More than 167 countries are guilty of violating the human rights of its citizens. And while some of those are unsafe to visit, others are tempting holiday destinations which are not deemed dangerous for travellers. Forget green hotels and eco friendly travel. These destinations are so far from behaving responsibly when it comes to their citizens, the environment or wildlife that they only serve to highlight just how far we have to go when it comes to embracing and moving beyond sustainable travel.
According to the 2018 Global Slavery Index Report, over 40,300,000 men, women and children living in 167 countries are victims of modern slavery. They are bought and sold in public markets, forced to marry against their will and provide labour under the guise of “marriage,” forced to work inside clandestine factories on the promise of a salary that is often withheld, or on fishing boats where men and boys toil under threats of violence. They are forced to work on construction sites, in stores, on farms, or in homes as maids. Labour extracted through force, coercion, or threats produces some of the food we eat, the clothes we wear, and the footballs we kick. The minerals that men, women, and children have been made to extract from mines find their way into cosmetics, electronics, and cars, among many other products.
This is modern slavery.
In 2018, the 10 countries with the highest prevalence of modern slavery are North Korea, Eritrea, Burundi, the Central African Republic, Afghanistan, Mauritania, South Sudan, Pakistan, Cambodia and Iran.
Three main trends emerged: (1) An analysis of the ten countries with highest prevalence indicates a connection between modern slavery and two major external drivers – highly repressive regimes and conflict. (2) The improved measurement of state-imposed forced labour reveals the substantial impact this form of slavery has on populations. (3) The prevalence of modern slavery in highly developed, high–income countries is higher than previously understood.
Governments are significantly behind in their commitment to eradicate modern slavery and achieve UN Sustainable Development Goal 8.7 by 2030. Globally, governments have taken important strides since the publication of the 2016 Global Slavery Index Report. In 2018, 122 countries have criminalised human trafficking in line with the UN Trafficking Protocol, while only 38 countries have criminalised forced marriage. There are now 154 countries that provide services for victims, compared to 150 in 2016, although important gaps remain in 82 countries.
The Walk Free Foundation studied the North Korean government’s repeated mobilisation of children, and later adults, through mandatory, unpaid “communal labour” in agriculture, road building, and construction. For children, this might involve daily work in agriculture or a month of work at harvest time, and the schools receive payment for the work. If children did not participate, they would later be punished and criticised within the school itself. For adults, communal labour involved being mobilised for “battles” in which workers are sent to work for 70 or 100 days in a row. The penalty for refusal is a cut in food rations or the assessment of taxes.
In Cambodia, men, women, and children are known to be exploited in various forms of modern slavery including forced labour, debt bondage, forced marriage, forced sexual exploitation and forced begging. The national survey also pointed to forced labour in manufacturing, farming, construction and domestic work and the government has been slow to improve their response to modern slavery.
The use of children in armed conflicts is clearly and directly linked to the trafficking and sale of children and is therefore globally recognised as a form of modern slavery. Due to the hidden nature of this crime, scholars have argued in the past that “the total number of child soldiers in each country, let alone the global figure, is not only unknown, but unknowable according to the 2018 Annual Report of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict
Huffinton Post article ‘Illegal Organ Trafficking Poses A Global Problem,’ reported on the trafficking of persons for the purpose of organ removal. Sellers give up their organs out of economic necessity and, for most buyers, who may have been waiting on legitimate transplant lists for months, desperation and frustration usually push them to commit the illegal act. In some parts of India, poor people use their kidneys as collateral for money lenders. Kidneys sourced from the “kidney belt” region of southern India are sold to clients in Sri Lanka, the Gulf States, the UK, and the US. Developed countries such as the US, Canada, Australia, and the UK receive organs from most of the world’s developing countries, including India, China, the Philippines, and Pakistan. Sale of organs is illegal in many developing countries, with the exception of Iran where paid donation is permitted but strictly regulated.
The fight to end modern slavery continues and requires a united, global response. Should we travel to those countries or should we shun them in protest? Can we, in fact, make a difference by choosing to visit them rather than turning our backs? The hard fact is that a boycott directly impacts those people who are already being oppressed. They will be hit economically and have no chance to speak to people on their home territory, thereby increasing their isolation from the world.
The best way to face this is to use a sensitive operator who will help tourists make an informed choice; read up on the rights issues faced by people in those destinations; listen to what people there have to say but never put them, or yourself, in danger.