The Islamic Post Blog


UN Commemorates End of Open Slavery, Pushes for End to Hidden Scourge by Khalida
May 10, 2009, 2:04 pm
Filed under: Latino/Caribe, May Volume I - 2009

(IP) –A series of events marking the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade took place at the United Nations headquarters in Manhattan. The Day of Remembrance was designated by the General Assembly in 2007 as the day to honor the millions of Africans violently removed from their homelands and cast into slavery. According to a UN statement it is estimated that “up to 28 million men, women and children were taken from Africa from the 16th to 19th centuries and shipped across the notorious Middle Passage of the Atlantic – mainly to colonies in North America, South America and the West Indies.”
Addressing the event, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that the elevation this year of Barack Obama to the presidency of the United States marks a milestone in the 400-year struggle of the descendants of African slaves for justice, assimilation and respect –although the reference would moreso apply to the First Lady Michelle Obama.
The secretary-general also highlighted the fact that contemporary forms of slavery continue to pollute the world. “It is essential that we speak out loud and clear against such abuses,” he stressed.
The UN issued a report entitled “Unfinished Business” in December 2008 calling for more effective enforcefment of anti-human trafficking laws. “Throughout the twentieth century, trafficking was rarely treated as a specific offence, but would instead be covered indirectly as part of more general injunctions dealing with issues such as prostitution or kidnapping,” the report says. However, over the last decade, many countries have introduced anti-trafficking legislation, making it easier, at least on paper to pursue successful prosecutions.
But the report goes on to say “there have been few (if any) serious repercussions for even the most heinous, systematic abuses. This is largely a testament to widespread government involvement. Most historical abuses have taken place because of, rather than in spite of, official endeavours. This pervasive lack of accountability has continued to this day.”
“If slavery has been legally prohibited, but its more heinous characteristics have continued under a variety of different designations, or through numerous illicit activities, on what grounds can we say that slavery has effectively come to an end?” the report asks.
The report listed number of incidents it considers forms of modern day slavery: “(a) Debt bondage, that is to say, the status or condition arising from a pledge by a debtor of his personal services or of those of a person under his control as security for a debt, if the value of those services as reasonably assessed is not applied towards the liquidation of the debt or the length and nature of those services are not respectively limited and defined; (b) Serfdom, that is to say, the condition or status of a tenant who is by law, custom or agreement bound to live and labour on land belonging to another person and to render some determinate service to such other person, whether for reward or not, and is not free to change his status; (c) Any institution or practice whereby: (i) A woman, without the right to refuse, is promised or given in marriage on payment of a consideration in money or in kind to her parents, guardian, family or any other person or group; or (ii) The husband of a woman, his family, or his clan, has the right to transfer her to another person for value received or otherwise; or (iii) A woman on the death of her husband is liable to be inherited by another person; (d) Any institution or practice whereby a child or young person under the age of 18 years, is delivered by either or both of his natural parents or by his guardian to another person, whether for reward or not, with a view to the exploitation of the child or young person or of his labour.”
Ban Ki Moon also warned in December that, due to the global economic turmoil “poor people are likely to be driven further into poverty, making them more vulnerable to slavery-like practices.” Thailand, Brazil and Colombia are countries long considered the nations with the highest percentage of human trafficking with the Dominican Republic at similar levels of exploitation. Last month, the First Lady of the Dominican Republic, Margarita Cedeno de Fernandez, presented her office’s program to install community information and communication technology educational centers nationwide as part of a strategy to discourage women from falling prey to human trafficking, as reported by DR1.
Sources: UN, DR1. Researcher Noora Ahmad contributed to this report.

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