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UN expert on contemporary forms of slavery welcomes landmark convention on domestic workers' rights

GENEVA (20 June 2011) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, including its causes and consequences, Gulnara Shahinian, welcomes the adoption by the International Labour Organization of the International Convention on Domestic Workers*, a landmark legal instrument that sets out to protect the rights of millions of people worldwide, a majority of whom are women and girls.

“Paid domestic work, where the workers’ rights are respected and protected, provides a valuable contribution to society,” Ms. Shahinian said. “This Convention recognizes the rights of domestic workers and contributes significantly to combating domestic servitude.”

Domestic servitude** or slavery is a situation where a vulnerable individual is forced, by physical and/or moral coercion, to work without any real financial reward, is deprived of his or her liberty, and is in circumstances contrary to human dignity. Children are particularly vulnerable to domestic servitude, especially if they live with their employers and/or migrate on their own to find domestic work. The majority of these children are girls.

“As with many other forms of slavery, domestic servitude occurs in the shadows of many informal economies. This is the first time that the protection of rights is being extended to work that has been regarded as informal," Ms. Shahinian said. "Speedy ratification of the Convention will restore dignity to the many men, women and children doing such work, and to the work they perform."

(*) Check the International Convention on Domestic Workers: http://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/@ed_norm/@relconf/documents/meetingdocument/wcms_157836.pdf

(**) See the Special Rapporteur's report on domestic servitude:
http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/slavery/rapporteur/docs/A.HRC.15.20_EN.pdf

ENDS

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

For press inquiries and additional information, please contact Ms. Elizabeth Wabuge (Tel: +4122 917 9138 / email: ewabuge@ohchr.org) or write to srslavery@ohchr.org

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