Modern slavery remains a ‘hidden crime’

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WINDHOEK – The Global Slavery Index report, which was published last week by the Australian-based Walk Free Foundation, ranked Namibia 46, compared to other countries in the region like Botswana at 39, Zimbabwe at 45, Democratic Republic of Congo at 23, Uganda at 25 and Mozambique, which is ranked 35.

On the other hand South Africa is ranked 115 and Angola 116, the highest rankings in the region. A number one ranking indicates a more severely concentrated modern slavery situation, while 160 shows the least. The index did not explain how Namibia ended with its 46 ranking. The index states that Mauritius leads the region in stability and the protection of human and workers’ rights, but is eclipsed by South Africa and Gabon in terms of the extent of policies on modern slavery. “The high prevalence measured for such countries as the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mauritania reflect centuries-old patterns of enslavement, often based on colonial conflicts and injustice exacerbated by contemporary armed conflict. Ongoing conflicts, extremes of poverty, high levels of corruption, and the impact of resource exploitation to feed global markets all increase the risk of enslavement in many African countries. Child and forced marriages are still tolerated in the context of informal or ‘traditional’ legal systems in many countries,” reads the report.

The index provided a ranking of 162 countries, reflecting a combined measure of three factors, namely estimated prevalence of modern slavery by population; a measure of child marriage, and a measure of human trafficking in and out of a country. The measure is heavily weighted to reflect the first factor, which is prevalence. The report estimates that 16.36 percent of the estimated total 29.8 million people in modern slavery in the world are in sub-Saharan Africa, which is also the largest of the regions measured for the index and also holds the greatest diversity in terms of the risk of enslavement.

Modern slavery includes slavery, slavery-like practices (such as debt bondage, forced marriage, and sale or exploitation of children), human trafficking and forced labour. The operational definition used in the Index is as follows: “Slavery is the possession and control of a person in such a way as to significantly deprive that person of his or her individual liberty, with the intent of exploiting that person through their use, management, profit, transfer or disposal. Usually this exercise will be achieved through means such as violence or threats of violence, deception and/or coercion.”

“Modern slavery is a hidden crime and exists in many forms. For these reasons it can be very difficult to measure. While the Global Slavery Index uses the most recent information sources and has called on the advice of experts, the estimation of the amount and types of modern slavery is very much a work in progress. By far the best method of estimating the extent of any crime, including any form of modern slavery, is the use of representative random sample surveys. These are particularly difficult to accomplish for modern slavery, but some have now been conducted,” states the report. The countries with the highest numbers of enslaved people are India, China, Pakistan, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Russia, Thailand, Democratic Republic of Congo, Myanmar and Bangladesh. Taken together, these countries account for 76 percent of the total estimate of 29.8 million in modern slavery.

 

 

By Edgar Brandt

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