Human Trafficking & Modern-day Slavery

Lecture Resources

 

[Lecture Resources | Resources for Teachers | Country-by-Country Reports ]

Debt Bondage

 

*** FEATURED ARTICLES ***

India

The Enslavement Of Dalit And Indigenous Communities In India, Nepal And Pakistan Through Debt Bondage [PDF]

UN Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, February 2001

At one time this article had been archived and may possibly still be accessible [here]

[accessed 6 September 2011]

SUMMARY - This paper describes the gross and continuing violation of the rights of millions of people in India, Pakistan and Nepal, who are trapped in debt bondage and forced to work to repay loans. Their designation as persons belonging outside the Hindu caste system is a major determining factor of their enslavement. Evidence from all three countries shows that the vast majority (80%-98%) of bonded labourers are from communities designated as “untouchable”, to whom certain occupations are assigned, or from indigenous communities. In the same way that caste status is inherited, so debts are passed on to the succeeding generations.

 

 

Pakistan

Slavery in the 21st century

Alan McCombes, Scottish Socialist Voice, November 2001

www.scottishsocialistvoice.net/2001/12/slavery-in-the-21st-century/959

[accessed 21 December 2011]

Bonded labour otherwise known as debt slavery is rampant in Pakistan. The system works as follows. Desperately poor families go to a feudal employer usually a brick kiln owner or a carpet manufacturer and ask them for a loan, perhaps to pay for medical treatment for a sick child.

In return for the loan, the entire family is turned into the private property of the employer. They are forced to work long hours for pitiful wage and half of these wages are kept by the factory owner as payment towards the loan.  The loan may take a generation or more to pay off. But until it is paid, the family are held in slavery.

Iqbal had been sold by his mother to a carpet manufacturer at the age of four. For years he spent twelve hours a day, seven days a week working in carpet factories for a pittance.  He eventually rebelled against his conditions and became a major figure in the BLLF. At the age of 12 he was traveling Pakistan addressing mass meetings and leading demos of thousands of children against industrial slavery.  To this day, his murder has never been satisfactorily explained.

 

 

Japan

Owed Justice - Thai Women Trafficked into Debt Bondage in Japan

Human Rights Watch, ISBN 1-56432-252-1, Library of Congress Card Number: 00-107963 , September 2000

www.hrw.org/reports/2000/japan/4-profiles.htm

[accessed 16 February 2011]

IV. PROFILES - In this chapter, Human Rights Watch profiles four women who were trafficked from Thailand into servitude in Japan. Human Rights Watch interviewed numerous women who recounted similar experiences.

POT - It was a big room and four or five other women going to work in Japan were also kept there. I was surprised to be locked up because I was not allowed any chance to say goodbye to my family, even over the phone. I heard the agents talking about the price for each woman being between 150-160 bai [1.5-1.6 million yen; US$10,000-11,000], but I couldn't really understand what they were talking about and did not realize that we were being sold into prostitution.

KAEW - Kaew explained that she had understood there would be some debt for the airplane ticket and other expenses, but she had never been told how high her debt would be, and she was shocked at the amount. "The other girls said to me, 'that's a lot of debt and you're old; you'll never pay it off.' Then I prayed that it would only take six or seven months to pay it off, and I went with all of the clients I could. . . . The mama said to me, 'don't let your period come, or you'll never finish paying your debt.'" So Kaew also took contraceptive pills daily, though she had been sterilized at age twenty-one, so that she would not menstruate and could work every day.(7) She got her mother to send the pills from Thailand, so that she would not have to buy them from her mama and increase the level of her debt.

 

 

Nepal

Why Nepal's freed labourers want to return to slavery

Sanjaya Dhakal, Kathmandu, OneWorld South Asia, January 27, 2004

us.oneworld.net/places/nepal/-/article/why-nepals-freed-laborers-want-return-slavery

[accessed 9 December 2010]

"Between 15 and 20 percent of the families declared free have returned to the same old practice of slavery," says Dilli Chaudhary, president of an NGO called Backward Society Education.

Bonded labourers in Nepal are called "kamaiyas" and belong to the country's backward Tharu community. It is sheer poverty that forces the poor to borrow rice and food from their employers - generally big landlords - and get trapped in slavery.

Under the practice, once indebted, the labourer and his heirs are 'bonded' to the landlord. They had to actually reside on the landlord's property until the debt was completely repaid, which seldom happened.

 

*** ARCHIVES ***

Afghanistan

Opium Trade in Afghanistan Linked to Human Trafficking

Lisa Schlein Report, Voice of America VOA News, 04 September 2006

www.voanews.com/articleprintview/399735.html

[accessed 11 June 2013]

The IOM says children are trafficked within the country to work as beggars or as bonded labor in the brick kiln and carpet making industries. It says women and girls are kidnapped or sold for forced marriages. They are pushed into prostitution and sometimes used to settle debts or to resolve conflicts.  Internationally, IOM says Afghan women and girls are being trafficked primarily to Iran, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia.

 

 

Bangladesh

Help Us Liberate The World's Slaves

Keith Skillicorn, 2006

www.webspawner.com/users/liberateslaves/

[accessed 21 January 2011]

During my 31 years of Community Service in India and Bangladesh, mainly involved in Community Development, Rural Education, Leprosy Control and the support of Widows and Orphans, I was stunned by another major problem, thought by many to no longer exist in this 21st. Century - SLAVERY - SLAVERY's MAIN VICTIMS ARE WOMEN - SPARE THEM A KIND THOUGHT

During my 31 years spent in India and Bangladesh, particularly during two periods of famine, I saw hundreds of people enslaved as "Bonded Labourers", most being forced to work in such places as biri (cigarette) / carpet factories and brick kilns with females also forced into prostitution (sexual slavery).

 

 

Brazil

Dozens of slaves freed in Brazil

BBC World Service, 21 May, 2004

news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/3736207.stm

[accessed 24 January 2011]

They said the sugar-cane cutters had been lured from the poor north-eastern region of Brazil with false promises and then made to work as bonded labour.  They had little to eat and some shacks where they lived had no ventilation.

 

 

India

The Enslavement Of Dalit And Indigenous Communities In India, Nepal And Pakistan Through Debt Bondage [PDF]

UN Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, February 2001

At one time this article had been archived and may possibly still be accessible [here]

[accessed 6 September 2011]

SUMMARY - This paper describes the gross and continuing violation of the rights of millions of people in India, Pakistan and Nepal, who are trapped in debt bondage and forced to work to repay loans. Their designation as persons belonging outside the Hindu caste system is a major determining factor of their enslavement. Evidence from all three countries shows that the vast majority (80%-98%) of bonded labourers are from communities designated as “untouchable”, to whom certain occupations are assigned, or from indigenous communities. In the same way that caste status is inherited, so debts are passed on to the succeeding generations.

 

 

India - Nepal

RAPE FOR PROFIT - Trafficking of Nepali Girls and Women to India's Brothels

Human Rights Watch/Asia Report, Vol. 12, No. 5 (A), October 1995

www.hrw.org/legacy/reports/1995/India.htm

[accessed 23 February 2011]

INTRODUCTION - Trafficking victims in India are subjected to conditions tantamount to slavery and to serious physical abuse. Held in debt bondage for years at a time, they are raped and subjected to other forms of torture, to severe beatings, exposure to AIDS, and arbitrary imprisonment. Many are young women from remote hill villages and poor border communities of Nepal who are lured from their villages by local recruiters, relatives or neighbors promising jobs or marriage, and sold for amounts as small as Nepali Rs.200 [$4.00] to brokers who deliver them to brothel owners in India for anywhere from Rs.15,000 to Rs.40,000 [$500-$1,333]. This purchase price, plus interest (reported to be ten percent of the total), becomes the "debt" that the women must work to pay off -- a process that can stretch on indefinitely. Only the brothel owner knows the terms of the debt, and most women have no idea how much they owe or the terms for repayment. Brothels are tightly controlled, and the girls are under constant surveillance. Escape is virtually impossible. Owners use threats and severe beatings to keep inmates in line. In addition, women fear capture by other brothel agents and arrest by the police if they are found on the streets; some of these police are the brothel owner's best clients. Many of the girls and women are brought to India as virgins; many return to Nepal with the HIV virus.

 

 

Japan

White Slavery - Trafficking of Asian women

Suvendrini Kakuchi, The Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan FCCJ

At one time this article had been archived and may possibly still be accessible [here]

[accessed 7 September 2011]

Women who were lured into the sex industry tell horrific stories of gross human-rights abuses once they are in Japan. Initially promised jobs as waitresses or entertainers, these young Asian women, usually from poor families, arrive at Japanese airports only to be met by groups of gangsters. They are then held in bondage, sometimes for years, for average debts of $30,000.  The women work in slave-like conditions, providing sex to customers on a daily basis. They are under constant surveillance by their employers and are beaten regularly.

 

 

Japan

Owed Justice - Thai Women Trafficked into Debt Bondage in Japan

Human Rights Watch, ISBN 1-56432-252-1, Library of Congress Card Number: 00-107963 , September 2000

www.hrw.org/reports/2000/japan/4-profiles.htm

[accessed 16 February 2011]

IV. PROFILES - In this chapter, Human Rights Watch profiles four women who were trafficked from Thailand into servitude in Japan. Human Rights Watch interviewed numerous women who recounted similar experiences.

POT - It was a big room and four or five other women going to work in Japan were also kept there. I was surprised to be locked up because I was not allowed any chance to say goodbye to my family, even over the phone. I heard the agents talking about the price for each woman being between 150-160 bai [1.5-1.6 million yen; US$10,000-11,000], but I couldn't really understand what they were talking about and did not realize that we were being sold into prostitution.

KAEW - Kaew explained that she had understood there would be some debt for the airplane ticket and other expenses, but she had never been told how high her debt would be, and she was shocked at the amount. "The other girls said to me, 'that's a lot of debt and you're old; you'll never pay it off.' Then I prayed that it would only take six or seven months to pay it off, and I went with all of the clients I could. . . . The mama said to me, 'don't let your period come, or you'll never finish paying your debt.'" So Kaew also took contraceptive pills daily, though she had been sterilized at age twenty-one, so that she would not menstruate and could work every day.(7) She got her mother to send the pills from Thailand, so that she would not have to buy them from her mama and increase the level of her debt.

 

 

Kuwait

Campaigning against Bonded Labour

International Federation of Workers' Education Associations IFWEA Journal, December 2000

At one time this article had been archived and may possibly still be accessible [here]

[accessed 7 September 2011]

MIGRANT DOMESTIC WORKERS - The experience of Alice illustrates how many are tricked into debt bondage. Recruited from Manila for work in Kuwait, Alice was eventually taken by her employers to work for them in London.

Despite Alice’s qualification as a civil engineer in Manila, the pay was not enough to support her and her family.  She answered an advert recruiting engineers to Kuwait offering 215 Pounds per month -- six times her Philippine salary.  Against her expected salary her family borrowed money so she could pay the agency's fee, half of which was due before leaving Manila.  Upon arriving in Kuwait City she found that there were no civil engineering posts, only jobs for maids at a salary considerably less than she was promised.  With no money to pay the agency or to pay for the flight back home, she had no choice but to sign a contract to work as a domestic. 

Her day began at 5:30am and only ended once all of the adults had gone to bed, which was regularly after 2am.  She had no time off, not even to go to church or to write letters home.

After two and a half years in Kuwait Alice was taken to London.  Following an attack in which her employer tried to rape her she fled. It was the first time she had been out of the house.

 

 

Nepal

Why Nepal's freed labourers want to return to slavery

Sanjaya Dhakal, Kathmandu, OneWorld South Asia, January 27, 2004

us.oneworld.net/places/nepal/-/article/why-nepals-freed-laborers-want-return-slavery

[accessed 9 December 2010]

"Between 15 and 20 percent of the families declared free have returned to the same old practice of slavery," says Dilli Chaudhary, president of an NGO called Backward Society Education.

Bonded labourers in Nepal are called "kamaiyas" and belong to the country's backward Tharu community. It is sheer poverty that forces the poor to borrow rice and food from their employers - generally big landlords - and get trapped in slavery.

Under the practice, once indebted, the labourer and his heirs are 'bonded' to the landlord. They had to actually reside on the landlord's property until the debt was completely repaid, which seldom happened.

 

 

Niger

Testimony: Former Niger slave

BBC News, 3 November 2004

news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/3972669.stm

[accessed 12 December 2010]

Assibit, 50, describes life as a slave in Niger, where 43,000 people are estimated to be in bonded labour.   Assibit was born into slavery - as was her mother, her husband and her five children.

Assibit would begin work at 0530 - pounding millet and milking the camels.    She would then prepare breakfast for her master and his family - she and her family ate the leftovers.   While her husband and sons tended the cattle and camels, she and her daughter did all the household chores.   These included moving the heavy tent four times a day to ensure her mistress could sit in the shade.   Assibit prepared lunch and spent the rest of the day collecting water and firewood.

 

 

Pakistan

Slavery in the 21st century

Alan McCombes, Scottish Socialist Voice, November 2001

www.scottishsocialistvoice.net/2001/12/slavery-in-the-21st-century/959

[accessed 21 December 2011]

Bonded labour otherwise known as debt slavery is rampant in Pakistan. The system works as follows. Desperately poor families go to a feudal employer usually a brick kiln owner or a carpet manufacturer and ask them for a loan, perhaps to pay for medical treatment for a sick child.

In return for the loan, the entire family is turned into the private property of the employer. They are forced to work long hours for pitiful wage and half of these wages are kept by the factory owner as payment towards the loan.  The loan may take a generation or more to pay off. But until it is paid, the family are held in slavery.

Iqbal had been sold by his mother to a carpet manufacturer at the age of four. For years he spent twelve hours a day, seven days a week working in carpet factories for a pittance.  He eventually rebelled against his conditions and became a major figure in the BLLF. At the age of 12 he was traveling Pakistan addressing mass meetings and leading demos of thousands of children against industrial slavery.  To this day, his murder has never been satisfactorily explained.

 

 

Saudi Arabia

A death sentence for a young Filipino maid highlights the problem of abuse of Asian servants

Michael S. Serrill, Reported by Scott MacLeod/Al-Ain and Nelly Sindayen/Manila, TIME, October 23, 1995

housemaidsabuse.blogspot.com/2011/05/death-sentence-for-young-filipino-maid.html

[accessed 17 February 2011]

Despite the settlement, the case cast a spotlight on a dark practice throughout the Arabian peninsula: an almost medieval system of servitude that each year turns thousands of young women from underdeveloped Asian countries into virtual slaves for prosperous Arab families. The women are frequently lured to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the lesser emirates and sultanates by shady "employment agents" who offer them attractive-sounding jobs at relatively high pay. Once there, they learn that much of the money they initially earn--the going rate is $100 to $150 a month--goes to pay for their airfare and the employment agent's fee.

Worse, the maids find themselves in virtual bondage to their employers, who almost without exception confiscate the servants' passports to prevent them from walking out before fulfilling their typical two-year contract. It is common for the maids to be forced to work from dawn to midnight, seven days a week. Often they are fed scraps and leftovers, are beaten and verbally abused and, in the worst cases, raped and murdered. Only in the most egregious instances is an employer ever charged with sexual abuse or assault.

 

 

South Africa

Warning on human trafficking

Tabelo Timse, THE HERALD NEWSPAPER, PE, RSA, 15 Nov 2006

At one time this article had been archived and may possibly still be accessible [here]

[accessed 11 September 2011]

The report said women and children were brought into the county by syndicates, individual agents, Nigerian drug lords, Congolese businesspeople, Angolan crime groups, South African farmers, and Chinese triads.

Women trafficked from Port Elizabeth to a Cape Town agency said they had ended up in sex work after responding to advertisements in newspapers. Upon arrival in Cape Town, the women were informed that their work involved sex and that they were now debt-bonded to the agency for the costs of their travel, accommodation and food.

 

 

UK

Moldovan sex slaves released in U.K. human trafficking raids

tiraspoltimes.com, Apr 22, 2008

www.netnewspublisher.com/moldovan-sex-slaves-released-in-uk-human-trafficking-raids/

[accessed 2 January 2011]

A group of girls from Moldova have been released by British police after raids against human trafficking rings. They had been smuggled from Europe's poorest country and forced into sex slavery. Trafficking gangs operate with government involvement in Moldova.

EUROPE'S LARGEST SEX-TRAFFICKER - Human trafficking networks and sex slavery gangs bring young women to the United Kingdom where they are “debt-bonded” and ordered to pay debts of up to £25,000 for travel and board. In order to pay off their "debt", the victims are sold between traffickers and forced into prostitution. Many commit suicide and of the survivors, a large number get infected with AIDS before they turn 20.

 

 

USA

Federal human trafficking bust implicates downtown establishment

Jennifer Park, The Brown Daily Herald, April 26, 2007

www.browndailyherald.com/city-state/federal-human-trafficking-bust-implicates-downtown-establishment-1.1676304

[accessed 26 August 2011]

Many of the women who were brought to the United States to work in such establishments came from Korea in the hopes of making money to support their families but were caught in the grasps of debt bondage and sold their bodies to pay off transportation costs, according to the Department of Justice press release. Brothel owners and managers often confiscated the women's identification and travel documents, and some of the women worked under threats of harm to their families back home.

 

All material used herein reproduced under the fair use exception of 17 USC § 107 for noncommercial, nonprofit, and educational use.  PLEASE RESPECT COPYRIGHTS OF COMPONENT ARTICLES.  Cite this webpage as: Patt, Prof. Martin, "Human Trafficking & Modern-day Slavery – Lecture Resources - Debt Bondage ", http://gvnet.com/humantrafficking/111-debtBondage.htm  [accessed <date>]