Armed Conflict Breeding Modern Day Slavery



Government representatives and delegates representing worker and employer organizations attending a United Nations conference recently called for more rights for domestic workers: clear information on terms and conditions of employment, reasonable hours of work and rest, and freedom of association, according to a UN News Centre report.

The value of the UN International Labor Organization’s resolution to the millions of men and women forcibly trafficked and coerced into servitude will likely be very little. This has been seen in the steady increase of modern slavery despite the number of global mandates in the past on the subject. The crisis has been heightened by the increase of displaced people –those most vulnerable to human trafficking– in direct proportion to the increase of armed conflict around the world.

Last month on World Refugee Day, Mans Nyberg of the United Nations' Refugee Agency (UNHCR) told Voice of America (VOA) the thousands of people uprooted by the uprising and conflict across the Arab World make this year especially poignant. "It's basically the last desperate move you make when you don't have any other option," said Mr Nyberg.


Nyberg’s statement is critical as, out of sheer desperation, these same refugees are often enticed into a better life across borders, one free from war and poverty, only to be sold into modern day slavery.

VOA author Henry Ridgwell makes the unlikely conclusion that out of the 43 million people the UN estimates to be uprooted on this earth earth, “The only long-term solution [of the UN] is an end to the conflicts that force people to flee their homes, for an unknown future.”

While men may be find themselves locked into uncertain futures, the end of women being forced prostitution is, most unfortunately, very predictable. Remarking on the third resolution of its sort last month alone, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton remarked on the release of the 2011 Trafficking in Persons Report on June 27, “Trafficking isn’t just a problem of human bondage; it fuels the epidemic of gender-based violence in so many places.”

Case Scenario: Bosnia

Dr Vesna Nikolic-Ristanovic of the Social Education and Rehabilitation Department at Belgrade University, focuses on the women of Bosnia in her assessment of how armed conflict can directly increase the trafficking of women, in particular. Although most Muslim societies do not speak freely about atrocities against women, wishing to preserve the honor of the people, the results of the conflict in the former Yugoslavia are a publicly discussed issue.

Dr Nikolic-Ristanovic writes in her book  Sex Trafficking: The Impact of War, Militarism and Globalization in Eastern Europe, “War helps to generate sex trafficking in a number of ways …Desperate women easily become vulnerable to false promises and deception, as well as to different forms of violence. Traffickers exploit the fact that many persons are in vulnerable situations, undocumented and separated from their families. Refugees are especially vulnerable, both while fleeing from war zones and while in exile.”

Worse still, she writes, “The large presence of international organizations further contributed to the growth of sex trafficking in the Balkans.”

Such is the outcome of using deception to transport war-affected refugees across borders in this form of modern day slavery. However, the problem is one which infects impoverished countries that are not in a state of conflict, as well. Women are preyed upon in Asia as well as Latin America.

Numbers: Latin America

Emilio Godoy raised the alarm last year in an article for Inter-press News Service (IPS), entitled, “Five Million Women [in Latin America alone] Have Fallen Prey to Trafficking Networks.”

Ana Hidalgo, from the Costa Rican office of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), affirmed the lack of assistance for the victims as proportionate to the problem with Mr Godoy, who states: "Responses to the trade in human beings have been more formal than real, as have the changes in legislation. Governments are not interested. It is not their priority," Godoy further reports: “The total number of victims in Latin America amounts to 250,000 a year, yielding a profit of 1.35 billion dollars for the traffickers, according to statistics from the Mexican Ministry of Public Security. But the data vary widely. Whatever the case, the United Nations warns that human trafficking has steadily grown over the past decade.”

US Secretary of State Clinton said in her remarks on the release of the 2011 Trafficking report, “There are as many as 27 million men, women, and children” exploited in underground slavery.

Organizations like the Coalition Against Trafficking of Women and Girls in Latin America and the Caribbean (CATW-LAC) estimate that [while] over five million girls and women in the region have been trapped by these criminal networks, and another 10 million are in danger of falling into their hands.”

Ana Chávez, a lawyer with Argentina's Peace and Justice Service (SERPAJ) complained to IPS that, "Victims are listened to, and criminal prosecutions are initiated, but no one is sentenced because of impunity.”

Chavez also emphasized that the end users are international peacekeepers, as mentioned by Dr Nikolic-Ristanovic, and the developed world itself. “The consumers, that is, the pimps, clients or rapists, do not come into the equation," said Dr Nikolic-Ristanovic.

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