LIMA (20 May 2011) – The UN Special Rapporteur contemporary forms of slavery, Gulnara Shahinian, said Friday the Government of Peru still faces many challenges in addressing contemporary forms of slavery in a comprehensive and sustained way, despite its renewed efforts to fight the problem.
“The Peruvian authorities have demonstrated a strong will to combat contemporary forms of slavery by establishing multisectoral institutions at both national and regional level and developing relevant national plans,” the independent expert said at the end of her first fact-finding visit to the country.
“However,” she warned, “a lot remains to be done, in particular by enforcing existing legislation, introducing separate criminal sanctions for all forms of slavery, developing comprehensive protection mechanisms as well reintegration and compensation schemes for victims and strengthening implementation and monitoring of programs at regional and local levels.”
“Peru, which is experiencing one of the world's fastest economic growths, should ensure that economic development does not take precedence over people’s rights,” stressed Ms. Shahinian, who focused her 12-day mission on contemporary forms of slavery, such as forced labour in the logging and mining sector, domestic servitude and the worst forms of child labour.
“In urban areas domestic servitude remains mostly invisible and victims who are predominantly girls and young women migrating to cities, are not aware of their rights and feel unable to report of their abuses and exploitation,” the Special Rapporteur said, noting that some domestic workers work long hours, doing arduous tasks in return of little or no pay at all, are subjected to physical, psychological and sexual violence.
“There is a need for urgent legislative reform to address the disparity between the protection afforded to domestic workers who are regarded as second class citizens and that of other workers,” she said. “There is also a pressing need for programmes that focus on the victims of domestic servitude.”
“Ungoverned gold rush in Madre de Dios has brought lawlessness and with it a whole range of slavery like practices, mainly forced labor and sexual exploitation of both minors and adults,” Ms. Shahinian noted. “I urgently call for a solution which would take into account both the needs of the miners and their families for job opportunities respectful of their labor rights and the alarming environment degradation of the uniquely rich Amazon forest.”
In the province of Ucayali, where illegal logging prevails, indigenous communities who live in remote and isolated communities continue to find themselves entrapped by mounting debt for equipment, loans, and concession rentals and are locked in an endless cycle of poverty. “I urge the Congress to ensure that the new bill on forestry prohibits the use of any form of forced labor and respect the rights of indigenous people in accordance with the relevant International standards,” she said.
Among the various state institutions that the Special Rapporteur met, only a few, unlike civil society organisationshad made efforts to reach out to very remote areas that are difficult to access, where the illegal logging and mining takes place, in order to raise the awareness of the communities and other vulnerable groups about their rights.
For the UN expert, “the Peruvian Government has concentrated a lot of its effort on the issue of trafficking in human beings. I would like to encourage the Government to build on its gains and put the same amount of effort to combating other contemporary forms of slavery. This effort should focus on preventing perpetrators from avoiding criminal prosecution by taking advantage of legal loopholes that contribute to impunity.”
During her visit, Ms. Shahinian met with Government authorities, international organizations, NGOs, academics, workers’ unions and the private sector. The Special Rapporteur personally met with victims of domestic servitude and witnessed the slavery like conditions of victims in the mining sector.
Gulnara Shahinian was appointed as the first Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, its causes and consequences in May 2008. She is a lawyer with extensive experience as an expert consultant for various UN, EU, Council of Europe, OSCE and government bodies on children’s rights, gender, migration and trafficking. Ms Shahinian is also a former trustee of the UN Voluntary Trust Fund on Contemporary forms of Slavery.
Learn more about the mandate and work of the Independent Expert: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/slavery/rapporteur/index.htm
OHCHR Country Page – Peru: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/LACRegion/Pages/PEIndex.aspx
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