secretary Prabhat C. Chaturvedi (shown in the video below) responding over use of the “S” word in the news reports.
Secretary Chaturvedi disagrees with the use of the word “slavery” to define the problem of bonded labor, which often binds entire families and communities for generations.
Chaturvedi told CNN’s Sara Sidner, “We are aware of the problem of bonded labor, and also [the] problem of child labor in this country.” But, he said, “I would certainly not like to bracket this as slavery.” It is a problem of poverty, he insists.
Earlier this week, CNN aired two news reports on debt bondage in India. One piece showed an entire family, including small children, laboring in a brick kiln to pay off a debt of the equivalent of $22. Another showed a raid and rescue of bonded child laborers at a carpet loom.
These pieces show that there are communities in India where bonded labor thrives, where entire communities are under the yoke of slaveholders for generations.
Debt bondage is not a problem unique to India. Cases of bonded labor have been found around the world—including in the United States. Chaturvedi is correct that poverty is often one of the root causes of this practice.
But bonded labor is slavery. The United Nations recognizes it as such. Just last December, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that modern-day slavery persists in the forms of “serfdom, debt bondage and forced and bonded labor,” and debt bondage is listed as a form of slavery in the 1956 Supplementary Convention on Slavery.
Chaturvedi says, “Law and its enforcement is not going to solve this issue because the real cause of bonded labor or child labor for that matter, is poverty.”
There are no simple solutions, and laws on their own, are not enough. The Bonded Labour Act of 1976 outlawed the practice in India. And yet, it persists. It thrives in a context of poverty and a lack of determined enforcement of anti-slavery laws.
But there are solutions. The Free a Village, Build a Movement initiative that Free the Slaves’ Indian partners implement, is a holistic, comprehensive program that empowers people in bonded labor with knowledge of their rights. It helps them demand payment for their work and an end to the violence and threats. Transitional schools help children become educated for the future, and successfully enter village schools. Villagers learn to organize and demand justice, dismantling the systems that allow slavery to exist. The program helps the Indian legal system work more effectively in these remote locations. (Find out more about our Free a Village Build a Movement campaign here).
Real and lasting change can happen when, in combination with programs like this, officials carry out their legal obligations to actively seek out cases of bonded labor, release and assist victims, and prosecute slaveholders.
Myanmar on Thursday opens one of its biggest ever sales of precious gems – an opportunity for the government to flaunt its massive ruby industry.
However, what it wont show is the virtual slavery invovled in the industry, with children as young as four being exploited to prop up production.
MAPUTO — Kazi Jarangir Alam fled his native Bangladesh in a $11,000 (8,000-euro) journey over thousands of kilometres and climbed a border fence for a better life in South Africa only to be caught and sent back.
Like hundreds of other illegal immigrants, his journey ended in Mozambique, from where authorities say trafficking syndicates are smuggling Asians into South Africa, the continent’s powerhouse and strongest economy.
Alam was flown into Mozambique’s capital Maputo, and then quickly crossed into South Africa but was detained in Johannesburg when he asked for asylum.
Rather than send him back to Bangladesh, South Africa deported him to Mozambique, where he was held in a transit camp with hundreds of other migrants.
Mozambique this week repatriated the last of the 444 detainees from Bangladesh, Pakistan, India and China, more than a month after South Africa bussed them back over the border.
In a secret phone interview from the Massaca transit camp south of Maputo, Alam explained he left his country because “there are political problems.”
“Bangladesh is a full country. I left for political reasons, others for business,” the 28-year-old told AFP.
The head of his political party paid a syndicate for the journey to South Africa, he said.
Mozambican authorities say many syndicates could be involved in human trafficking.