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Child slavery in modern world “can no longer be tolerated” – UN experts say

International Day for the Abolition of Slavery - Friday 2 December 2016

GENEVA (30 November 2016) – The abuse and exploitation of children as modern-day slaves cannot continue to be tolerated, two United Nations human rights experts have warned in a statement ahead of the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery on Friday 2 December. 

Slavery’s devastating effects must be fought by steps including rehabilitation and better education, and by making sure children know about their rights, according to the chair of the UN Voluntary Fund on contemporary forms of slavery, Ms. Nevena Vučković-Šahović, and the UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, Ms. Urmila Bhoola. Their statement says:

“Millions of people around the world, many of them children, remain trapped in situations of servitude and contemporary slavery.  Figures from the International Labour Organization (ILO) suggest that almost 21 million people are victims of forced labour, the closest estimate available to us of those impacted by contemporary forms of slavery.

In our work, we invariably see that children are particularly vulnerable to contemporary forms of slavery, including the worst forms of child labour, forced child marriage, child domestic servitude and instances of girls being forced into sexual slavery.

Whilst patterns of violations differ between countries and regions, they are united by the extreme exploitation of vulnerable children and by a devastating and lasting impact on the lives of these children.

This situation persists even though it is 90 years since the adoption of the Slavery Convention and 50 years since the development of its Supplementary Protocol.

As we stop and reflect on this commemorative year, the abuse and exploitation of child victims of slavery cannot continue to be tolerated.

Target 8.7 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals calls on the global community to ‘take immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour, including recruitment and use of child soldiers, and by 2025 end child labour in all its forms’. 

As we move towards the implementation of Target 8.7, we must ensure that specific attention is given to protecting the child victims of contemporary slavery.

This must include ways to prevent children becoming victims of slavery, including universal access to quality education and decent work, economic empowerment for family members, and making sure children know about their rights.

The international community’s efforts to step up protection for children must also include access to justice and rehabilitation for current victims. We must take steps to restore their rights, allow them to live lives of dignity and provide opportunities for rehabilitation and reintegration into society.”  

Ms. Ms. Nevena Vučković-Šahović (Serbia) has been a member of the Board of Trustees of the UN Voluntary Fund on Contemporary Forms of Slavery since 2014 and its Chairperson since 2015. She was a member of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child from 2003 until 2009, and is one of the founding members of the Child Rights Centre in Belgrade. She worked with UNICEF on issues related to child trafficking and exploitation, and international adoption, among others. She is also a member of the Expert Committee of the International Children's Peace Prize. She is an international law professor at the UNION University of Belgrade and the Head of the Master on the Rights of the Child. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Slavery/UNVTFCFS/Pages/WhattheFundis.aspx

Ms. Urmila Bhoola (South Africa) assumed her mandate as Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, including its causes and consequences on 2 June 2014. Ms. Bhoola is a human rights lawyer working in the Asia Pacific region on international human rights, gender equality and labour law. She has 20 years of experience as a labour and human rights lawyer in South Africa and served as a Judge of the South African Labour Court for five years. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Slavery/SRSlavery/Pages/SRSlaveryIndex.aspx

Check the UN Slavery Convention: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/SlaveryConvention.aspx

For more information and media requests, please contact:
Ms. Laura Dolci-Kanaan, Secretary of the UN Voluntary Fund on Contemporary Forms of Slavery (+41 22 9179732 / ldolci-kanaan@ohchr.org or write to slaveryfund@ohchr.org
Ms. Eleanor Robb, who supports the UN Special Rapporteur on slavery (+41 22 917 9800 / erobb@ohchr.org) or write to srslavery@ohchr.org

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)  

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