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When work becomes slavery

The precarious conditions in which people often find themselves in certain areas of Africa and the Middle East, combined with the lack of concrete job prospects, lead them to indulge in working conditions bordering on exploitation, on a par with forced labour or seek their fortune elsewhere by emigrating. The extreme conditions in which people find themselves inevitably lead them to be deeply vulnerable and prey to organizations and individuals without morals, who have the sole interest in exploiting the needy for mere economic gain.

Forced economic exploitation, in sectors such as agriculture, construction, and clandestine workshops, affects women and men indiscriminately, almost equally. On the other hand, the data show that there is a considerable percentage of women and girls who are victims of sexual exploitation. The recent study conducted by the ILO, however, reveals that it is the under-18s who represent the most dramatic percentage of victims of forced labour in the world, accounting for 40-50 % of the abused.

According to ASVIS, the Italian Alliance for Sustainable Development, by 2019 trafficking in human beings is a problem that afflicts over 40 million people in the world, especially the most vulnerable, as 72 % of victims of trafficking are women sought primarily for sexual reasons and children.

Sexual exploitation is a global scourge, from villages and towns where degradation leads people to live on the edge of their daily livelihoods, to rich Western countries. It is precisely in the latter that the unprepared and hopeful women and girls are promised a decent job and a secure future but, in reality, find only abuse and violence. In addition to this dramatic cross-section, there is also the data on the buying and selling of human organs, a practice that violates the most basic rights of people, first of all the right to life and human dignity. This practice is, of course, prohibited at European and global level.

There have been at least 700 proven cases of violent explantation (without donor consent) in the last ten years. (Source UNODC).

In the case of armed conflicts, regions such as Africa and the Middle East or Asia tend to be more vulnerable to trafficking. Lack of resources, poverty and weak state control provide traffickers with fertile ground for their operations, allowing them to take advantage of desperate people. As Angela Me, head of UNODC's Statistics and Surveys section, reported, "During migration flows, family dispersion occurs and there are a number of children travelling alone who become more likely to be caught and forced into exploitation.

In recent years a new dramatic trend has also emerged, the exploitation of African women lured by deception and then employed as domestic slaves in some Middle Eastern countries. As soon as these women arrive in the new country, their documents and passports are requisitioned and then subjected to the worst humiliation. In fact, they are detained in inhuman conditions, beaten, raped, forced into prostitution or work without compensation. Oman, Lebanon, Arabia are just some of the countries where this violence has taken place.

The testimonies of those who manage to escape are very similar. Many said that they worked up to 21 hours a day for poor wages, blackmailed by their employers and forcibly detained without documents in order to escape.

The share of 'domestic victims' has doubled in recent years, from 27% in 2010 to 58% in 2016.

Finally, it is worth remembering the forced labour to which they are subjected, with a salary well below what can be considered the "minimum wage", many women in the laboratories for the production of clothes for large or small fashion brands. The "necessity", which has developed with the globalization of the sale and purchase of low cost clothes easily replaceable once they have gone out of fashion, has created an army of women-slaves. Currently, around 80 billion items of clothing are used worldwide every year, 400 times more than 20 years ago.

These women, underpaid and forced to take exhausting shifts of 16-18 hours a day, in laboratories with poor hygiene conditions, are the luck of fashion brands that invoice record figures every year.

"Forced labor is the other side of globalization and is an insult to the rights and dignity of human beings," said Juan Somavia, the Director General of the ILO, "To achieve just globalization and decent work for all, it is essential to eradicate forced labor". 

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  • L'Autore

    Sofia Perinetti

    Sofia Perinetti è laureata in magistrale in Scienze Internazionali e della Cooperazione, ha approfondito nella sua carriera universitaria e post il lato delle relazioni internazionali che concerne la cooperazione internazionale come strumento di aiuto e sostegno verso paesi terzi.

    E' interessata sin dai primi anni di università alla tutela dei diritti umani e per questo in Mondo Internazionale è presente nel team di Diritti Umani come vice dello Chief Editor, è inoltre presente nel team di grant-management ed infine di GEO. Questi tre team le permettono di esprimere a pieno gli interessi sociali e culturali che la contraddistinguono.

    Sofia Perinetti has a degree in International and Cooperation Sciences, she has deepened in her university career and post the side of international relations that concerns international cooperation as an instrument of aid and support to third countries.

    Since the first years of university she has been interested in the protection of human rights and for this reason in Mondo Internazionale she is present in the Human Rights team as deputy to the Chief Editor, she is also present in the grant-management team and finally in GEO. These three teams allow her to fully express the social and cultural interests that distinguish her.

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