This day draws attention to the need to eradicate contemporary forms of slavery, such as trafficking in persons, sexual exploitation, the worst forms of child labour, forced marriages and forced recruitment of children in armed conflicts. The date coincides with the adoption by the UN of the Convention on the suppression of trafficking in persons and the exploitation of the prostitution of others of 2 December 1949. This is to reaffirm what was stated in 1948 in Article 4 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.”
Forced economic exploitation, in sectors such as agriculture, construction and in clandestine workshops, affects women and men alike, in almost equal proportions. On the other hand, data show that there is a considerable percentage of women and girls who are victims of sexual exploitation. However, studies conducted by the ILO (International Labour Organisation) reveal that it is children under the age of 18 who account for the largest percentage of victims of forced labour in the world, making up 40-50 % of those abused: “The world will not be able to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals without intensified efforts to combat these tragedies. These new global estimates can help design and develop interventions to prevent both forced and child labour”. (Guy Ryder, Director-General of the ILO).
L’impegno della Fondazione Internazionale Buon Pastore per liberare donne e bambini dalla schiavitù è sempre più apprezzato e premiato.
A LITTLE INSIGHT INTO THE ORIGIN OF SCHAVISM
From prehistoric times to the modern world, slavery has existed in various forms; although condemned in the Geneva Convention of 1926, it still persists in some countries. The causes of slavery have included invasions, wars, unpaid debts and crimes punishable, in fact, by forced labour.
Photo arsvalue.com from a work by Clet AbrAham, 1966
Slavery has been a profitable trade in every age, as slaves were the cheapest labour force. It probably began with the birth of agriculture; it is rare in nomadic and pastoral peoples. It is documented in the main ancient civilisations in Mesopotamia (Sumerians, Assyrians and Babylonians), the Middle East (Hittites, Hebrews), Egypt, India and China. The first written law that recognised certain rights to slaves was the Babylonian code of King Hammurabi (18th century B.C.), the first collection of laws written in stone, now preserved in the Louvre Museum in Paris.
WHAT ABOUT TODAY? A REFLECTION THAT CONCERNS US ALL ABOUT EVERYDAY SHOPPING AND INTERNATIONAL TRADE
...ARE WE AWARE THAT THE CHINESE COTTON IN OUR CLOTHES IS PICKED BY UIGHUR SLAVES?
The Chinese region of Xinjiang produces 20% of the cotton used throughout the world. However, it is picked and processed by an army of over half a million slaves belonging to the Uighur ethnic minority of the Islamic religion.
Highlighted in red the autonomous region of Xinjiang (photo from Google Maps)
What is happening and what is the responsibility of Western brands…but also ours as consumers?
OFTEN IN OUR CLOSETS…THERE IS THEIR WORK!
Between late December 2020 and early January 2021, the Guardian and French MEP Raphaël Glucksmann asked a number of brands and fashion groups if they used cotton from Xinjiang in their garments. None said yes, none (apart from Burberry) said no.