More than 90 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.
Sri Lanka is under the spotlight accused of state terrorism, forced under age marriages and the use of children in the military. Myanmar has long been a controversial regime and has only recently become more acceptable to tourists. It stands accused of serious abuse of human rights including human trafficking and child labour. Desirable Caribbean holiday spot Cuba is under scrutiny for abuse of human rights including restricting freedom of speech, unfair trials and imprisonment. Not to mention North Korea, where an American student traveller detained there recently died.
The 2016 Global Slavery Index Report show over 15 million people are enslaved. Most are in India, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Uzbekistan. India tops the list with the most widespread abuses of over 55 million child workers according to the US State Department and children as young as 6 to 8 years are working in mines or sold as slave brides. Hong Kong is ranked near the bottom on taking action to fight slavery and shares this distinction with North Korea where the salaries of workers sent to work in foreign factories and mines are paid directly to their government instead.
Findings from the 2018 Global Slavery Index highlight the connection between modern slavery and two major external drivers – highly repressive regimes, in which populations are put to work to prop up the government, and conflict situations which result in the breakdown of rule of law, social structures, and existing systems of protection. The 10 countries with highest prevalence of modern slavery globally, along with North Korea and Eritrea, are Burundi, the Central African Republic, Afghanistan, Mauritania, South Sudan, Pakistan, Cambodia, and Iran. Most of these countries are marked by conflict, with breakdowns in rule of law, displacement and a lack of physical security (Eritrea, Burundi, the Central African Republic, Afghanistan, South Sudan and Pakistan).
According to the international Labour Office (ILO) an estimated 40.3 million men, women, and children were victims of modern slavery on any given day. Of these, 24.9 million people were in forced labour and 15.4 million people were living in a forced marriage. Women and girls are vastly over-represented, making up 71 percent of victims. Modern slavery is most prevalent in Africa, followed by the Asia and the Pacific region.
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.