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Dalit work as Bonded Labour in All Indian cities and world

Caste-based discrimination and bonded labour

(Excerpted from the Human Rights Watch report 'Small change: Bonded Child Labor in India's Silk Industry') 
Bonded labor in India is not just an economic issue but a social issue linked with caste. Unless we associate bonded labor with caste, we won't understand bonded labor, and we won't find a solution.

~ Kiran Kamal Prasad, director of JEEVIKA, NGO working to free and rehabilitate bonded laborers and to train government officials.

This is the thing that God blessed me with so I have to work like this. I can't do something else. . . . It is written on my head and nobody can change this. I am born into this community so we don't know what else to do. We have to do this and nothing else. . . . I don't want to go to the looms but there is no other way.
~ Vimali T., fifteen-year-old low-caste girl, bonded to a loom owner for Rs. 8,000 (U.S.$167), Kanchipuram, Karnataka, March 21, 2002.
Allocation of labor on the basis of caste is one of the caste system's fundamental tenets. Within the caste system, Dalits, or so-called untouchables, have been assigned tasks and occupations deemed ritually polluting for other caste communities. Most bonded laborers are low-caste, illiterate, and extremely poor, while the creditors/employers are usually higher-caste, literate, comparatively wealthy, and relatively more powerful members of the community. According to government figures, 86.6 percent of bonded laborers are Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
In sericulture, most bonded children are Dalit or Muslim, depending on the area. The great majority of non-Muslim children whom we interviewed from reeling and twisting units were Dalit, and NGOs credibly report that most children reeling and twisting silk thread in Karnataka, the primary silk thread producing area in India, are Dalit.
The traditional silk weaving caste is a lower caste, called a "backward caste," but in both Varanasi and Kanchipuram districts, Dalits have entered the weaving profession in significant numbers, often by being bonded as children. Muslims also dominate sari weaving in some areas, including in urban Varanasi. However, in Varanasi district, Dalits and lower castes have begun weaving inincreasing numbers, in part because communal violence and attacks on Muslims have pushed them out of the profession.

Dalits and low-caste Hindus are the most vulnerable to bondage for the following reasons:

Upper castes traditionally expect that Dalits will perform free services, which helps to sanction the bonded labor system and results in poor Dalits being bonded when poor caste Hindus are not;

Dalits are typically landless and therefore economically dependent on their employers. Economic dependency also keeps them from reporting atrocities against them;

Upper castes levy social and economic boycotts as well as perpetrate violence against Dalit communities who challenge traditional practices and try to assert their rights;upper castes dominate local political bodies, the police and the judiciary, bonded labor vigilance committees, and child labor committees that are supposed to enforce the law on bonded and child labor; and discrimination against Dalit children in school encourages them to drop out and be sent to work.

Dalits and lower castes are typically restricted to tasks and occupations that are deemed too "filthy" or "polluting" for higher-caste communities, and the poor remuneration of manual scavenging, agricultural labor, and other forms of low-caste employment often forces families of lower castes into bondage. For example, Human Rights Watch interviewed Dalit villagers who weave saris in their homes on looms owned by traders, but whom local landlords also force to work their land. "We have very little land, less than five acres," a Dalit woman in the village told us. "Yes, of course we work on the landlords' land." In exchange for a day's labor, a worker receives five kilograms of wheat, worth about Rs. 40 (U.S.83¢). "They don't even measure the five kilograms," one man complained. "They just fill up a sack and bring it out to us." Another man explained that they couldn't survive on the money earned from this and from sari weaving, so they had to take loans from the traders.

Because upper castes have expected and extracted free services from Dalits, Dalits are more likely to become bonded compared with equally poor higher caste Hindus. According to respected economist and Dalit activist Professor Shukhadeo Thorat:

For high-caste poor, there is no exploitative relationship. They may be underpaid but not humiliated. The poor of [the employer's] own caste are treated differently-there is no compulsion against them. . . . There is a traditional economic relationship based on caste between the landowner and the S.C. [scheduled caste]. These relationships are determined by custom and norms, and these affect the decision of the S.C. to send their children for work. This is on the supply side. High castes will also compel lower castes to send their children for work. They will say, "This is custom. The law is something different." In rural settings, customary services are still performed.

Most Dalit victims of abuse in India are landless agricultural laborers who form the backbone of the nation's agrarian economy. Despite decades of land reform legislation, over 86 percent of Dalit households today are landless or near landless. Those who do own land often own very little. Land isthe prime asset in ruralareas that determines an individual's standard of living and social status. Lack of access to land makes Dalits economically vulnerable; their dependency is exploited by upper- and middle-caste landlords and allows for many abuses to go unpunished. Landless agricultural laborers throughout the country work for a few kilograms of rice or Rs. 15 to Rs. 35 (U.S.32¢ to 75¢) a day, well below the minimum wage. Many laborers owe debts to their employers or other moneylenders. Thus, although poverty plays a significant role, connection between caste and bondage goes far beyond poverty to what Professor Thorat has described as the "extra economic compulsion of caste."

Extreme economic and political measures are meted out for transgression of caste norms. Bonded labor flourishes in this environment because people cannot complain. According to Professor Thorat, "The upper castes can exert economic compulsion-if you say 'no,' you won't get a loan or employment. . . . They can apply a social and economic boycott-they don't give employment, stop selling goods, exert a complete ban on what [Dalits] need, and they [Dalits] have to seek employment far away."

These extreme measures include violence, both against Dalits' property and their persons. For example, Human Rights Watch visited a Dalit village in Uttar Pradesh that had stopped weaving after upper castes in the area raided the community and destroyed their possessions, including their looms, in retaliation for their political activity. The connection between Dalits asserting their rights and violent retaliation has been well documented by Human Rights Watch.

Caste-based violence is directly linked to child bondage. Researchers with the Tamil Nadu-based NGO Legal Resources for Social Action (LRSA) report an increase in child labor, especially in domestic and hotel work, following upper-caste raids on Dalit villages. When the families' economic assets are destroyed, the parents are more likely to need the children to work. In addition,

[i]nvariably, their school or any common asset-e.g., village administrative office, post office, T.V.-they are all put in the main [upper-caste] area of the village so when there is a clash, . . . kids can't travel safely to the main village. . . . There are many occurrences where Dalit children stay out of school for one to three months because, for example, of a riot in the village or reprisals against Dalits, and police take men away . . . . Children are stranded . . . There is a decreased interest in going to school, and they need the income.

Researchers at the National Labour Institute have confirmed these findings.

Discrimination against Dalit children in school also encourages them to drop out and go to work. Most of the government schools in which Dalit students are enrolled, where they exist at all, are deficient in basic infrastructure, classrooms, teachers, and teaching aids. Dalit students sit at the back of the class and are often treated badly by upper-caste teachers and staff. A majority of Dalit students are also enrolled in vernacular schools whose students suffer serious disadvantages in the job market as compared to those who learn in English-speaking schools. Gilbert Rodrigo, LRSA's director, explained:

Wherever there is discrimination against Dalit children in school, the children don't want to go. There was a case last week [March 2002] of Dalit kids going with chappals [sandals] to school. They were beaten up. So kids don't want to go to school. This systematically maintains the gap between Dalit and non-Dalit kids. For example, the main noon meal in schools, Dalits depend on. Usually a non-Dalit person is providing the food because non-Dalit parents won't want their children to take food from Dalits. This person calls them by their caste name and makes them stand in separate queues.

In Uttar Pradesh, documented discriminatory practices against Dalit children in schools include: discrimination against Dalit settlements in the location of schools; teachers avoiding physical contact with Dalit children; children from particular castes being special targets of verbal abuse and physical punishment by the teachers; low-caste children frequently being beaten by higher-caste classmates.

In Karnataka, Joy Maliekal, director of the Rural Literacy and Health Programme and national convenor of the Campaign against Child Labour, told Human Rights Watch: "It is important to make the link between child labor and discrimination in school. In our experience, Dalit children are made to sit in the back and are asked to do work [i.e. chores rather than schoolwork]." According to a social worker in Karnataka, "a child will say to his or her parents, 'The teacher told me not to come tomorrow, that I am no good for studying.' Instead of asking why the teacher has said this, the parents will send the child to work."

Discrimination combined with low returns on education, including discrimination in employment, encourages Dalit children to drop out of school; Dalit children drop out of school at a much higher rate than non-Dalits, and there is a higher rate of illiteracy among Dalits than among non-Dalits. According to Gilbert Rodrigo, "Dalit kids get left behind, and when they don't see graduates getting jobs, they loose interest." A group of low-caste and Dalit silk weavers told Human Rights Watch that if people went to school, "10 percent go for jobs after they study. The rest go back to the first job. Even that education doesn't help." And a low-caste teacher in one of Kanchipuram's night schools described his own school experience: "My class had thirty students. I was the only one who went to another job. The twenty-nine others are weaving." Although some allege that Dalit and low-caste parents do not value education, this is not surprising if the quality of education offered is very poor and if they see no returns on it.

Ministry of Labour, Government of India, Annual Report 2000-2001, p. 181. This figures appear to be based on both a 1991 Report of the National Commission on Rural Labour and reports from thirteen states through March 31, 2000, of bonded laborers identified, freed, and rehabilitated.

This is the case not only in the areas where Human Rights Watch investigated but also in other states, for example, Andhra Pradesh. See, e.g. Narayan K.S. and P. Pushpa Rani, "Silk Industry and Child Workers," Social Welfare,
Human Rights Watch interview with Dr. Alakh N. Sharma, Director, Institute for Human Development and author of November 2000 survey of labor in the Varanasi silk industry, New Delhi, March 10, 2002; Remesh, Organisational Structure, LabourRelations and Employment in Kancheepuram Silk Weaving, pp. 26-27. Local NGOs confirmed that Dalit children were being bonded in Kanchipuram's silk looms. For example, according to Girija Kumarababu, consultant for the Indian Council for Child Welfare, "loom owners are sending their own kids to school and taking on S.C. [scheduled caste or Dalit] children as bonded." Human Rights Watch interview with Girija Kumarababu, consultant to the Indian Council for Child Welfare, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, March 21, 2002. And an inspector of night schools in Kanchipuram told us, "silk was only a backward caste, but now everyone can do it so there is no caste bias." Human Rights Watch interview with night school inspector, March 20, 2002. In Varanasi, Human Rights Watch interviewed both Dalit and low-caste children bonded to Muslim silk weavers. presented March 24, 2001, Laboratory in Comparative Ethnic Processes, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, (retrieved September 2, 2002).

Human Rights Watch group interview with Dalit villagers, Varanasi District, Uttar Pradesh, March 14, 2002.

According to a local activist, workers in the community were receiving five kilograms of wheat solely because they had organized themselves; elsewhere workers received only two kilograms. Human Rights Watch interview with Lenin Raghuvanshi, People's Vigilance Committee for Human Rights, Varanasi District, March 14, 2002.

Human Rights Watch group interview with Dalit villagers, Varanasi District, Uttar Pradesh, March 14, 2002
Human Rights Watch interview with Professor Sukhadeo Thorat, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, March 9, 2002. Professor Thorat also noted that the practice of untouchability leaves Dalits much less free to contract than poor caste Hindus.

Human Rights Watch interview with Professor Sukhadeo Thorat, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, March 9, 2002. See also Narayan K.S. and P. Pushpa Rani, "Silk Industry and Child Workers," Social Welfare, pp. 9-10 (documenting the connection between landlessness, subsistence farming, and child bondage); Human Rights Watch,Broken People; Human Rights Watch, Caste Discrimination: A Global Concern.

Human Rights Watch interview with Professor Sukhadeo Thorat, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, March 9, 2002.

Human Rights Watch group interview with Dalit villagers, Varanasi District, Uttar Pradesh, March 14, 2002.
See Human Rights Watch, Broken People.

Human Rights Watch interview with Gilbert Rodrigo, Director, Legal Resources for Social Action (LRSA)Chengalpattu, Tamil Nadu, March 20, 2002.

Human Rights Watch interview with staff, Legal Resources for Social Action (LRSA), Chengalpattu, Tamil Nadu, March 20, 2002.

According to Helen R. Sekar, a National Labor Institute fellow who conducted field research on child labor in Kanchipuram from 1997 to June 2001, Dalit children in the area often lacked access to schools: "In Kanchipuram, most schools are in upper-caste villages so the S.C. [scheduled caste] child had to travel. If there was a clash between the communities, they would chase the children out of school." Human Rights Watch interview with Helen R. Sekar, Fellow, V.V. Giri National Labour Institute, Noida, Uttar Pradesh, April 1, 2002.

For more information, see Geetha B. Nambissan and Mona Sedwal, "Education for All: The Situation of Dalit Children in India," India Education Report: A Profile of Basic Education, pp. 72-86.

See National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights, Black Papers: Broken Promises and Dalits Betrayed (India: National Campaign on Dalit Hman Rights, 1999).

Human Rights Watch interview with Professor Sukhadeo Thorat, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, March 9, 2002.

National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights, Black Papers: Broken Promises and Dalits Betrayed.

Human Rights Watch interview with Gilbert Rodrigo, Director, Legal Resources for Social Action (LRSA)Chengalpattu, Tamil Nadu, March 20, 2002. In some areas Dalits are still prohibited from wearing footwear. Those who wear sandals are seen to be acting outside the dictates of their caste status and are consequently punished.

Jean Dréze and Haris Gazdar, "Uttar Pradesh: The Burden of Inertia," Indian Development, Jean Dréze and Amartya Sen, eds. (New Dlhi: Oxford University Press, 1996) quoted in Nambissan, "Education for All: The Situation of Dalit Children in India," India Education Report,

Human Rights Watch interview with Joy Maliekal, Mysore, Karnataka, March 30, 2002.

Human Rights Watch interview with social worker, Ramanagaram, Karnataka, March 29, 2002.

See National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, Highlights of the Report for the Years 1996-97 and 1997-98 (New Delhi: Government of India, 1999); Department of Labour, Government of Karnataka,Study Material on "Successful Prosecution of Child Labour Cases," p. 4 (reporting results of January-February 2001 survey showing that a higher percentage of Dalit children are out of school than non-Dalits).

Human Rights Watch interview with Gilbert Rodrigo, Director, Legal Resources for Social Action (LRSA)Chengalpattu, Tamil Nadu, March 20, 2002.

Human Rights Watch group interview with silk weavers, Kanchipuram, Tamil Nadu, March 20, 2002.

Human Rights Watch interview with night school teacher, Kanchipuram, Tamil Nadu, March 20, 2002.

Courtesy: Human Rights watch

Did Brahmins oppress the lower caste by introducing the concept of untouchability and discrimination? What do they gain from that?

Abhijith Sharma
Abhijith Sharma, A proud Brahmin.

1. Indian Brahmins have been oppressing the lower caste population in India.
2. Brahmins introduced the inhuman “untouchability”
3. Brahmins are cunning, parasitic exploiters and creators of the iniquitous caste system.
4. Indian sub-continent’s biggest problem was 5000 years of Brahmin oppression!
5. Brahmins never allowed others to read and write or to learn Sanskrit!
6. Brahmins are arrogant, dis-respective, communal and abusive extremists who whip the dalits (lower caste Hindus) till they die.
7. Brahmins exploited and continue to exploit everyone else.
8. Brahmins authored the Hindu scriptures just to ensure their own highest position in the social hierarchy.

The list is endless! And any educated person believes this as 100% truth. Even those who born in today’s Brahmin caste are apologetic about their birth due to these “truths”!

However, these ‘truth’ arguments clearly lack historical validity and logical consistency. It is merely a case of “repeat a lie a hundred times and it will become the truth”. (Joseph Goebbels’ theory). It is amazing to see that how fiction can become truth in course of time!

Let’s examine truth based on facts and real history.

To start with, there is no SINGLE Brahmin god in Hinduism! All gods are from backward castes, dalits and tribals. Brahmins never created the concept of Gods in Hinduism.

There was no even SINGLE Brahmin King that ruled India.  To be able to oppress others requires positions of power. The Brahmin’s traditional occupation was that of temple priest (purohit) officiating religious functions. Their sole income was Biksha (alms) given by the land-lords (non-Brahmins). And another section of Brahmins were teachers, that too without salary.

Vedic literature was mostly written by non-Brahmins! The most powerful of the dharma shaastra, that gives Brahmins a high status, is the Manusmriti written by Manu, a non-Brahmin. Brahmin means a profession (Varna) then, not a caste.

If the reading and writing of Sanskrit was confined to Brahmins then how do you have the tribal Valmiki composing Ramayana? Ved Vyas, who classified four vedas and wrote Mahabharata, was born to a fisher-woman. Sanskrit was used mostly by non-Brahmin writers – there are very few scriptures in Sanskrit authored by Brahmins.

We consider the teachings of Ved Vyas, Vashishtha, Valmiki, Krishna, Rama, Agasthya, Vishwamitra, Shrunga, Gowthama, Buddha, Mahavira, Tulsidas, Thiruvalluvar, Kabir, Vivekananda, Gandhi, Narayana guru etc as most valuable. If none of them were Brahmins why cry so much about Brahmin didn’t allow you to learn? There are numerous works on bhakti by non-Brahmin bhakti saints. Brahmins never prevented others from learning.

Brahmins were neither rich nor powerful at any point of time in history. Pick up any old Indian story book, you will see ‘Garib Brahmin’ (Poor Brahmin) quoted as a virtue. (Remember Kuchela-Krishna story?) Though their profession was considered as highest stature of the society, the Brahmin ascetics’ only way of survival was alms given by people.

The biggest contribution of Brahmins is sustaining the best language ever spoken in the earth – Sanskrit. If you learn English or Arab, you have commercial benefits. Nobody ever promoted Sanskrit. Without any benefits, Brahmins took up voluntary task of learning Sanskrit. Then, now you accuse them of monopoly in Sanskrit!

Dr.B.R. Ambedkar, the father of Indian constitution, stated that “untouchability” began in Indian sub-continent after 400 AD, when beef-eaters shunned as “untouchables.” When people of India were forced to embrace Islam by Muslim invaders, lot of Hindus, including those in the professions of Brahmin and Kshatriya among others decided they would not accept Islam at any cost – even if they die. To destroy their dharmabhiman (religious pride), swabhiman (self-respect) and rashtraabhiman (pride in nationality), they were force.

into carrying the night soil and engage in leather-work. This is how Scheduled Castes were created. They were forced to eat cow-meat. Then marked them as lower caste. Peace-loving people were pushed into “unclean occupations” because they refused to bow before invaders and convert to invader’s religions during the medieval times, thus making them “untouchables”, as per lot of historians.

Whatever, it is obvious that caste system and evil practices like Sati were introduced after around AD 500, thanks to insecurity created among Indians by invaders! Slavery was unheard in India till then. All ancient literature gives highest position to Brahmins, because of the virtue and ethics they upheld. Can you quote a single incident of violence by those “merciless Brahmins” ever happened anywhere?

Historical evidences show that poor hapless Brahmins were beheaded by Arabian invaders, crucified in Goa by the Portuguese Inquisition, vilified by British missionaries, and morally crucified today by their own brothers and sisters.

Aurangzeb massacred 150,000 Brahmins and their families in Benares, Ganga ghat, Haridwar, etc… He wouldn’t eat his everyday breakfast without seeing a bunch of “janeoos” (holy thread) soaked in the blood of Brahmins after killing them!

The brutal and fanatic barbarians from Portugese mercilessly persecuted and killed lakhs of Konkani Brahmins who refused to get converted, in Konkan-Goa. The brutal barbarian Francis Xavier, who led the massacre, later canonized as Saint.

Sarawat Brahmins were living peacefully in Kashmir and Gandhara desa-regions-(part of today’s Afghan-Pakistan included) area. You can’t see them there now. The foreign invaders killed thousands of Saraswats. Pundits, the original inhabitants of Kashmir were tortured and driven out of their dwellings in Kashmir. Genocide of Kashmiri Pundits has reached its climax with terrorism succeeding in ‘CLEANSING’ the valley of this ancient ethno-religious community.

Dr. Ambedkar quoting Muslim historians says the first act of religious zeal by Mohammad bin Qasim, the first Arab invader, was circumcision of Brahmins. “But, after they objected, he put all above the age of seventeen to death.”

In early 19th century, Tipu Sultan’s army descended in Melkote on a Deepavali day and massacred 800 citizens, mostly of a sect known as Mandyam Iyengars. He was a fanatic killer.

Brahmins, who historically dedicated their lives for the sake of dharma and the welfare of the society, are still persecuted in modern India for their falsely alleged sins of the past!!!

The anti-Brahmin theory was planned and successfully planted by hostile religious invaders, colonialist and missionaries of conversion and by politicians to keep the public blind and at the same time rob Indians off everything.

This baseless theory was propagated by Leftists, priests and religious leaders from hostile aggressive religions, separatists and casteists, die-hard fans of invaders, the British etc. And modern literate believe in this utter non-sense!

When they attack Brahmins, their target is unmistakably Hinduism!

The prayer of a Brahmin was: “Loka Samastha Sukino Bhavantu” (May all the beings in all the worlds be happy). In turn, the world is trying to crucify them, for no fault of them. Brahmins are never involved in any caste-based violence in India TILL this day!

But, yes, some Brahmins certainly would have manipulated caste system – just as they do in political parties or religious groups. Insecure Brahmin communities may have later developed into closely held groups or castes for survival. There were also few exceptions among- like Peshwa Chitpawan Brahmins, Namboodiri chieftains of Kerala, Bhumihar chieftains of Bihar, few short lived minor kingdoms like Anangpal, Jaipal and Bhamini – who were either rich or powerful. There were Brahmins who exploited others using their status in the society making use of situations, just like corrupt Bureaucrats. They are few, not even one percent of the Brahmin. Should we generalize the whole community for the mistakes done by a small section among them?

During feudal times, the land-owning class (Zamindars) oppressed dalits. Even today, OBCs also oppressed the dalits. But Brahmins became the scapegoat.

There is so much of vicious propaganda against Brahmins that the modern Brahmin always felt apologetic, for the oppression allegedly committed by the Brahmin class on the lower class. Brahmins have been torch bearers of spiritual knowledge, upheld the spiritual and cultural legacy, kept the sanctified rituals alive and gave a distinct identity to sanatan dharma. Brahmin-bashing is reverse discrimination, another form of discrimination nonetheless! It’s very unfair to marginalize such an important community from Indian political relevance and discourse. Caste was always just a political tool of rulers.

Brahmins were pushed to bottom in level of importance and treated as villains (scape goat) in the caste based politics since elections/democracy meant use of populist methods which was easy to sell. For many past centuries, mostly Christians and Muslims were ruling India. Do we have to blame Brahmins for everything that went wrong in India? Brahmins have never ruled India. Even after Independence, if Castiesm exists in India, who are to blame other than rulers?

Modern Brahmins having abandoned their traditional way of life and being cut off from their traditions, suffer from an unjustified guilt complex and have swallowed this suppression propaganda uncritically. Caught between the greed of the masses, the unscrupulousness of the politicians and the malice of the real exploiters, they are persecuted mercilessly in modern India.
There have always been deliberate attempts to confuse the concept of Brahmanism with the caste of Brahmins in India. Caste system, introduced during medieval period because of invaders, is absolutely wrong. It’s against Sanatan Dharma. According to our ancestors, everybody should thrive to become a real Brahmin. For the sake of a beautiful green world, let’s support Brahmanism that propagates non-violence and peace. The intended or actual meaning of Brahmin is one who has knowledge about Brahman, the ultimate and impersonal divine reality of the universe from which all being originates and to which it returns.

Some of the answers here mention about sudras not given right to read vedas and not perform rituals, our scriptures state that all are born sudra, and uppercastes(Brahmana, Kshatriya, and Vaishya) are known as dwija(second born/re born) after having upanayana, until then he is considered to be a sudra. There is never a concept of untouchability in ancient India.

King Harishchandra also supports the fact the slavery

The following episode of King Harishchandra also supports the fact the slavery existed in ancient India. Once King Harishchandra of Ayodhya was going for a hunt in a forest near his capital. While moving in search of prey he heard a sharp cry for help and ran in that direction. To his dismay he found that he had rushed into the ashram of Sage Vishwamitra. At that time the Sage was in deep meditation and Harishchandra’s ill-timed appearance had disturbed Vishwamitra’ s meditation.

Opening his eyes he glared at Harishchandra and demanded the reason for his unwarranted incursion. On being told the reason, Vishwamitra ridiculed Harishchandra and said that the scream was the work of the spirits trying to disturb his meditation and Harishchandra had fallen a prey to the spirit and became its medium for disturbing Viswamitra’s meditation (Tapasya). Angry that he was, Viswamitra was about to curse Harishchandra, but the king begged for mercy and said that he was ready to give anything Viswamitra asked for. This appeased the angry Sage who said that at the moment he had nothing to ask for but would approach Harishchandra at the right moment. On hearing this Harishchandra took his leave .

A Yagna being performed. The officiating clergymen were paid handsomely for this service by kings and the nobility. This payment was called Dakshina. This apart Dana was the customary charity made mainly to the Brahmins. Dana and Dakshina were modes of transferring wealth voluntarily (but enforced by religious and social sanction) from the nobility (kshatriyas) and to the clergy. The Kshatriyas appropriated their part of the social surplus through taxes, tithes, obligatory services from the Vaishyas and Shudras.A few days passed and the episode was forgotten by Harishchandra, but Vishwamitra was not one to forget so easily. One day unexpectedly he turned up at Harishchandra’ s Court and demanded fulfi11ment of the promise Harishchandra had given him. On being asked what he wanted, Vishwimitra coolly demanded that Harishchandra give up his Kingdom immediately. The King was stupefied; but as per his promise, he abdicated and alongwith his family he left the city.

But he had not gone for when Vishwamitra overtook the royal refugees and said that Harishchandra’s word was not yet fulfilled as the dakshina had not yet been given. (the dakshina was a voluntary, but customary, payment made to Brahmins for religious services rendered). Now Harishchandra had nothing with him except his clothes, his wife Saivya and his son Rohitashwa, all their jewels also had been left back at their palace.  Harishchandra pleaded with Vishwamitra to give him a grace period of a month to collect the dakshina which Vishwamitra reluctantly granted. But at end of the said month, Harishchandra had not yet arranged for the dakshina, as no one was ready to offer him work due to his being of noble birth.

On the morning of the last day of the said month, Vishwamitra duly appeared and demanded his dakshina. Harishchandra said that he be allowed time till sunset by when he would some way arrange for the dakshina.
The morality in ancient India was such that lay people voluntarily rendered free service in the construction of temple panels such as this one from Ajanta which dates back to 5th century. In many such panels the craftsmen have depicted happenings from real life. This panel shows an army marching to war.

With only a few hours at his disposal, Harishchandra grew desperate and the only way he could think of raising money was by selling himself in the market. He made his way to the public square in the market where slaves were bought and sold and announced that he was for sale. But looking at his lean body, no one was ready to buy him.

Dejected that he was, he asked his wife Saivya if she was ready to get herself sold. The devoted queen agreed to that shameful proposal and she was put up for sale. She was bought by a Brahmin for 500 coins. But when she was being taken away, her son prince Rohitashwa ran after her and said that he too would go with her. Seeing this the Brahmin who had purchased Saivya, said that for an additional 250 gold coins he would purchase the prince as well. Thus with 750 gold coins with him, Harishchandra approached Sage Vishwamitra, but the remorseless sage demanded 250 gold coins more for the dakshina to be respectable.

With no other option before him, Harishchandra put himself up for sale. He was brought by a Chandala (crematorium keeper) for the paltry sum of 250 gold coins. Thus Vishwamitra’s dakshina was redeemed. Harishchandra began working as the Chandala’s servant. His job was to collect the fee from the relatives of the dead and then arrange for cremation of the dead-bodies.


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Where slavery is still practiced:

Anti-Slavery International was founded in 1839, as the world's first and international human rights organization. They reported in mid-2003 that today: "Millions of men, women and children around the world are forced to lead lives as slaves. Although this exploitation is often not called slavery, the conditions are the same. People are sold like objects, forced to work for little or no pay and are at the mercy of their 'employers'....Women from eastern Europe are bonded into prostitution, children are trafficked between West African countries and men are forced to work as slaves on Brazilian agricultural estates. Contemporary slavery takes various forms and affects people of all ages, sex and race.1
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Laws against slavery and near-slavery:

Slavery is banned by laws and the constitutions of most countries in the world -- even in those countries where it is still practiced. It is also prohibited by the:
bulletUN Slavery Convention in 1926 2
bulletInternational Labour Organization's Forced Labour Convention of 1930
bulletUniversal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948
bulletProtocol amending the Slavery Convention signed at Geneva on 25 September 1926 in 1953 3
bulletUN Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery, the Slave Trade and Institutions and Practices Similar to Slavery in 1956. 4
bulletInternational Labour Organisation's Abolition of Forced Labour Convention in 1959.
The U.S. federal "Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000" was enacted to
"combat trafficking in persons, especially into the sex trade, slavery and involuntary servitude...5The first charge of using forced labor under the law were brought in mid-2002. Eleven workers from Mexico were allegedly brought to northern New York State and kept in near-slavery.

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Current incidences of large-scale slavery and near-slavery:


Sudan: There is considerable evidence that slavery is still practiced in a large scale in Sudan -- an estimated 14,000 people have been abducted since 1983. However, the existence of slavery is denied by the Sudanese government. Some western religious groups have attempted to buy freedom for individual slaves. Unfortunately, this has become counterproductive. It increases the profitability of enslavement as a commercial enterprise, and results in more slaves being created. More details.

Niger: Anti-Slavery International reported in mid-2003 that slavery is rampant in Niger, mostly in the southwestern Tillaberry region of that country. 7 This occurs even though slavery is prohibited by the constitution and is being fought by stringent new laws. About 7% of the population -- some 870,000 individuals are condemned to life-long servitude. Many are born into slavery and will remain slaves all of their life.

Programs of near-slavery: Anti-Slavery International (ASI) presented a paper to the United Nations Working Group on Contemporary Forms of Slavery which met in Geneva, Switzerland, 2003-JUN-16 to 20. 8 All of the major offending countries cited have large Hindu or Muslim majorities. ASI discussed the situation in Sudan and Niger as well as describing situations of near-slavery such as:

United Arab Emirates -- Child trafficking:  Although it is illegal to employ a child under the age of 15, hundreds of boys between four and ten are trafficked from South Asia to the UAE

India, Nepal and Pakistan -- Millions of men, women and children are used as forced and bonded labor in these countries. Most are dalit or from a low caste, or are from indigenous or minority groups. Laws against the caste system and against bonded labor exist but are not enforced.

Indonesia -- Forced labor and exploitation of migrant workers. "Poverty and lack of opportunity in Indonesia have increased the number of Indonesians seeking work in Asia. Indonesia's lack of protection and the Government's existing system for women migrant domestics exposes them to trafficking and slavery.8
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US Department of State report for 2005:

 The U.S. Department of State issues a Trafficking in Persons Report on a yearly basis. Their web site states:
Trafficking in persons is a modern-day form of slavery, involving victims who are typically forced, defrauded or coerced into sexual or labor exploitation. It is among the fastest growing criminal activities, occurring both worldwide and in individual countries. Annually, at least 600,000 - 800,000 people, mostly women and children, are trafficked across borders worldwide, including 14,500 - 17,500 persons into the United States.

People are snared into trafficking by various means. For example, physical force is used or false promises are made regarding a legitimate job or marriage in a foreign country to entrap victims into prostitution, pornography and other forms of commercial sexual exploitation or slavery-like labor conditions in factories and fields. Victims suffer physical and emotional abuse, rape, threats against self and family, passport theft, and physical restraint. 9

The State Department rates most of the countries in the world on a three tier format. They rated 14 countries at Tier 3. These are countries whose governments do not fully comply with the minimum standards of the U.S. federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA) and are not making significant efforts to do so: Bolivia, Burma, Cambodia, Cuba, Ecuador, Jamaica, Kuwait, North Korea, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Togo, United Arab Emirates, and Venezuela.

Slavery and Dutch Colonies 
Slavery is as old as organized human societies. It started more than 10,000 years ago, with the rise of socially stratified societies and was to be found in all continents. In a large part of Europe, slavery and comparable forms of servitude were common up to the 16th century. This was also the case in the first colonizing countries: Spain and Portugal. Under Islamic (Moorish) rule in Iberia (from the 8th to the 15th century) there was slavery, and the Moors also held black Africans as slaves. Slavery continued after Christian reconquests in Spain and Portugal. Maritime-oriented Portugal also traded in and used African slaves in the Eastern Atlantic since the 14th century.

A Balinese and Papuan female slave of the Raja of Buleleng (Northern Bali), 1865 (source: KITLV collection, signature nr. 4393)
Slavery  in the (Dutch) Caribbean
When Columbus discovered America in the name of Spain in 1492, the Spaniards encountered native Amerindians which they enslaved to work, in mining gold and otherwise. They were overworked and along with the diseases the Spanish and Portuguese brought from the Old World, this led to the decimation of Amerindians, and even depopulation of certain parts. The Spanish priest Bartholomew De Las Casas criticized the cruel Spanish treatment of Amerindians and proposed importing African slaves as supposedly stronger replacements. The first African slaves, initially from Spain itself, were brought in as early as 1501 in what is now the Dominican Republic. The English, French, and Dutch in time tried to profit from the American territories as well, for instance through state-sanctioned piracy and conquest of Spanish and Portuguese territories or islands. Dutch captain Piet Heyn captured the large Spanish silver fleet near Cuba in 1628, providing the Dutch state with funds to invade and eventually conquer a large part of Portuguese Brazil. This became Dutch Brazil (1630-1654), and eventually meant a shift in the Dutch focus on slavery. Like the Portuguese before them the Dutch employed Amerindians as slaves and also (imported) Africans. In the process slave-based plantation agriculture was modernized in Dutch Brazil, with international repercussions. Modernized and intensified sugar plantations also developed – partly under Dutch-Brazilian influence - in the British colony Barbados and later Jamaica and other Caribbean colonies. These and other islands/colonies became plantation-dominated. These larger-scale sugar - and coffee - plantations increased the need for slave labourers.
In the later Dutch colony Suriname, taken over from the British in 1667, many such plantations were set up and African slaves were imported. The Caribbean islands in Dutch possession, like Curaçao and Aruba, were for climatological reasons less suitable for plantations, but they also played an important role in slavery, as Curaçao was a major entrepot for the slave trade.
The conditions for slaves were very harsh; slaves were at the bottom of society and treated as chattel rather than humans. They were ”socially dead”. There were some gradations, however, as some powers, such as Spain and France, had relatively more laws protecting slaves and giving them a few rights. These were on the other hand also often ignored by slave owners. Sources at the time claimed that the slavery regime in Suriname was exceptionally cruel, such as in punishments. Some historians now question this, pointing at relatively few differences between international slavery regimes. Conditions were generally harsh, exemplified by the fact that in most colonies in the Caribbean region more slaves died than were born, and life expectancy of Africans in e.g. Jamaica, Haiti or Suriname, after arrival, was often no more than 6 years, necessitating more slave imports. Also, throughout all colonies slaves repeatedly tried to rebel or escape, and those who succeeded founded maroon communities of escaped slaves, such as in the interior of Suriname. Comparable maroon communities arose in Jamaica and Eastern Cuba.
Drawing from 1850 of a sugar mill, part of a plantation, in Suriname (source: collection KITLV, signature nr. 36C353)
Plantation-based slavery continued to thrive in Suriname, along with neighbouring parts of current-day Guyana (also Dutch officially until 1815). According to some historians the profitability for the Dutch state of slave-based plantations had diminished strongly by the early 19th century. It continued nonetheless until 1863, the year that the Netherlands abolished slavery in its colonies in the West. Later than some other powers, as the British abolished slavery for instance in 1833, and France in 1848. The slave trade was abolished officially a time before this, although illegal trade continued.
The Dutch brought slaves destined for their colonies from various parts of Africa. The Dutch held for a long time a trading fort/base at Elmina on the Ghanaian coast. Slaves from what is now Ghana were due to this numerous, though not predominant. High percentages of the slaves in Suriname also came from the Fon Ewe region around Benin and from the Angola/Congo region. This is still noticeable in African cultural and linguistic survivals in present-day Suriname as well as Curaçao.
A recent estimate is that the Dutch transported overall a total of more than half a million African slaves to the Americas. Less than larger powers as Portugal and Britain, but still representing a shameful period of cynical trade in and (ab)use of human beings in Dutch history. This past has according to many not received due attention in Dutch historiography or education, although this attention increased recently. This is symbolized by the inauguration of the slavery monument in the Oosterpark in Amsterdam in 2001.
Desenkadena monument in Curaçao, revealed in 1998, recalling the slave rebellion led by Tula in 1795 (source: collection KITLV, signature nr. 41791)
Slavery  in the (Netherlands) East Indies
The subject of slavery in the East Indies is not nearly as well-known as its counterpart in the Caribbean, and has only in recent decades begun to attract attention. In fact, however, slavery and other forms of unfree labour have a long and sad history in Indonesia and other Southeast Asian societies, both in pre-colonial and colonial times. However, rather than forming the heart of a plantation economy as was the case in the West Indies, slavery in the Dutch possessions in Asia was mainly associated with coastal trade centres, as a source of labour for foreign traders, as well as a status symbol for local elites. The Dutch, who arrived in the Indonesian archipelago in the early 17th century, participated in and interacted with existing Indian Ocean slave trade networks. While the Dutch East Indonesian Trading Company (VOC) initially tended to import slaves from other coastal parts of Asia, such as the Malabar and Coromandel coasts of India, and to some extent from Madagascar and East Africa, from the 1660s onwards the majority of the slave population originated from various regions of the Indonesian archipelago.
Male and female slaves from the household of Raja Umbu Timba of Napu (Central Sumba). Photo by G.P. Rouffaer, 1910 (source: KITLV collection, signature nr. 503703).
While slavery was hereditary, low reproductive rates among the slave population necessitated constant replenishment of the supply of unfree labour by purchasing slaves. The VOC acquired most of its slaves through a network of Chinese, European and Eurasian traders who were in turn supplied by indigenous traders, particularly Balinese and Buginese (since Bali and Makassar both functioned as major entrepots for the slave trade, these ethnic groups were strongly represented among slave traders as well as slaves).
Although the major indigenous states, for instance in Java, did generally not enslave their native populations, smaller states and stateless societies with insufficient means of supporting a rapidly increasing population regularly exported their demographic surplus as slaves. Apart from the Balinese and Buginese, typical target groups for slavers in Southeast Asia included the Dayak of Kalimantan, the Batak of Sumatra, the Toraja of Sulawesi, the Alfuru of Maluku, the various peoples of the Lesser Sunda Islands (Nusa Tenggara), and the Papua of New Guinea, as well as similarly vulnerable groups in the Philippines and the Malay Peninsula. For a significant number of Southeast Asian coastal communities, piracy and slave raiding formed an integral part of the local economic system. Indigenous tribal societies often enslaved their war captives, or their people were enslaved by stronger neighbouring states, such as the sultanates of Aceh, Palembang, Johore (in present-day Malaysia), Goa, Ternate, and Tidore. Some indigenous societies, such as the Toraja, had hereditary slave castes. Slavery could also result from judicial punishment or debt bondage.

In 17th- and 18th-century Batavia and other VOC-dominated towns, a multi-ethnic group of slaves tended to make up a significant part of the urban population (about 40 per cent being typical). The majority of slaves in the Dutch East Indies worked as domestic servants in households with fewer than 10 slaves on average, although some masters owned 50 or more slaves. Others, particularly 'Company slaves' owned and employed by the VOC, performed a wide range of tasks, for instance in the construction of buildings and public works, at the docks and shipyards, as agricultural hands for growing food or cash crops, as industrial laborers (for instance in the many sugar mills in the Environs of Batavia), in administrative capacities, or as traders. The Banda Islands were an exception as significant amounts of slave labour were employed on its nutmeg plantations. Company slaves could also end up in other VOC trading posts, for instance in Ceylon or the Cape Colony.
Manumission of slaves gave rise to communities of freedmen, such as the Portuguese-speaking, Christianized 'Mardijkers' of mainly South Asian extraction. Although slavery was socially accepted, permitted by law, and often rationalized with reference to quasi-Christian arguments, some colonial slave owners, perhaps aware of the uneasy relationship between slave ownership and Christian values, manumitted their slaves when they reached a certain age, or arranged for them to be freed after their master's death. A well-known example is the case of Cornelis Chastelein, who had stipulated in his will the manumission of all his Christian slaves after his death (in 1714) and allowed them to form their own community in Depok in present-day Jakarta. Not infrequently, manumitted slaves at some point became slave owners or traders themselves.
Although Dutch law formally provided a measure of protection against maltreatment, in practice abuse of slaves was all too common. Willem van Hogendorp's 1779 stage play Kraspoekol (lit. 'hitting hard') was a plea, ahead of its time in a number of respects, for better treatment of slaves. Although large-scale slave uprisings were virtually absent in the East Indies, individual outbursts of violence or poisoning of slave owners, as well as other indirect forms of resistance, were fairly common. Bands of runaway slaves roamed the hinterlands of many slave-holding urban centres.
The slave trade was banned by Lieutenant-Governor Raffles during the British interregnum in the region (1811-1815), and henceforth remained illegal. The slave population dwindled to a fraction of its former size until slavery was finally abolished in 1860. In practice, however, this did not end the existence of slavery in the Indonesian archipelago. Illegal slave trade still took place, and indigenous slavery continued in areas that were not yet under direct control of the colonial state.
Relevant websites on slavery
NTR, Slavernij: (Dutch) television programme on slavery: five weekly episodes, starting September 18th, 2011 (also in cooperation with the KITLV). See:
The Trans-Atlantic slave trade database. See:
NINSEE: National Institute for the Study of Dutch Slavery and its Legacy. See:
Wikipedia article on the history of slavery world wide. See:

Report About Slavery And Child Labor In India’s Handmade Carpet Industry

Slavery in India
1. The Problem
India’s challenges are immense. The world’s second most populous country with a population of over 1.2 billion people, India exhibits the full spectrum of different forms of modern slavery, from severe forms of inter-generational bonded labour across various industries to the worst forms of child labour, commercial sexual exploitation, and forced and servile marriage. India’s own 2008 Integrated Plan of Action to Prevent and Combat Human Trafficking describes the problem as follows: “India is a country of vast dimensions. The formidable challenge is the enormity of the problem, both in number of trafficked persons and increasing number of locations. The 2013 US TIP Report cites figures of an estimated 20 to 65 million Indian citizens in forced labour within India as a result of debt bondage While this estimate is much larger than the Walk Free estimate, both estimates underscore the enormity of the problem within India itself.
Reports consistently note that India’s most significant challenge is the high number of Indian citizens in various forms of modern slavery within India’s borders. For example, the 2013 US TIP Report that suggests ninety per cent of trafficking in India is internal.7 Some of this results from internal migration, as migrants can originate from poor rural communities, lured to relatively wealthier cities by brokers on the false pretence of employment. Internally trafficked men, women and children make up significant shares of the workforce in construction, textiles, brick making, mines, fish and prawn processing and hospitality However it is important to note that many of India’s enslaved have not been moved from one place to another – they are enslaved in their own villages. Many are trapped in debt bondage to a local landowner or born into slavery because of caste, customary, social and hereditary obligations.
Forced labour has been identified in factory work, agriculture, brick making, mining and quarrying, the textiles and garments industries, domestic work, and forced begging. Bonded labour, whether through debt or other forms of ‘bondage’ of workers, is rife in stone quarries, brick kilns, construction and mining The difficulty for internal migrant workers in accessing protections and government entitlements, such as the food rations card, which is based on a worker’s residence, is thought to increase vulnerability to exploitation. Likewise for those enslaved in their own area, corruption or non-performance of safety nets (such as the National Employment Guarantee, food rations, primary health care and pensions) and practices of land grabbing and asset domination by high caste groups (or for commercial development) leaves people without protections. Some of those affected by slavery in India do not officially exist – they have no birth registration or ID so it can be hard for them to access protective entitlements.
Cross-border migration affects India on a massive scale. Low skilled migrant workers – both internal and foreign (regular and irregular) – are at particular risk of exploitation. Vast numbers of Nepali and Bhutanese migrants, who are exempt from Indian migration visa regulations, fall victim to unscrupulous recruiters and exploiters who take advantage of their vulnerability as new arrivals. Among these vulnerable cross border migrants are droves of undocumented Bangladeshis who, as unskilled labourers, are not able to qualify for employment visas, and turn to illegal brokers to facilitate employment.
Sexual exploitation of Indian women, men, transgender people and children within India, is widespread. Commercial sexual exploitation takes place in specific established areas but is also now much more dispersed into rural areas, transport hubs, roadside restaurants and houses in suburban areas, extensively using cell phones, making it harder to locate and tackle. Foreign women, largely from Nepal and Bangladesh, have been identified in situations of commercial sexual exploitation.
In 2011, the ILO Committee of Experts “noted the Government [of India’s] indication in its 2008 Report that since the enactment of the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976 (BLSA), 287,555 bonded labourers had been identified, of whom 267,593 had been rehabilitated.” However, the ILO Committee of Experts also noted that “findings from research studies showed that bonded labour in agriculture and in industries like mining, brick kilns, silk and cotton production, and bidi making was likely to be affecting millions of workers across the country.” The ILO Committee of Experts has urged India to undertake national bonded labour surveys. Also, the identification and rehabilitation noted by the ILO Experts happened a long time ago, and in many Indian States local officials are not currently encouraged or supported to find bonded labourers.
The 2012 UNODC Global Report on Trafficking in Persons noted a global dimension to trafficking flows originating in South Asia. Indian nationals who have migrated for work have found themselves in modern slavery – often involving recruitment intermediaries and debt bondage – around the world. They have been exploited in various industries including construction, mining, agriculture and hospitality, in manual labour and commercial sexual exploitation, as well as in private domestic work and as domestic staff at Indian diplomatic missions abroad.


The World Bank estimated in 2012 that 32.7% of Indians lived below the international poverty line of less than US$1.25/day (PPP). Poverty and India’s caste system are significant contributing factors to its modern slavery problem. Indians most vulnerable to modern slavery are those from the ‘lower’ castes (dalits), and the indigenous communities (adivasis), especially women and children. In surveys of violence and discrimination against women, India is consistently ranked poorly. The low status of women and severity and prevalence of domestic violence in society puts them at risk of modern slavery.
‘Non-labour’ forms of modern slavery, including forced and servile marriage, fraudulent adoption and organ trafficking have been identified in India. Forced marriage is partly fuelled by sex-ratio disparity – those states with worst disparity import girls into servile marriages from poorer states.  Commercial surrogacy is legal in India and is an area of concern because of the potential for exploitation to occur, however no cases that would constitute modern slavery have been publicly verified, and surrogacy laws are in the process of being tightened.


The Government has taken some important steps to set up the infrastructure of a response to various forms of modern slavery. For example, if fully implemented, the social safety net provisions such as the Employment Guarantee could be a best practice to be followed by other countries. However, considering the power and resources of the Indian Government, the Government has not fulfilled its duty to protect its citizens. Until recently, the response to human trafficking focused almost exclusively on the sexual exploitation of women and children, and other forms of human trafficking including those affecting men were barely recognised. National leaders tend not to recognise the violent criminality of bonded labour and instead see it as a vestige of poverty.
India has ratified a number of key Conventions relevant to modern slavery. However, India is one of the few remaining countries in the world not to have ratified the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention. While not always slavery, these so called “worst forms” of child labour covered by this Convention occur on a significant scale in India and are deeply connected to the modern slavery issue. India’s Right to Education – whereby the authorities are required to ensure all children of school going age are in school – is important, as is the Integrated Child Protection Scheme, in making a difference in some areas. There have been efforts in many places to enforce child labour laws. India has not ratified the Domestic Work Convention.
Until recently, Indian legislation on modern slavery was complicated and confused. However, following amendments to the Penal Code in April 2013, all forms of human trafficking are now criminalised in accordance with the definition from the UN Trafficking Protocol. The definition used in the amended Penal Code appears broad enough, at least on paper, to include most if not all forms of forced labour, bonded labour and forced marriage (as bonded labour and forced marriage are covered within the meaning of the term ‘slavery like practice’). However, it remains to be seen if the Penal Code will be used in this way.
Bonded labour has been criminalised in India, under the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act 1976 (BLSA) for close to three decades. However, enforcement has been sporadic and weak. The Act declares that bonded labour is abolished as of 25 October 1975, and that bonded labourers were relieved of their obligation to repay their bonded debt. However, in 2013, bonded labour continues to be prevalent and NGOs report having insufficient resources to empower communities to shed the burden of forced labour. Human rights defenders have also been targeted for anti-slavery work: one NGO reported an attack on their workers, as well as victims and officials while in process of assisting bonded labourers to leave the workplace where they had been held in slavery. Penalties under this law are low, set at a maximum of three years imprisonment, compared to ten years under the recent human trafficking amendments to the Penal Code.
NGOs have stated that enforcement of laws criminalising modern slavery is inconsistent, and the complicity or interference of government officials has been widely reported. As a result national and state level responses are not benefitting those in slavery as much as they should, due to complicity of local officials and their avoidance of conflict with locally powerful slaveholders and traffickers.
The justice system is very slow generally, so victims have little or no confidence in its capacity to deliver a result. NGOs have also reported a focus on the trafficking of women and children, particularly for sexual exploitation, and less willingness on the part of government and law enforcement to deal with the exploitation of adult males, or to address the far more locally prevalent forms of debt bondage or bonded labour.
Information is not available about the Indian Government’s total budget allocation to responding to modern slavery. It is known that the Indian Government has increased funding of anti-trafficking activities to state governments, however there is notable variation among states’ budgetary allocations and responses to the problem of modern slavery. For example, the May 2013 UNODC Country Assessment for India noted that in Uttar Pradesh in India’s north and bordering with Nepal, “the state has not taken any concrete steps to combat trafficking.” In the state of Odisha in India’s East, on the other hand, preventative steps have been taken and various initiatives are in place to identify vulnerable communities and provide services to victims.
In 2005, the Ministry of Rural Development introduced the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act 2005 (NREGA), aimed at enhancing the livelihood security of people in rural areas by guaranteeing one hundred days of wage-employment in a financial year to a rural household whose adult members agree to do unskilled manual work. This scheme provides an alternative for those trapped in bonded labour and the national Government and NGOs are working hard to popularise this. In some states, the ability of NREGA to benefit those in need depends on NGO mobilisation of local populations to pressure local village leaders. More investment in NGO outreach and enforcement of NREGA is needed to ensure its proper implementation. If fully implemented, NREGA would be a programme of global significance in the fight against modern slavery.
The National Advisory Committee to Combat Trafficking focuses on the trafficking of women and children for sexual exploitation. Meetings of the Committee occurred in 2009, 2011 and 2012. Reports of the National Advisory Committee are not publicly available but the main issues discussed are shared through press notes as well as the advisories issued by the Central Government to the state governments to combat trafficking. For example, a 2012 Advisory on Human Trafficking as an Organised Crime, issued under the integrated Plan of Action, focuses on the requirements of an effective criminal justice response to human trafficking. This Advisory notes the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is the national lead, and single point of liaison between the Ministry of External Affairs and State parties on conventions and protocols. The Advisory recommends several key action points; primarily the establishment and training of Anti-Human Trafficking Units (AHTU) at State level including the training of local police officers for law enforcement and local intelligence units. According to the Advisory, State police agencies may set up help lines and special desks in police stations and control rooms to address this issue on a real time basis. However, the number of AHTUs that have been established at the State level that meet this standard is unknown.
The Ministry of Home Affairs, along with UNODC, developed standard operating procedures (SOPs) for the identification of victims of trafficking, in 2009. State governments were advised to implement them, but as of March 2013 no evaluation of the implementation of the SOPs has been conducted. Many officials are unaware of relevant laws and procedures, however recent initiatives aimed at increasing awareness of modern slavery among police, such as a new academic course for police run by the Indira Gandhi National Open University, are encouraging.
Significant gaps remain in the support provided to victims of modern slavery in India. Gaps include a failure to provide Release Certificates for rescued bonded labourers, especially in States that do not acknowledge bonded labour. Even for those with Release Certificates there are serious delays in issuing payments of compensation. There is a critical need for clearer, faster and more victim-focused processes of repatriation and visa assistance for foreign victims, who can sometimes be stuck in shelters for years. Services to foreign migrant workers are ad hoc and are mainly delivered by NGOs and IOs. For example, Migrant Resource Centres exist in Kerala and Hyderabad and are run by the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs (MOIA) in collaboration with local government and IOM. Limited support and services are available to Indian nationals exploited abroad, through embassies and labour attaches. MOIA has also set up Indian Community Welfare Fund to provide legal, medical and repatriation support to the stranded Indian workers abroad. The Ministry for Women and Child Development funds a number of services run by NGOs for women victims. It is not clear whether any surveys have been carried out regarding client-victim satisfaction with services provided. No services are offered under these programmes to adult male victims. The quality of government run shelter homes ranges from acceptable to very poor, with women in some states being left to languish in these homes, with poor nutrition and medical care, and few opportunities to improve their skills for the future. There is no effective inspection and regulation system in some states, with shelter homes (including those run by NGOs) operating as closed systems without any effective protections for the women. Adult women survivors are not necessarily free to leave.
Provisions within the Penal Code allow a victim of trafficking to seek compensation against a perpetrator. No information is available as to whether or not these have ever been successfully used. There is also a state fund for victims of bonded labour under the BLSA, through which victims of bonded labour are entitled to compensation of 20,000 rupees (approx. $450); however disbursement of funds has been uneven. Women and children in bonded labour in commercial sexual exploitation do not get access to this standard compensation because their cases are not prosecuted under the BLSA.


In 2011, Indian National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), which is mandated by the Supreme Court to monitor the implementation of the BLSA, established a Core Group on Bonded Labour. The Core Group is chaired by NHRC and brings together government and non-government actors working to end bonded labour to review laws and policies, identify best practice, and coordinate the country’s response. It seems the core group has only met once.
On 15 October 2012, the Supreme Court issued a judgment, requiring all states to carry out surveys to identify and release those in bonded labour. It is understood that the State of Karnataka is leading in this regard, with a detailed Karnataka State Action Plan on Bonded Labour 2008, which provides detailed guidance for every responsible official, and specifies the exact support available to victims in the State. Other States are yet to follow this lead. Karnataka has recently trained officials across the whole state in how to carry out these surveys and register individuals found in bonded labour.
Other important directions in the Supreme Court judgment include mandating the rural and urban local bodies to report cases of bonded labour to the District Magistrates who in addition to use of the BLSA, are able to properly and effectively implement the Minimum Wages Act, the Employees Compensation Act, the Inter-State Migrant Workmen Act, and the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act.
The enactment of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act in 2012 and the recent increase in activity of the National Commission for the Protection of Children’s Rights are important measures that demonstrate the Government’s renewed commitment to fighting against the exploitation of children.
Sale of sexual services is prevalent but highly stigmatised, and, to the extent it is ‘organised,’ it is criminalised in India. A 2009 UNDP research paper estimated that there were over 3 million sex workers in India, a significant proportion of whom were “seasonal migrants and commuters.” Many of these people began this work as children. A focus on brothel raids and ‘rescue’ of victims is a prominent feature of India’s response. There have been several reported instances of women being detained against their will in ‘shelters’ and forced into social programmes  Since the case of Buddhadev Karmaskar vs State of West Bengal in the Supreme Court, a committee has been established to “examine the issue of rehabilitation of sex workers and trafficked victims.”39 Any response should first and foremost respect the human rights of those affected, and ensure that they are not criminalised, detained or forced into ‘rehabilitation’ programmes. Responses to modern slavery should be careful to take into account that while victims of human trafficking need to be assisted to freedom, some adults work in the sex industry for survival.


India should:
  • Report annually on implementation and progress of efforts to combat all forms of modern slavery, including through provision of criminal justice statistics. This will require the establishment of protocols on the collection and compilation of data.
  • Undertake national prevalence estimates on modern slavery.
  • Ratify and implement the Convention on the Worst Forms of Child Labour, and the Domestic Work Convention.
  • Require States to report on how they have followed up on the Supreme Court Judgement of October 15, 2012, which required all states to carry out surveys to identify and release those in bonded labour. The efforts currently being made in the State of Karnataka should be promoted and followed by other States.
  • Update rules for use in implementing the Bonded Labour Act.
  • Update the 2008 integrated Plan of Action to combat human trafficking so that it reflects current conditions, the new law and targets the full spectrum of modern slavery.
  • At the State level, develop and implement action plans on bonded labour in every state and union territory, following the example of the Karnataka State Action Plan on Bonded Labour 2008. Appoint a high level responsible officer at the State and District level, who focuses only on tasks related to bonded labour and other forms of modern slavery. Official District Bonded Labour Vigilance Committees should be made active, involving committed NGO representatives and slavery survivors.
  • Undertake an assessment to understand whether the AHTUs established are consistently applying relevant laws and guidance, and understand whether all forms of modern slavery are in fact being investigated and prosecuted.
  • Strengthen protections for victims of modern slavery and ensure that they are not criminalised. Victims must be protected (including protecting their identities) throughout the duration of their cases and methods of speeding up trials should be implemented. Ensure follow-up with reintegrated survivors.
  • Invest in well-supported outreach to typical sites of slave labour to raise awareness about rights.
  • Upgrade shelter homes and take steps to ensure that the human rights of shelter home residents are observed and penalties imposed on those who violate their rights. Sheltering of victims (by both NGOs and government) should not in reality be a system of false imprisonment and punishment. The qualification of leadership of these institutions, as well as the training and re-training of staff should be given close attention. A programme of investment in upgrading and of independent participation in unannounced inspections should be initiated.
  • Clarify legal, policy and law enforcement responses to commercial sexual exploitation, and respect the human rights of those affected by any response, including those who depend on working in the sex industry for survival, who are not in slavery.
  • Ensure ‘raids’ follow victim-centred procedures to ensure they help more than harm.
  • Strengthen efforts directed at stamping out corruption and complicity of government officials in modern slavery, including through encouraging innovative, no-cost mechanisms to report suspected official complicity.
  • Continue efforts directed at addressing the underlying causes of modern slavery – such as poverty, illiteracy, underemployment, violence against women, discrimination, lack of access to entitlements such as functioning schools and health services, and social exclusion.
  • Seek to address the “grass is greener over there” stories with information dissemination about the realities of migration, and mobility – and also build specific institutional capacity to inform people and communities about mobility.


  1. 2012 Population Data, The World Bank 
  2. 2012 GDP $US Data, The World Bank 
  3. 2012 GDP per capita $US Data, The World Bank 
  4. Migration and Remittances Data, Inflows, 2011, The World Bank 
  5. ‘Integrated Plan of Action to Prevent and Combat Human Trafficking with Special Focus on Children and Women” (2008), Ministry of Women and Child Development 
  6. “US Trafficking in Persons Report 2013”, India Country Narrative, p290, US Department of State: 
  7. Ibid. 
  8. Information from field based sources. 
  9. Ibid. 
  10. Ibid. 
  11. US Trafficking in Persons Report 2012”, India Country Narrative, pp. 184-185, US Department of State: 
  12. “US Trafficking in Persons Report 2013”, India Country Narrative, p195, US Department of State: 
  13. Ibid. 
  14. Observation (CEACR) – adopted 2011, published 101nd ILC session (2012), Forced Labour Convention, 1930, (No. 29): 
  15. Ibid. 
  16. Information from field based sources. 
  17. “UNODC Global Report on Trafficking in Persons” (2012), p73, UNODC: 
  18. “India: Worst country in G20 to be a woman?”, (31 July 2012), BBC Radio Four 
  19. United States Trafficking in Persons Report 2013, US Department of State, p195: 
  20. “India’s new surrogacy laws are only part of the equation”, (14 March 2013), Monash University, Dr Liz Bishop: 
  21. “India official: it’s not slavery” (10 March 2011), CNN Freedom Project 
  22. The Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976, Child Line India 
  23. “Human Rights Worker Hospitalized as Brick Kiln Owner and Henchmen Attack Rescued Slaves During Police Raid” (13 June 2013), Free The Slaves blog 
  24. “US Trafficking in Persons Report 2013”, India Country Narrative, p195, US Department of State: 
  25. Information from field based sources. 
  26. For detailed analysis of services on state by state basis, see “Current Status of Victim Service Providers and Criminal Justice Actors in India on Anti-Human Trafficking” (May 2013), pp. 61-156, UNODC Country Assessment Report: 
  27. “Current Status of Victim Service Providers and Criminal Justice Actors in India on Anti-human Trafficking” (2013), p151, UNODC Regional Office for South East Asia 
  28. Ibid. 
  29. “Mahatma Ghandi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act 2005”, Ministry of Rural Development, Government of India:
  30. “55 CID officials join course against human trafficking” (29 June 2013), The Times of India 
  31. Information from field based sources. 
  32. Ibid. 
  33. “US Trafficking in Persons Report 2011”, India Country Study, pp. 188-191, US Department of State: 
  34. According to field-based sources in India, if these cases are prosecuted, it is under ITPA or other parts of the penal code (kidnapping, rape etc) – but almost never bonded labour under the BLSA. Under ITPA, or if children are assisted by using the Juvenile Justice Act, there may be some discretionary assistance given but they do not have the same right to a substantial compensation grant. Law enforcement and NGOs do not consider commercial sexual exploitation as bonded labour 
  35. Information from field based sources. 
  36. Ibid. 
  37. For example, “25 women rescued in trafficking cases escape,” (21 April 2013), Times of India 
  38. “Budhadev Karmaskar vs State of West Bengal” (14 February, 2011), Criminal Appeal No 135 of 2010, Indian Supreme Court: 
  39. “Current Status of Victim Service Providers and Criminal Justice Actors in India on Anti-human Trafficking” (2013), p16, UNODC Regional Office for South East Asia (http://www.globalslaveryindex)
The inaugural edition of the Global Slavery Index 2013 provides a ranking of 162 countries around the world, based on a combined measure of three factors: 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 Index provides a quantitative ranking of 162 countries around the world according to the estimated prevalence of slavery, that is, the estimated percentage of enslaved people in the national population at a point in time.  The Index also provides an estimate of the size of the modern slavery problem, country by country.
The Global Slavery Index is the product of the Walk Free Foundation, in consultation with experts from international organizations, think tanks and academic institutions.  The Index is endorsed by political leaders such as Hillary Clinton, Tony Abbott, Gordon Brown, Gareth Evans and Julia Gillard; philanthropists such as Bill Gates and Mo Ibrahim; and expert humanitarians such as Muhammad Yunus, Luis C’deBaca and Louise Arbour.
We hope this draft Index will stimulate discussion ultimately leading to an improvement in the strength and usefulness of the Index. The Walk Free Foundation would like to begin a process of engaging with governments and ultimately supporting countries to assess their response to modern slavery and improve the effectiveness of their response.


The Global Slavery Index provides a ranking, reflecting a combined weighted measure of three variables:
  1. Estimated prevalence of modern slavery in each country (accounting for 95% of the total)
  2. A measure of the level of human trafficking to and from each country (accounts for 2.5%)
  3. A measure of the level of child and early marriage in each country (accounts for 2.5%)
The data for the first variable ‘estimated prevalence’ (which accounts for the majority of the findings) were taken from 2 types of research:
  1. Secondary collection – a review of the public record, also referred to as secondary source information – published reports from governments, the investigations of non-governmental and international organizations, and journalistic reports across all media.
  2. Data from representative random sample surveys (meaning they are collected randomly and thus can reliably represent the larger population) – they yield a statistical estimate of the prevalence of modern slavery based on first-hand reports by individuals. Information gained in this way is superior to secondary sources, but is available for a limited number of countries. Because sample surveys do not exist for many countries, the Index uses representative sample data to statistically extrapolate the prevalence of slavery for select countries that have not yet had random sample surveys.
The data on the level of human trafficking in and out of a country were taken from the US Trafficking in Persons report whilst the child marriage numbers are from UNICEF.


In 2013, modern slavery takes many forms, and is known by many names: slavery, forced labour or human trafficking.
- ‘Slavery’ refers to the condition of treating another person as if they were property – something to be bought, sold, traded or even destroyed.
- ‘Forced labour’ is a related but not identical concept, referring to work taken without consent, by threats or coercion.
- ‘Human trafficking’ is another related concept, referring to the process through which people are brought, through deception, threats or coercion, into slavery, forced labour or other forms of severe exploitation.
Whatever term is used, the significant characteristic of all forms of modern slavery is that it involves one person depriving another people of their freedom: their freedom to leave one job for another, their freedom to leave one workplace for another, their freedom to control their own body.


  • Identifying countries and industries most responsible for modern slavery;
  • Identifying and implementing with partners the interventions in those countries and industries that will have the greatest impact on modern slavery; and
  • Critically assessing our impact.
This 21st century solution to a 21st century crisis encompasses these ambitious initiatives:
The Movement: We believe the pathway to ending modern slavery involves building public awareness and channeling this into the kind of mobilisation and campaigning required to encourage decision- makers to respond to consumer and constituent demand;
The world’s first Global Slavery Index: injects actionable empirical evidence into discussions about modern slavery and the development of responses.  Using quantitative methods it provides the first measure of the prevalence of modern slavery in 162 countries and places these figures in the context of what governments are doing to tackle it. The annual Global Slavery Index will be critical in directing efforts to eradicate modern slavery.
The Global Fund to End Modern Slavery: aims to scale proven anti-slavery interventions in high prevalence countries. It will be a multi-stakeholder organisation that will bring together all the actors critical to solving the problem, including governments, the private sector, civil society and survivors of modern slavery. While raising unprecedented levels of capital, it will also apply a business-like empirical rigor to ensure funds are directed towards those interventions proven to deliver the greatest impact.
Business Engagement: Modern slavery will not be eradicated until business leaders ensure their supply chains are slave-free. Walk Free Foundation is working with the world’s business leaders to help them understand how they can play a role in ending modern slavery.

A key finding from this Index is that there are an estimated



According to the index, the prevalence of modern slavery is highest in…
However, when considered in absolute terms, the countries with the highest numbers of enslaved people are…
Taken together, these ten countries account for


of the total estimate of 29.8 million enslaved people.
* The Index provides an estimated range of the number of people in modern slavery, for each of the 162 countries covered by the Index. The lower range of the estimate is 28.3 million in modern slavery, and the upper range of the estimate is 31.3 million in modern slavery. The figure of 29.8 million is the mean of these estimates.


The Global Slavery Index provides a ranking of 162 countries, reflecting a combined measure of three factors: 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, prevalence. A number one ranking is the worst, 160 is the best.
Mauritania, a West African nation with deeply entrenched hereditary slavery, is ranked number 1 in the Index. This reflects the high prevalence of slavery in Mauritania – it is estimated that there are between 140,000 – 160,000 people enslaved in Mauritania, a country with a population of just 3.8 million. This ranking also reflects high levels of child marriage, and to a lesser extent, human trafficking.
Haiti, a Caribbean nation plagued by conflict, natural disaster and with deeply entrenched practices of child slavery (therestavek system), is second on the Index. This reflects high prevalence of modern slavery – an estimated 200,000 – 220,000 people are in modern slavery in Haiti, a country with a population of just 10.2 million. This ranking also reflects high levels of child marriage, and human trafficking from Haiti itself.
Pakistan, with its porous borders to Afghanistan, large populations of displaced persons and weak rule of law, is third on the Index. It is estimated that there are between 2,000,000 – 2,200,000 people in various forms of modern slavery in Pakistan, a country with a population of over 179 million.
Iceland, Ireland and the United Kingdom are tied with a ranking of 160 in the Index. This does not mean these countries are slavery free. On the contrary, it is estimated that there are between 4,200 – 4,600 people in modern slavery in the United Kingdom alone. The estimated size of the problem in Ireland and Iceland is much smaller, with Ireland estimated to have 300 – 340 people in modern slavery, and Iceland less than 100. An analysis of the UK response on this issue confirms much more can be done, as the Government response is fragmented and disjointed, and that there have been alarming systemic failures, including the loss of trafficked children from care.

Estimated number of population in modern slavery

The Global Slavery Index also provides insight into the estimated absolute numbers of people in modern slavery, in 162 countries. When the estimated number of enslaved people is considered in absolute terms as a single factor, the country ranking shifts considerably.
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% of the total estimate of 29.8 million in modern slavery.
The country with the largest estimated number of people in modern slavery is India, which is estimated to have between 13,300,000 and 14,700,000 people enslaved. The India country study suggests that while this involves the exploitation of some foreign nationals, by far the largest proportion of this problem is the exploitation of Indians citizens within India itself, particularly through debt bondage and bonded labour.
The country with the second highest absolute numbers of enslaved is China, with an estimated 2,800,000 to 3,100,000 in modern slavery. The China country study suggests that this includes the forced labour of men, women and children in many parts of the economy, including domestic servitude and forced begging, the sexual exploitation of women and children, and forced marriage.
The country with the third highest absolute number in modern slavery is Pakistan, with an estimated 2,000,000 to 2,200,000 people in modern slavery.ry when they were estimating prevalence country by country?
20 Country Studies, for the worst 10 and best 10 countries by prevalence, are contained in the report. These studies describe the problem, government responses, and action needed to address modern slavery in these countries. Supplementary Country Studies are in development and will continue to be made available here.


Country NameRank
Côte d’Ivoire8
The Gambia9


Country NameRank
New Zealand159
United Kingdom160


Supplementary studies are in development and will continue to be made available here.
Country NameRank
Democratic Republic of the Congo23
United States134


The Global Slavery Index presents a ranking of 162 countries, based on a combination of their estimated prevalence of modern slavery, levels of child marriage, and levels of human trafficking into and out of the country.
Not all the countries in the world are represented in the Global Slavery Index. The 162 countries that are included, however, represent nearly all of the world’s 7.1 billion people. These countries collect a sufficient amount of standardised data to allow comparison across countries and regions. While equally as important, for the most part, those countries that have not been included are those having fewer than 100,000 citizens.
RankCountry NamePopulationCalculated Number of EnslavedEstimated Enslaved (Lower Range)Estimate Enslaved (Upper Range)
8Côte d'Ivoire19,839,750156,827150,000160,000
13Sierra Leone5,978,72744,64442,00047,000
15Cape Verde494,4013,6883,5003,900
19Republic of Congo4,337,05130,88929,00032,000
23Democratic Republic of the Congo65,705,093462,327440,000490,000
26Burkina Faso16,460,141114,745110,000120,000
31Central African Republic4,525,20932,17431,00034,000
35Equatorial Guinea736,2965,4535,2005,800
54Czech Republic10,514,81037,81736,00040,000
59Bosnia and Herzegovina3,833,91613,78913,00015,000
79Dominican Republic10,276,62123,18322,00024,000
82Saudi Arabia28,287,85557,50455,00060,000
88United Arab Emirates9,205,65118,71318,00020,000
95El Salvador6,297,39410,49010,00011,000
106Papua New Guinea7,167,0106,1315,8006,400
115South Africa51,189,30744,54542,00047,000
118Sri Lanka20,328,00019,26718,00020,000
133Trinidad and Tobago1,337,439486460510
134United States313,914,04059,64457,00063,000
137South Korea50,004,00010,4519,90011,000
141Hong Kong, SAR China7,154,6001,5431,5001,600
146Costa Rica4,805,295679650710
159New Zealand4,433,100495470520
160United Kingdom63,227,5264,4264,2004,600

Modern-day slavery: an explainer

Slavery was abolished by most countries 150 years ago, but bonded and forced labour, trafficking and exploitation persist
MDG : Slavery : slave workers found in illegal charcoal camps in Amazon, Brazil
A worker carries a bag of charcoal on to a truck in Rondon do Para. Brazil was the last country to withdraw from the transatlantic slave trade. Photograph: Mario Tama/Getty

What is modern-day slavery?

About 150 years after most countries banned slavery – Brazil was the last to abolish its participation in the transatlantic slave trade, in 1888 – millions of men, women and children are still enslaved. Contemporary slavery takes many forms, from women forced into prostitution, to child slavery in agriculture supply chains or whole families working for nothing to pay off generational debts. Slavery thrives on every continent and in almost every country. Forced labour, people trafficking, debt bondage and child marriage are all forms of modern-day slavery that affect the world's most vulnerable people.

How is slavery defined?

Slavery is prohibited under the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states: "No one shall be held in slavery or servitude: slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms."

Definitions of modern-day slavery are mainly taken from the 1956 UN supplementary convention, which says: "debt bondage, serfdom, forced marriage and the delivery of a child for the exploitation of that child are all slavery-like practices and require criminalisation and abolishment". The 1930 Forced Labour Convention defines forced labour as "all work or service which is exacted from any person under the menace of any penalty and for which the said person has not offered himself voluntarily".

As contemporary systems of slavery have evolved, new definitions, including trafficking and distinguishing child slavery from child labour, have developed.

Some of the forms of slavery are:

Bonded labour: people become bonded labourers after falling into debt and being forced to work for free in an attempt to repay it. Many will never pay off their loans, and debt can be passed down through the generations.

Forced labour: where people are forced to work, usually with no payment, through violence or intimidation. Many find themselves trapped, often in a foreign country with no papers, and unable to leave.

Descent-based slavery: where people are born into slavery because their families belong to a class of "slaves" within a society. The status of "slave" passes from mother to child.

Trafficking: the transport or trade of people from one area to another and into conditions of slavery.

Child slavery: children are in slavery as domestic workers, forced labour – in, for example, the cocoa, cotton and fisheries industries – trafficked for labour and sexual exploitation, and used as child soldiers.

Early and forced marriage: women continue to be married without consent, often while still girls, and forced into sexual and domestic servitude.

How many people are enslaved across the world?

Due to its illegality, data on modern-day slavery is difficult to collate. The UN's International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimates that about 21 million people are in forced labour at any point in time. The ILO says this estimate includes trafficking and other forms of modern slavery. The only exceptions are trafficking for organ removal, forced marriage and adoption, unless the last two practices result in forced labour.

The ILO calculates that 90% of the 21 million are exploited by individuals or companies, while 10% are forced to work by the state, rebel military groups, or in prisons under conditions that violate ILO standards. Sexual exploitation accounts for 22% of slaves.

On trafficking – that is, people trapped in forced labour as a result of internal or cross-border migration – the ILO calculates that 29% end up in forced labour after crossing international borders, the majority through trafficking for sexual exploitation. About 56% of the 21 million are exploited where they live.

Where does slavery exist?

Slavery exists in one form or another in every country. Asia accounts for more than half of the ILO's 21 million estimate. In terms of percentage of population, central and south-east Europe has the highest prevalence of forced labour, followed by Africa, the Middle East, Asia Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean.

Who is affected?

Although modern-day slavery affects a cross-section of the population, some groups are more vulnerable. Unsurprisingly, women and girls are more at risk than men and boys. Women make up the majority of those being exploited – 55% are women and girls, and account for the vast majority of sexually exploited people. Children make up a quarter of all those in slavery.

Slaves usually come from the most vulnerable, minority or socially excluded groups. For instance, forced and bonded labour is often interlinked with the caste system in south Asia. Caste-based slavery is carried down through the generations, embedded in traditional beliefs and customs, and underpinned by cultural discrimination. Anti-Slavery International estimates that 80-98% of bonded labourers in the region are from dalit (formerly "untouchable") or indigenous communities. Migrant workers are also highly vulnerable.

Who is profiting?

In 2005, the ILO estimated that illegal profits from forced labour amounted to more than $44bn. The UN's global initiative to fight trafficking says people trafficking is the third-largest global criminal industry (pdf) behind drugs and arms trafficking.

The ILO estimates that people in forced labour lose at least $21bn each year in unpaid wages and recruitment fees. Given that remittances to developing countries account for more than three times the global aid budget, there is an impetus for governments to ensure that migration for work is not manipulated by traffickers.
Slavery also exists within global supply chains, generating huge profits for those who control this industry in free labour. Recent economic research has shown that forced labour has broader social and economic costs, in terms of impeding economic development and increasing or perpetuating poverty.


April 4, 2014

‘Small Steps - Big challenges’ in Tamil Nadu’s textile industry

Garment brands not transparent on tackling bonded labour in India

Most Dutch and international companies importing garments from the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu refuse to be transparent about if and how they tackle bonded labour at their suppliers. An estimated 100,000 young children and teenage girls are victims of 'bonded labour' or 'modern slavery'. These girls - mostly Dalit ('outcaste') - live in hostels, with little freedom of movement, underpaid for long working-days and working under unhealthy conditions.
This is an important conclusion of the paper Small Steps, Big Challenges - Update on (tackling) exploitation of girls and young women in the garment supply chain of South India that FNV Mondiaal (international department of Dutch trade union confederation) and the India Committee of the Netherlands have just published. The report discusses the current situation in Tamil Nadu, the limited improvements after previous reports and the responses of 21 Dutch and international garment brands on the question of what they do to combat the abuses. It also discusses the activities of various joint initiatives by companies and other organisations.

Hardly any supply chain transparency
Of the 21 garment companies approached only 8 have responded. These were HEMA (Dutch), Impala Loft (Germany), O'Neill Europe, Migros (Switzerland) PVH/Tommy Hilfiger Europe, Scotch and Soda (Dutch), Van den Broek (Dutch) and Zeeman (Dutch). Companies that were contacted but have not reacted at all are Abercombie & Fitch (USA), Carodel (Belgium), Crew Clothing (UK), IKEA NL, LPP (Poland), Kiddo Fashion (Dutch), Teidem (Dutch), Sorbo Fashion (Dutch), TDP Textiles (UK), Tumble ‘N Dry (Dutch)and Walmart (USA).
Six companies acknowledge that violations of labour rights take place in Tamil Nadu, but only PVH/Tommy Hilfiger and Migros admit that bonded labour – in the form of the Sumangali Scheme (see below) – existed in their production chain. HEMA states it cannot share the information, but nevertheless emphasizes the importance of supply chain transparency. Apart from that, none of the contacted companies publish their list of suppliers, like e.g. Nike, Patagonia and H&M do. Nor did any of these companies consult relevant local organizations in India.

A major obstacle in the mapping of and research on Sumangali or related violations of labour rights is that most companies only monitor their first tier supplier. However, most violations take place further down the production chain, especially in the spinning mills. Only Tommy Hilfiger and O'Neill say they are monitoring further down their supply chain.

Abuses in spinning mills and garment factories
Indian newspapers regularly report on abuses in Indian spinning mills and garment factories:
"On 14 October 2013, 47 young labourers, the majority of them women and young girls, were rescued by local officials and NGOs from the P.V. Spinning Mill in Erode district in Tamil Nadu. This happened after two girls escaped and reported to the district administration that workers suffered in the mill as bonded labourers, with 12 hours working days and poor food. Local organisations reported that forced overtime, deprivation of proper food and bad treatment by the mill management were common working conditions in the mill." (Times of IndiaThe Hindu and other newspapers).

The bonded labour takes place mainly under the so-called Sumangali Scheme, whereby young unmarried women are working in textile mills to save money for their dowry. This means in practice that they only get paid a large part of their (low) wage if they serve out a contract of 3 to 5 years. Under the pressure of criticism new ways are now devised to ‘bind’ the girls. Companies e.g. keep in their own account the contributions to a compulsory social security fund for employers and employees until the end of the contract period, instead of paying it to the designated public agency.

Heavy work for taunted Dalit girls
The non-governmental organization READ in Tamil Nadu combats the Sumangali Scheme with a specific focus on girls from the Arunthatiyar sub-caste, the ‘Dalits among the Dalits’. Almost 60% of the girls working under the Scheme or similar arrangements are Dalits, of whom many belong to the Arunthatiyar. READ has noted that Dalit girls face specific forms of discrimination: while recruiting workers, in the factory hostels as well as on the work floor. READ finds that the rooms in the hostels are allotted ‘community wise’ and that Dalit girls are taunted if they complain about their situation like lack of lightning or water (‘you are used to these comforts, so why do you complain’). Also Dalit girls are forced to do extra work during night shifts. All the heavy work like carding, waste and cone cleaning are given to Dalit girls, while easier work like counting and checking is given to non-Dalit girls.

Some improvements
As a result of previous publications and campaigns – both in India and internationally – some improvements have been put in place at most of the previously investigated major suppliers. These suppliers are Eastman Exports Global ClothingK.P.R. Mill and SSM India. In these companies civil society organisations did get access to monitor the production units and to train employees and management on labour rights. In K.P.R. Mill wages are now transferred to the bank accounts of employees, workers have an identity card, parents are allowed to visit weekly, and the girls can occasionally visit their homes.
In the past few years also several initiatives have been undertaken by companies and other stakeholders to eradicate Sumangali. Of this initiatives the Tamil Nadu Multi-Stakeholder Group (TNMS) of the Ethical Trading Initiative is the most specific. The program began in 2011/12 and has a number of working areas: ethical recruitment (including shortening the apprentice period from 3 years to 6 months), health programs and informing and supporting workers to claim their rights. Most activities have yet to start. Local civil society organizations claim that they are not sufficiently involved in the development of the program. The Business Social Compliance Initiative – a business-driven CSR initiative with a membership of 1,200 companies including some garment companies discussed in the paper – encourages its members importing from South India to join the TNMS Group. BSCI recently redefined its position to the Sumangali Scheme again. First Sumangali was called a 'cultural practice', now BSCI ‘does not endorse Sumangali under any guise’.
FNV Mondiaal and the India Committee of The Netherlands present the following recommendations to companies to combat Sumangali and similar abuses:
  • The ‘audit methodology’ should be improved to detect bonded labour, discrimination and sexual harassment, e.g. by conducting offsite workers interviews, to take additional interventions. Therefore, offsite interviews with workers and their organisations, training for workers and management and a credible grievance mechanism are necessary.
  • Companies need to make public their suppliers, also further down the chain. This also applies to audit findings, plans for improvement and results achieved.
  • CSR initiatives of companies and other stakeholders - such as BSCI, FairWear and ETI - should take the lead in facilitating further supply chain transparency in the garment sector.
  • Meaningful engagement of local civil society organizations in the monitoring of labour conditions and the action plans is crucial for improving the situation. (

Read the full paper:

Dalit boy rescued from bonded labour

Hindu(Staff Reporter)
A nine-year-old Dalit boy who allegedly suffered two years of physical abuse was rescued from the bondage at a village near Karaikudi on Sunday.
Acting on information given by Evidence, a Madurai-based NGO, revenue department officials saved the boy, who was from Indira Nagar in Karaikudi, after they raided a cattle shed at Silukkupatti where he was allegedly made to work for 20 hours a day. The boy was handed over to his parents.
The officials gave the boy’s parents Rs.1,000 as the first instalment of Rs.20,000 compensation guaranteed under the Bonded Labour System Abolition Act.
It has been alleged that Kaaleswaran, a caste Hindu from the same village, had got the thumb impression of the boy’s father, Anand, who repairs old utensils, on a blank paper when he was drunk. Kaaleswaran allegedly used the paper as a promissory note stating that Anand had borrowed Rs.60,000 from him. When Anand denied having taken a loan, the accused threatened to lodge a police complaint, and took his son into his custody.
“I was living in a shed, where nearly 200 goats were accommodated. They served me leftover food thrice a day and never paid any wages,” the boy said. “Kaaleswaran used to abuse me every day,” he added.
It is said that several attempts made by the boy’s parents to rescue him in the last two years proved futile as they too were physically and verbally abused every time they visited him. “We were scared that Kaaleswaran might kill our son, if we approached the police,” said the boy’s mother, Meenambal.
A Dalit activist from Silukkupatti informed the NGO on Saturday of the plight of the boy. A team rushed to the village and alerted the authorities. Kathir, executive director of Evidence, urged the State to provide relief to the boy and his family.
Police have registered an FIR against Kaaleswaran and are on the lookout for him.

International garment brands not transparent about labour exploitation by their Indian suppliers: report

Author(s): M Suchitra
Date:Apr 5, 2014
100,000 young children and teenage girls are victims of 'bonded labour' in Tamil Nadu; dalit girls worse off

An international organisation working for welfare of workers has drawn attention to the hazardous and exploitative working conditions of young girls working for the garment sector in Tamil Nadu.
An estimated 100,000 children and teenage girls are working in extremely oppressive conditions in the spinning mills and garment factories in Tamil Nadu, according to a report released by FNV Mondiaal (international department of Dutch trade union confederation) and the India Committee of the Netherlands. Most of the girls belong to dalit communities and live in hostels, with little freedom of movement. They are underpaid, made to work for long hours in hazardous and unhealthy conditions. They are victims of "bonded labour" or "modern slavery", says the report.
However, international companies importing garments from this southern state of India refuse to be transparent about bonded labour engaged by their suppliers.
A press released based on the report, Small Steps, Big Challenges –Update (pdf), on (tackling) exploitation of girls and young women in the garment supply chain of south India, was issued on April 4.
The report discusses the current situation in Tamil Nadu, the limited improvements after previous reports and the responses of 21 Dutch and international garment brands on the question of what they do to combat the abuses. It also discusses the activities of various joint initiatives by companies and other organisations.
Labour rights violations in Tamil Nadu
A 2013  survey done by  SAVE, an Indian non-governmental organisation,  reveals that the total workforce of the 1,574 spinning mills in Tamil Nadu consists of about  224,000 women workers. An estimated 80 per cent of them are under 18, and 14-20 per cent is under 14. They are often subject to forced overtime, underpayment and hazardous and unhealthy working conditions.
Almost 160,000 of the women worjers stay in hostels. Their freedom of movement is restricted. Often they only leave the hostel once a month for shopping and rarely visit their families. Trade unions are completely absent.
Around half of the total women workers toil under highly exploitative schemes such as Sumangali.  In Sumangali Scheme, young unmarried women work in textile mills to save money for their dowry. In reality, schemes like Sumangali are a form of bonded labour, since wages are withheld and only paid after workers complete a three to five year contract period.
Another exploitative practice is keeping the Employee Provident Fund (EPF) in employers' accounts. EPF is by law a social security fund. Employers are supposed to transfer 12 per cent of the employee's salary to this fund and add the same amount as employers’ contribution. This money has to be transferred to the concerned government office. Instead of transferring the money, there are employers in the textile and garment sector who keep the money in their own account and only transfer it when a worker finishes her 3-5 year contract. A worker who leaves before finishing the contract period loses the PF money she is legally entitled to.
No supply chain transparency
Of the 21 garment companies approached, only eight have responded.  These were HEMA (Dutch), Impala Loft (Germany), O'Neill Europe, Migros (Switzerland) PVH/Tommy Hilfiger Europe, Scotch and Soda (Dutch), Van den Broek (Dutch) and Zeeman (Dutch). Companies that were contacted but have not reacted at all are Abercombie & Fitch (USA), Carodel (Belgium), Crew Clothing (UK), IKEA NL, LPP (Poland), Kiddo Fashion (Dutch), Teidem (Dutch), Sorbo Fashion (Dutch), TDP Textiles (UK), Tumble 'N Dry (Dutch) and Walmart (USA).

Six companies acknowledge that violations of labour rights take place in Tamil Nadu, but only PVH/Tommy Hilfiger and Migros admit that bonded labour - in the form of the Sumangali Scheme ( see box ‘Labour rights violation in Tamil Nadu) existed in their production chain. HEMA states it cannot share the information, but nevertheless emphasises the importance of supply chain transparency. Apart from that, none of the contacted companies publishes their list of suppliers. Most companies only monitor their first tier supplier. However, most violations take place further down the production chain, especially in the spinning mills. According to the report, only Tommy Hilfiger and O'Neill say they are monitoring further down their supply chain.

Heavy work, taunt, for dalit girls

The report cites the study of READ, a non-overnmental organization in Tamil Nadu on the Sumangali Scheme. Almost 60 per cent girls working under this scheme or similar arrangements are dalits. Most of them belong to Arunthatiyar community, the “dalits among the dalits'. READ has noted that dalit girls face specific forms of discrimination: while recruiting workers, in the factory hostels as well as on the work floor. READ finds that the rooms in the hostels are allotted community-wise and that dalit girls are taunted if they complain about lack of basic amenities like water and light. Besides, all the heavy work like carding, waste and cone cleaning are given to them, while easier work like counting and checking is given to non-dalit girls. Dalit girls are forced to do extra work during night shifts.

FNV Mondiaal and the ICN recommendations
  • ‘Audit methodology' should be improved to detect bonded labour, discrimination and sexual harassment through offsite workers’ interviews with workers and their unions, to take additional interventions.  
  • Training for workers and management and a credible grievance mechanism are necessary.
  • Companies need to make public their suppliers, also further down the chain. This also applies to audit findings, plans for improvement and results achieved.
  • CSR initiatives of companies and other stakeholder should take the lead in facilitating further supply chain transparency in the garment sector.
  • Meaningful engagement of local civil society organizations in the monitoring of labour conditions and the action plans is crucial for.
  • Meaningful engagement of local civil society organizations in the monitoring of labour conditions and the action plans is crucial for improving the situation.
Some improvements
The study observes that as a result of previous publications and campaigns –both in India and internationally—some improvements have been put in place at most of the previously investigated major suppliers. These suppliers are Eastman Exports Global Clothing, KPR Mill and SSM India. In these companies, civil society organisations did get access to monitor the production units and to train employees and management on labour rights. In KPR Mill, wages are now transferred to the bank accounts of employees, workers have an identity card, parents are allowed to visit weekly, and the girls can occasionally visit their homes.

Forced Labour

Young Dalit Women Continue to Suffer Exploitative Conditions in India’s Garment Industry
In this report the Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations (SOMO) and the India Committee of the Netherlands (ICN) present their findings on the labour conditions in the South Indian garment and textile industry. In Tamil Nadu young women workers continue to suffer exploitative working conditions while making garments for Western brands. Thousands of girls work under recruitment and employment schemes that amount to bonded labour. ‘Maid in India’ features case studies of four large Tamil Nadubased garment manufacturers that produce for the European and US markets. The majority of the workers are Dalit (outcaste) girls younger then 18 hailing from poor families who are lured with promises of a decent wage, comfortable accommodation and, in some cases a sum of money upon completion of the contract that may be used for their dowry. A large number of these labour migrants live in (factory) hostels where they have little to none interaction with the outside world, let alone trade unions or labour advocates. Workers are expected to work long hours of forced overtime under unhealthy conditions. Trade unions are weak and face enormous opposition. Government enforcement of labour law is not robust. Garment brands and retailers have made promises to abolish labour abuses at their suppliers. Some companies are part of corporate compliance or multi-stakeholder initiatives; others are developing their own approach, including in-depth investigations and social audits at their suppliers. These efforts have had some positive effects, especially in the garment-producing units that supply directly to Western buyers. Still, SOMO and ICN conclude that major violations continue, especially in the spinning units were yarn is produced. This report aims to provide relevant stakeholders manufacturers, brands, multi-stakeholders initiatives, governments and others with input to enable and motivate further action. On the basis of the field research and analysis of promises and actual steps taken by the industry and other relevant actors, conclusions are formulated, as well as practical recommendations.

An Update of Debate and Action on the ‘Sumangali Scheme’
Brands and politicians are starting to act. Recent publications of SOMO and the India Committee of the Netherlands have significantly contributed to the fact that in Europe, the USA and The Netherlands steps are being taken against the large-scale child labour in the South Indian textile and garment industry. Both a number of garment brands as well as the Dutch, European and American politicians are now starting to take some action against bonded (child) labour in South India which is known as the Sumangali Scheme. In the Update of Debate and Action on the Sumangali Scheme, SOMO and ICN describe new developments and actions that have been taken since the publication of the reports Captured by Cotton in May 2011 and Maid in India in April 2012. The Sumangali System implies that – mostly – girls are getting a contract for thee years against very low wages of which the largest part is paid as a lump sum at the end of the contract period, if they stay for three years. They are forced to work very long days under unhealthy working conditions (cotton dust!) The girls live in hostels and have hardly or no contact with the outside world, even family members. The victims are mostly Dalit (outcaste) girls who are discriminated and are extra vulnerable for exploitation. Brands A number of joint initiatives of a quite large number of garment brands, unions and (other) civil society organizations including the US-based Fair Labor Association, the Dutch Fair Wear Foundation, the British Ethical Trading Initiative and the European Business Social Compliance Initiative are now starting to tackle the issue. It is a first beginning of which the results still have to be seen in practice. About the brand C&A the update mentions that one of their suppliers Sumeru Knits will not work anymore with spinning mills that use the Sumangali Scheme from August 2012. C&A also supports the work of local organizations to get girls out of the spinning mills and into school or vocational training. Politics Members of the European Parliament of thee different political groups – liberal, conservative and social democratic – have raised the issue with Vice-President and High Representative for Foreign Affairs of the EU, Catherine Ashton. They requested her to raise the issue with the Indian government, develop a joint plan of action with companies and demand full supply chain transparency from the European garment industry. The government of the USA in her recent Trafficking in Persons Report 2012, presented by Hillary Clinton, mentions that forced labour may be present in the Sumangali Scheme in Tamil Nadu. An American delegation recently visited spinning mills and victims of Sumangali in South India. The Dutch Parliament recently adopted a motion requesting the government to come to an agreement with the garment sector on full supply chain transparency and eradication of child labour in the textile supply chain. India Local organizations in South India are reporting limited improvements in the labour conditions of Sumangali workers. Some suppliers have shortened the contract period to one year. Other have somewhat improved the wages and increased the freedom of movement for the young workers. The Minister of Labour of Tamil Nadu publicly denounced the Sumangali Scheme and publicly announced that he would form a new committee to fix a minimum wage, now non-existent, for spinning mill workers. Very worrying however is the increased trafficking of boys aged 13 to 18 from Bihar in North India who are put to work in the Tamil Nadu textile industry.

Secretary of the Humanitarian Funds (for Victims of
Torture and Victims of Slavery), OHCHR
Ms. Dolci
opened and moderated the event. Ms. Dolci
the strong engagement of the OHCHR with the issue of caste discrimination
also where it intersects with gender and slavery. She stated that the event was
a part of a tradition of the OHCHR and IDSN to take up this issue on a yearly
basis at side
ents such as this.
Ms. Dolci
Kanaan explained the
of the UN fund for contemporary forms of slavery with the
issue of caste discrimination saying also that Jan Sahas, an Indian organization working on this issue, who
was prevented from being pre
sent on this day, was funded partly through this fund and that the office also
had a Dalit woman fellow,
Vibhawari Kamble
working with them. She noted
that there has been an
increased focus on caste discrimination trough the UN human rights mechanisms and
that it is important to
explore opportunities to further link this work up within the UN and in the caste
affected countries.
summed up
the panel
speaking of the severe lack of implementation of legislation, norms
and framework and th
e challenges involved in addressing this.
“Caste atrocities, heritages, the transgenerational transmission of abuses and violations are still
widespread. The emphasis is on prevention, but there is still a gap in focus on relief and rehabilitation
and how
to integrate those affected into society. The human rights based approach is very important”
Urmila Bhoola
Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery
including its causes and consequences
Ms. Bhoo
spoke via a video statement recorded for the event.
The Special
Rapporteur referred to the increased
vulnerability to contemporary forms of
slavery of people
to lower
by intersecting
gender discrimination to create a
tex of continuing economic disadvantage,
and political disempowerment”.
mandates reports of caste
based slavery in Niger, Madagascar
South Asia.
“The intersection between caste and poverty in South Asia for example, has c
reated a dark heritage of
poverty for the children enslaved in bonded labour, serfdom and forced labour to pay off
intergenerational debts,”
she stated.
The Special Rapporteur mentioned th
e C
ommemoration of the 90
y of the Slavery Convention
the 60th of the Supplementary Convention
, taking place in 2016,
as an i
entive to strengthen efforts
guarantee that caste
affected communitie
s fully enjoy their human right not to be subjected to slavery.
She explained
the importance of the work of all UN mechanisms in
cluding the Special Procedures m
holders in supporting
affected communities. She also highlighted the crucial role played by civil
society in supporti
ng victims and submitting input to UN mechan
isms, acknowledging the increasing
number of recommendations and statements on caste discrimination brought up within the UN system.
There, however, still is a need for greater linkages in addressing contemporary forms of
slavery within
the UN system as a
whole, including by the members of the UN country
teams working with the affected
communities on the ground, and
beyond it,
she stated
, adding specific
Six k
ey recommendations from the
UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slave
Effective and broad partnerships and targeted advocacy based on comprehensive research and
reliable data aimed at addressing the root causes of contemporary slavery, such as poverty, social
exclusion and discrimination.
A multi
dimensional approach,
including legal, policy and institutional measures to combat
discrimination of caste
affected communities, deeply entrenched social prejudices, value systems,
customs and beliefs, developed with the active
involvement of those concerned.
Securing rehabilit
ation and economic and social empowerment of those belonging to so called
lower castes, and removing barriers to their effective access to justice and meaningful participation
making processes.
Effective implementation of the existing laws, pol
icies and programmes aimed at guaranteeing
human rights and ensuring de facto equality of those affected by caste
based discrimination and
allocation of adequate resources, with the support of the international community and donor
agencies, if n
eeded, to t
ackle it effectively.
Adopting a human rights
based approach in the development programmes, taking into account the
specific needs of those most vulnerable to slavery and slavery
like practices, including those
nging to so called lower castes.
Endorsement and implementation by the States of the UN Draft Principles and Guidelines for the
Effective Elimination of Discrimination Based on Work and Descent.
oen K
Senior Specialist in international labour standards, ILO
Mr. Kompier
made a
iered presentation. First on the work of the ILO in
relation to caste
based forced and bonded labour and secondly covering the
work of NGO Jan Sahas with the eradication of manual scavenging, as Ashif
who was mean
to present on this was unable
to attend. Mr. Kompier
also pre
a short video on the issue, made by the ILO.
Mr. Kompier raised a sharp critique over the way in which the issue of caste
discrimination was neglected at the global level.
based discrimination is globally the
most neglected form of discrimination, which seems to be
accepted by countries and the UN through a lenient approach of cultural relativism instead of a firm
stand against a most devious way o
f discrimination,
said Mr. Kompier
Mr. Kompier, who has been w
orking with the ILO in India for 15 years explained th
till now
LO member
States did not allow the ILO to work on identification of bonded labour
Last year, the ILO adopted a new
Protocol on Forced Labour
which allows the Office
to engage
in trafficki
ng and forced labour identification,
release and rehabilitation.
he ILO has mainly been working on prevention of bondage, through rights awareness and the
provision of alternative credit
he explained
adding that the
collusion between employers
and State
enforcement officials, often forged
based on
meant that the
measures turned out to be futile.
briefed participants on ILO time
motion studies on work in brick kilns finding that labourers worked far
below the minimum wage and women wer
e often unpaid.
He explained that t
he ILO is now looking into the
facilitation of decent work conditions as a general approach to fight bondage. Pilot projects, based on the
Matahadi Board system,
are being conducted to
show whether the establishment of tr
ipartite boards in
certain sectors
can bring about better labour conditions.
In relation to caste and gender,
the ILO has just completed two handbooks
on manual scavenging, explaining how to use new legislation, rules, and
rehabilitation which aim at the total eradication of this practice of r
of human excreta by hand, he explained. Adding that,
he ILO is about to
complete a study on ‘devadasi’, f
orced temple prostitution or sanctioned
based rape of young Dalit girls. The study will show that many more
women are still being ‘pledged’ to temples than is currently perceived, the
number touches 100.000 girls.
Participants heard that t
he ILO is
also pushing for trade union
comments to
officially target the ‘S
, a recruitment system of Dalit girls
in spinning mills in Tamil Nadu.
He also said that t
ILO in South Asia will continue
surveys and studies on
discrimination and
ould be happy to expand studies regarding
manual scavenging or devadasi
like systems, such as Badi in Nepal, towards
other countries in the sub
region, ideally together with other members of
In a critique of the UN
and ILO engagement
in India
Mr. Kompier
almost all UN and ILO staff in India are from dominant
castes and that the ILO and the UN in India need to diversify their staff.
Kompier also urged the Human Rights Council to take specific action.
At internation
al level, it is recommended to member States to complete
the work on the UN Principles and Guidelines for the Effective Elimination
of Discrimination based on Work and Descent, which were prepared by
Professors Yokota and Chung in 2007. Once adopted, justi
fication for
international action against caste
based discrimination would be more
efully justified,”
Mr. Kompier
For the second part of his presentation Mr. Kompier focused on the work of
the grassroots organisation Jan Sahas in India
to eradi
cate manual
scavenging. He applauded Jan Sahas for their approach where they target
the whole community, both Dalit manual scavengers and all other
community members to make them aware that the practice of manual
scavenging and discrimination on the basis
of caste are illegal.
He explained that,
Jan Sahas
have had
great success with creating local level
associations led and carried out by manual scavengers themselves
as well
as Dalit lawyers grou
well connected to the communities.
Here Dalit
women and
girls are coming together to push for change. Jan Sahas also
spread national awareness through marches and advocacy
much of it
carried out by Dalit women
Mr. Kompier also explained
that Jan Sahas played a role in engaging the UN India Country team in fo
on manual scavenging and caste in India.
Screenshots from the
advanced screening of a
new ILO video on caste
based forced and
bonded labour.
Manjula Pradeep, Dir
ector of Navsarjan Trust, India
Ms. Pradeep
briefed participants on the issues of manual scavenging and forced
prostitution, two specific examples of inhumane forms of labour forced
on Dalit
women and girls due
intersecting caste and gender discrimination.
Pradeep explained that approximately 1,3 million Dalits in India were engaged
in manual scavenging, the removal of human waste from dry latrines by hand
and tools such as a b
room and basket.
hile there we
no reliable figures on
the amount of Dalit women and girls kept in Devadasi temple prostitution or
other forms of caste
based prostitution in India and Nep
this was a widespread problem
, she said
These practices not o
nly affect the women engaged in them but also their children
Ms. Pradeep said. The
ren are often stigmatised and discriminated against in their vil
lages and in schools where t
hey may be
made to sit and eat separately from the other children, are not
properly taught and may be forced to clean
the school toilets and sweep the school due to their caste
, she said.
Ms. Pradeep called for a cross
study to take stock of the situation and bring recommendations.
“It is high time that a cross regional
study is undertaken focusing on not only the issues but the
intersectionality which brings out key challenges, factors and recommendations to be placed to the state
parties to eliminate these kind
of inhumane practices based on structural inequality and h
rootedness affecting
lives of millions of people in caste affected countries of South Asia,”
She also
key features specific to those forced into this work
They live in segregated poor housing without access to basic amenities.
They face
lot of stigma due to their identities and are excluded and discriminated.
They do not have any social security or any protective mechanisms.
They are forced to do this work in hazardous conditions which result in physical ailments.
Their life
expectancy is much lower than others.
Restricted mobility due to
lack of opportunities for education and employment and stigma.
They f
ace violence and discriminatory treatment if they deny doing this work.
Ms. Pradeep also outlined f
eatures specific to
women fo
rced into manual scavenging
that they
sexual harassment at
ork place,
are forced to work even when they are
pregnant and lactating
mothers and the m
ajority of them
are malnourished.
She also said that
eatures specific to women who are
forced into temple prostitution are that
hey are rejected by their
own families or
communities and often
live in isolation
and their children may inherit diseases such as HIV/AIDS from them.
“They do not give money
. Sometimes they give 2
rotis [bread]
. One
house did not give me
So I stopped going there.
hey came to
I went back to clean.
I had to.”
Binita is a 14
year old sex
worker. She inherited
occupation thro
ugh her caste in Nepal. S
dreams of going back to school but c
by AFP
ase by HRW
urga Sob, President of the Feminist Dalit Organisation (FEDO), Nepal
Ms. Sob spoke of her organisations work with women engaged in bonded
labour in the form of the Haliya practice in Nepal. Despite being outlawed over
60,000 people are still engaged in this f
of labo
ur in
most of them
participants heard.
workers tak
loans from landlords and
in turn
work in the landlords fields to repay the loan, with no transparen
t repayment
and very high interest rates. Often the
workers children inherit the debt
and children of the
made to work for
free in the fields
and clean
the landlords property, Ms. Sob explained.
The work by the whole family only serves to pay off the interest rates meaning th
at the family is trapped in
Haliya women need to perform hard work witho
ut wages
physical and sexual
exploitation and violence by landlords.
are denied
proper access to
education, health
and political participation
, she said
Ms. Sob issued a number of recommendations for a
way f
to end the Haliya practice
Involve Haliya women in
to free and rehabilitate Haliya workers
Nationwide movement for
to ensure the political, economic and social/cultural
rights of
Dalit community in Nepal including Haliya
, particularly vulnerable groups of Dalits
and Dalit women
Institutionalize the inclusion
of these
local, district and central level in different
political parties, state mechanism
, civil
rganizations (CSOs),
ensure the equitable
participation of Dalit
State focus on the implementation and enforcement of legislation, policies,
rights of
Haliya community.
Engage in
dialogues and sharing
with the
international commun
There should be adequate allocation of resources to undertake
activities and campaigns
the Haliya practice
Free education for Haliya children
Prioritize and g
uarantee the security of Haliya women
Following protests against the Hal
iya System by Dalit and Haliya
the Government of Nepal
declared the Haliya to be free in 2008 and launched a five point agreement on Haliya liberation. However
these points have not been properly implemented,
said Ms. Sob and a lack of knowledge of state
legislation and self
e makes it extremely
difficult for these women
and men
to change their
d Haliyas ofte
n face
insurmountable challenges
due to poverty,
discrimination and the lack of proper rehabilitation
and end up having to return to their
lords, and are then often treated worse than
before due to their dissent, Ms. Sob told participants.
Women trapped in the Haliya
practice protest.
They work for no pay in the house and fields of
the landlord and are often subjected to violence
and sexual abuse.
Case by
Zulfiqar Shah, Pakistan Dalit Solidarity Network (PDSN) (statement read out)
As Zulfiqar Shah was not able to attend the event at the last minute
his statement
on caste and gender
based forced and bonded labour in Pakistan
was read out by IDSN Executive Director
Rikke Nöhrlind.
“There is a clear link between bondage and caste in the case of Pakistan. The majority of bonded
labourers are located
in the agricultural sector mainly in rural Sindh and in brick kilns throughout Punjab,
More than 90% of those released from bondage during the last ten years through court orders in Sindh
were from the scheduled castes.”
read Mr. Shah’s statement.
Mr. Shah pointed out
scheduled castes
(Dalits) are already weak and socially excluded
discrimination, which
easy target
exploitation. They are the poorest of the poor,
the marginalized within marginalized, and they are
victims of dual discrimination and i
solation as non
Muslims in a Muslim country and as low castes
Violations against them are often not
brought to justice and awareness of their rights
and legislative frameworks is generally weak.
Mr. Shah
offered recommendations on ways to combat caste
based bonded labour in Pakistan
UN Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Slavery may consider visiting Pakistan on priority
preferably on an official visit. Alternatively, through an invitation from NGO
UN Special Rapporteurs may consider a joint statement as bonded labour is linked to the mandate
of other rapporteurs as well
ILO, which has been providing technical support to Pakistan to end the practice of bonded and
forced labour is recommended to e
valuate the impact of its previous programmes.
There is a need t
o follow up
UPR recommendations
Both international and national NGOs may seek more understanding of the issues as their reports
to treaty bodies did not reflect the ground situation of lin
kage between caste and bondage
resulting in no or weak observa
tions from relevant committees.
Donor agencies must incorporate the issue of caste discrimination and bondage in their
country programmes.
EU in its review report on GSP+ (expected to
be presented to the European Parliament in January
2016) must highlight the issues of bondage and caste discrimination with clear demands for anti
discrimination laws to
the government of Pakistan.
Pakistan government may consider establishment of
task force of expert
to look into the
issue and come up with a set of time bound actions to end caste discrimination and
bonded labour.
Pakistan government must coordinate and ensure that all of its states have special anti
labour laws (e.g. Si
ndh has no anti
bonded labour law at the moment).
My daughter was dying of starvation because the
landlord was not paying me anything. When I
confronted them, they beat me up
Veeru Kohli,
former br
ck kiln worker, Pakistan, now working to
help others escape.
Mr. Shah’s statement also described how the
Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act
1992 declared
bonded labour outlawed and provided fines and imprisonments for violators
. However, he states,
there is
weak or no implementation
of the law and that f
rom 1992 to 2010, not a single person was prosecuted and
imprisoned despite the fact that thousands of bonded labourers wer
e released through court orders.
National Pol
icy and Plan of Action 2001,
a time bond plan
also created a Rs. 100 million fund for
the release and rehabilitation of bonded labourers,
was also not implemented and
all dates
set out
in the
expired without any concrete results ach
ieved or outlined actions taken, the state
ment read.
These failures continue despite the fact that
Pakistan has been granted EU’s GSP+ status in 2014, which
requires Pakistan to bring bonded labour and caste discrimination to an end as the incentive scheme is
binding to the effective implementatio
n of
27 conventions including core Human Rights
and Labour
Despite failing on implementation of national legislation Mr. Shah also pointed out that t
he state has failed
in bringing in any fundamental changes in the economy or landholding
o bring in a comprehensive
labour policy to protect labour from exploitation.
There is a l
ack of understanding of the linkage between
caste and bondage
, he stated, and n
o serious attention is paid to the
erns by
Meena Varma,
Director, Dalit Solidarity Network
United Kingdom
Ms. Varma
’s statement focused on how to create change through effective
multi stakeholder initiatives to help end caste
based forced and bonded labour.
She described how being a member of the ETI UK has enabled the DSN
UK to
engage with the corporate sector to push for change.
She also gave specific
examples such as the Sumangali practice where young girls, predominantly
Dalits, are trapped into working
in South India’s
cotton spinning mills
working conditions amounting to forced labour.
She stated that Dalits
consistently and continuously suffer from violations of the ETI’s base code, that companies sign up to.
Dalits don't just suffer
from discrimination on the basis of caste in every aspect of their life
they will
also suffer from
violation of international labour standards,”
Ms. Varma stated.
These violations includ
e that their e
yment is rarely freely chosen and
working condit
ions are unsafe
and unhygienic. F
m of association is forbidden and
minimum wages let alon
e living wages are rarely
ing hours are excessive and
discrimination on the basis of caste an
d gender is routinely
practiced. Ms. Varma also said that
children are likely to make up a large majority
of children in India
forced into child labour.
Ms. Varma also addressed the advantages to companies in diversifying their workforce to include Dalits at
all levels including in leadership and management
roles. However, she stated companies were complacent
and often unaware of the realities within their South Asian supply chains.
"Dalits are the elephant in the room for most companies. People may tell me their call centres, their
factories, their supply ch
ains don't discriminate against Dalits, but they don't actually know because
they're not asking the right questions o
f t
he people that manage their suppliers and subsidiaries.”
In relation to the Sumangali scheme Ms. Varma
about the recently held National
in Delhi
To End All Forms of Forced
Labour in the Garment Sector
, a joint initiative
Rights Education and Development
he Dalit Solidarity Network UK and
supported by the
National Campa
ign for Dalit
Human Rights (NCDHR)
The consultation included
presentations by
experts, real life experiences by victims, legal issues
and remedies with a focu
s on women and discrimination.
More than 90 people attended the consultation
with representation
from local, national and international NGOs and Trade Unions. International brands
d and engaged with the process, Ms. Varma recounted.
n action plan was formulated
out of the
anufacturers, buying companies, trade unions, local and international civil society organisations,
governments and others
need to acknow
ledge the persistent problems.
Governments have a duty to protect against human rights abuses by third parties, inclu
business enterprises, through appropriate policies,
regulation, and adjudication.
Business through their mills and factories should apply best practice guidelines for ethical
recruitment and retention of workforce
Young women and girls rescued from
the mills should be equipped with livelihood/skills training for
other employment opportunities and for life outside the hostel and mill environment and/or
reintegrated with families and guaranteed the right to ed
UN special mandate holders
ke note
of t
he abus
es endured by these girls ranging
extreme poverty to
lack of housing to
sexual violence,
freedom of association, and slavery
It is the responsibility of international institutions, industry, government and community to drive
and sustainable change for workers in this sector in particular and for Dali
ts across South Asia.
Change will only happen when we work together to a common cause and after all the excellent
presentations here today I think we can agree that this is a co
mmon cause for the greater good,
Ms. Varma
Tanja Makovec Petrik of the Permanent Mission of Slovenia to the United Nations
spoke from the floor
We place
the rights of women and children high on the agenda.
I was personally disturbed to hear what
is going on in certain areas
. I
hard to listen to what people are going through and what is being done
to them
such as forced prost
itution and manual scavenging. Y
ou have our support in addressing these
and in trying to eliminate them,”
Ms. Petrik stated
thanking the organisers for bringing these
important issues to light.
I do not like the hostel; there is no entertainment
and no outside contact
and it is very far from the
town. It is like a semi
” Young girl working
under the Sumangali scheme at a spinning mill.
from Flawed Fabrics report
John Fisher, Geneva Advocacy Director, Human Rights Watch, spoke from the floor
Mr. Fisher urged that the Draft UN Principles and Guidelines on Discrimination Based on Work and Descent
be adopted and engaged with to a much greater extent.
He said that Human Rights Watch were honoured to co
sponsor this important side
event and that t
rights violations were so blatant and clear.
added that
he was happy to hear the comments of the
Permanent Mission to the UN of Slovenia but that greater support from
states was needed.
“Human Rights Watch are committed to engaging with the iss
ue of caste discrimination and would be
happy to see more coordinated engagement through the Special Procedures and the UPR reviews, and
perhaps a joint statement and panel discussion within the framew
ork of the Human Rights Council,
Fisher said.
participant asked the panel how the Government of India related to the issue of caste, gender and
forced and bonded labour to which Coen Kompier, ILO, responded saying,
This Government is very pro
business and the protection of workers is declining
. T
are going through
labour reforms including, as it stands now, a blanket prohibition on the right to strike in th
ese reforms.
The Government has
slashed the education budget by 25% and slashed the healt
and welfare
employment scheme
. All those who
are marginalized are becoming more disadvantaged,”
Mr. Kompier
Laura Dolci
concluded the panel
Ms. Dolci
Kanaan thanked all the panelists and expressed the need for a deeper engagement of all actors
h this issue. She also congratulat
d IDSN for bringing this issue to the attention of the UN again and
again and thereby ensuring that focus on this is not lost.
present at the side
Permanent Missions to the UN present at the side
event were Denmark, Germany,
and Slovenia
There were eight
present from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
There were num
erous INGO representatives
among the participants
ut not limited to,
the co
sponsoring organisations.
Caste and
Forced & Bonded Labour resource links
Resources from IDSN
IDSN note for the side
event on Caste, Gender and Forced & Bonded Labou
r including cases and quotes
IDSN overview of recommendations from UN institutions on Dalit women
IDSN overview of
recommendations from UN institutions on caste and forced & bonded labour
IDSN webpage on Dalit women
Forced and bonded labour
Manual scavenging
Forced Prostitution
Submission on Forced Marriage and Forced Prostitution of Dalit Women
Key Reports
ILO Resource Handbook for ending manual scavenging
short summary of the handbook
Cleaning Human Waste: Manual Scavenging, Caste, and Discrimination in India
” Human Rights Watch, 2014
Flawed Fabrics: The a
buse of girls and women workers in the South Indian textile industry
Centre for
Research on Multinational Corporations & India Committee of the Netherlands
, 2014
Modern Slavery in India
Bonded Labour Cases (Franciscans International, 2012, Report)
India's Childhood in the "Pits"
, Dhaatri Resource Centre for Women and Children
Samata, HAQ: Centre for
Child Rights, March 2010
Tainted Carpets: Slavery and Child Labor in India’s Hand
Made Carpet Sector
, Harvard University, 2014
Diversity in the workforce: why it is good for business
Ashwini Deshpande, Professor of Economics
The Haratin in Mauritania
Minority Rights Group briefing
“Bonded Labor: Tackling the System of Slavery in South Asia”
Kara, Harvard University, 2012
Rock Bottom: Modern Slavery and Child Labour in South Indian Granite Quarries
, Stop Child Labour (SCL)
and India Committee of the Netherlands (ICN) May 2015
Forced and Bonded Labour in Nepal (Anti
Slavery International, 2009, Publication)
Poverty, Discrimination and Slavery: The reality of bonded labour in India, Nepal and Pakistan
International, 2008
Bonded Labour in Pakistan
An o
, ILO, 2001
Bonded Labour in India: Its incidence and Pattern
Videos & photos on caste
based forced and bonded labour
Witness: Freeing Women From Cleaning Human Waste (2014, HRW, Manual Scavnenging, India)
In pictures: India’s ‘untouchable’ scavengers (BBC)
New document
ary on caste
based prostitution in India
Slavery’s last stronghold
CNN Documentary on caste
based slavery in Mauritania (CNN, 2012, Report)
On the
trail of human trafficking: forced labor in Nepal (CNN)
Caste System Traps Nepal’s ‘Hereditary Prostitutes’ (2010, Video)
End the Practice of Manual Scavenging (Community Photo Project, PhotoVoice, 2009)


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