Inspired by the first chapter in our fantastic ‘STOP THE TRAFFIK’ book written by STEVE CHALKE (featuring a chapter by CHERIE BLAIR) I am going to have a look at the implications human trafficking has on human rights…..
The first fundamental human right recognised by international law was ‘freedom from slavery’. This global acknowledgement occurred in 1807 with the abolition of transatlantic slavery, and was further entrenched in 1948 when the General Assembly of the United Nations proclaimed The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Human rights can be seen as a fundamental foundation of freedom, justice and peace worldwide.
So why, sixty-one years on, does a global network of human trafficking and slavery still flourish in numerous forms and manifestations? It is clear that the illicit trade of human beings functions in stark violation of Article 4 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but how many other articles of this declaration does trafficking defy?
THE UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS
(Full declaration including all articles can be found here: http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/index.shtml#ap)
- All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood – traffickers treat their victims as unequal’s, as commodities, and without dignity
- Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person – traffickers deny liberty and security to their victims
- No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms – this is article that the human trafficking trade most starkly violates
- No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment – many people trafficked are forced to work in very bad conditions, subject to poor, inhumane treatment so this article is also breached
- Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law – various accounts of traffik victims in the STOP THE TRAFFIK book describe their feels of powerlessness, and being treated ‘as a thing’ not a person – these feelings are sometimes further compounded by additional victimisation by the authorities who find them
- No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile – frequently traffickers keep their victims detained -physically by violence and coercion, and emotionally and psychologically, through threats and abuse
- No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attack – attacks upon honour and reputation could be invoked by many individuals, particularly those trafficked into sex work and who come from cultures where they are ostracised upon return to their country of origin
- (1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state (2) Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country – traffickers restrict the right to freedom of movement by ways such as confiscating passports and papers
- (1) Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution (2) This right may not be invoked in the case of prosecutions genuinely arising from non-political crimes or from acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations – asylum has at times been denied to people who have been trafficked and wish to stay in the destination country (see ‘Trafficked’ by Kathleen Maltzahn) on the grounds that the victims do not constitute a persecuted group despite the fear many feel about returning home.
- (1) Everyone has the right to a nationality (2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality – victims are denied identity by the withdrawal of papers by the perpetrators of trafficking
- (1) Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others (2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property – many trafficked victims are denied property in that the wages they earn in forced work are not given to them
- Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay – fair treatment in the work environment such as reasonable working hours, is denied to many individuals who are forced into labour by traffickers
This list of violations is by no means exhaustive! If you take a look at the Universal Declaration of Human Rights you may see that there are various other articles which could be applied to the experiences of trafficked victims. It is clear that despite this internationally recognised document, and various laws criminalising trafficking, this illicit trade continues to grow. More needs to be done to redress these violations and empower the survivors, and to stop this multi-million dollar industry that trades human lives. As Steve Chalke says in the STOP THE TRAFFIK book – ‘human trafficking ranks as one of the biggest challenges to human rights that our world faces in the twenty-first century’ – and one way to help in the fight is to spread AWARENESS and take ACTION. For some great ideas, see our website http://www.stopthetraffik.org!