"The Fishing Industry's Cruelest Catch,"
E. Benjamin Skinner, February 20, 2012, Bloomberg Businessweek
<Photo: A former slave, Chandar Sabahi. "We were treated like animals," she says. "Anyone who refused to work was beaten up." By Zia Mazhar, Free the Slaves.
References & Resources
Contemporary Forms of Slavery in Pakistan, Human Rights Watch / Asia, 1995
ILO Report: The Cost of Coercion May, 2009
Poverty dynamics in rural Sindh, Pakistan, 2009, Chronic Poverty Research Centre
"Over 250,000 children work in brick kilns," Azan Khan, October 3, 2010, The Express Tribune
"The Menace of Bonded Labour in Pakistan's Agricultural Sector," Ahmad Ali, June 15, 2009, Triple Bottom Line
"1.7 M bonded peasants in Pakistan," Urooj Zia, February 26, 2009, TheNews.com.pk
Disclaimer: The views expressed on external websites should not be taken to represent the views of the Schuster Institute or Brandeis University.
Pakistan's Forgotten Plight:
Time, October 27, 2009
By E. Benjamin Skinner
As Hillary Clinton pays her first visit to Pakistan as Secretary of State, an unfolding hostage crisis will test the Obama Administration's rhetoric on human rights in the region. Officials at the U.S. embassy in Islamabad say at least three landlords have held as many as 170 bonded farmworkers at gunpoint on their estates in the country's southeast Sindh province since late September. With U.S. attention focused on getting Pakistan to deal with huge security issues to Washington's satisfaction, will Clinton be able to press Islamabad's rulers to address a controversy involving rural poverty and modern-day slavery?
The crisis began after the workers' advocates successfully petitioned three district courts to declare as illegal the debts that the landlords were using to compel the workers into indentured servitude. Those debts average around 1,000 Pakistani rupees — roughly $12. The hostages, a third of whom are children, some as young as 4 months old, are landless peasants, known as haari in Urdu. According to Ghulam Hyder, a spokesman for Pakistan's Green Rural Development Organization, the landlords have killed one hostage already and are threatening to kill the others unless they drop the cases and return to work. The landlords also abducted Amarchand Bheel, an advocate for the laborers, as he traveled to court to plead their cause.
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Number of people working in bonded labor
The estimates of how many people work in bonded labor vary widely (Feminist Sexual Ethics Project, Brandeis University):
The UN Working Group on Contemporary Forms of Slavery recognizes that some 20 million people are still held in debt bondage around the world. However, there continues to be considerable controversy regarding the number of people actually enslaved as bonded laborers. In India, estimates vary between Human Rights Watch’s appraisal in 1999 of 40 million bonded laborers and the 280,340 that were identified by the Indian government as of March 1999.
Similarly, in Pakistan, the Bonded Labour Liberation Front (an NGO), estimated in a submission to the UN that there were 20 million bonded laborers in Pakistan. A representative of the government of Pakistan recently stated that the total number of bonded laborers was between 5,000 and 7,000 (Anti-Slavery Submissions to the UN Commission on Human Rights).