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Fight Against Mordern Slavery

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THE RIGHTS AGAINST COMTEMPORARY SLAVERY (DOMESTIC WORKERS AND BONDED LABOUR) IN NIGERIA AND THE UNITED STATES. WRITTEN BY: 2121745 DATE: 26TH APRIL 2014 WORD COUNT: 2,770 WORDS
As estimated by the International Labour organization (ILO), there are over 20.9 million people in this 21st century that are still enslaved. Another source states that there are 29.8 million people who are still held in modern day slavery.
When the word “slavery” is mentioned, the idea that comes to mind is when people are taken from India, Africa and other third world countries, to the West Indies or America, for the purpose of them to work in sugar cane plantation. Although that kind of slavery was abolished in the 19th century, men, women and children are still slaves, thus, the birth of modern slavery.
“Slavery is the status or condition of a person over whom any or all of the powers attaching to the right of ownership are exercised”. Slavery is so much graver than forced labour, Slavery involves forced labour, but not every forced labour involves slavery.

Despite being prohibited by so many International instruments, which includes the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the 1956 UN Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery, the Slave Trade and Institutions and Practices Similar to Slavery and the 1926 UN Slavery Convention, Contemporary slavery still takes place in various forms, affecting all gender, races and color.

Modern slavery has been in many forms, ranging from domestic servitude to bonded labour. In this 21st century, people are sold like goods, forced to work with little or no pay, left at the complete mercy of their “employers”. It further includes Debt bondage, which is otherwise called bonded labour; as defined by the Supplementary Convention on the abolition of slavery, it is “status or condition arising from a pledge by a debtor of his personal services or those of a person under his control as security for a debt, if the value of those services as reasonably assessed is not applied towards the liquidation of the debt or the length and nature of those services are not respectively limited and defined.

For domestic workers, their case I find quite intriguing, women and girls especially, and migrants are faced with abuses and labour exploitation, which includes low and delayed wages, long working hours with excess domestic work that seem humanly impossible to finish on time. Article 1 of the Domestic Workers Convention No.189 of the ILO, a treaty adopted by the International Labour Organization, it defines the term domestic work as “work performed in or for the household or households”. It further defines a domestic worker as “any person engaged in domestic work within an employment relationship”.

Every US citizen and foreign nationals living in the US, each year bring in thousands of domestic workers to be maids, housekeepers, servants, nannies and care-takers for the elderly. Most of these people suffer abuse and eventually end up in bondage; as they are promised American education, Visas normally require that domestic service workers remain with their original employer or face deportation. This tends to discourage workers from reporting abuse. Additionally, monitoring is impossible as the work takes place hidden in private homes.

In the United States, the Department of state has found the plight of domestic workers as a very unique form of slavery, where most of these workers live in their off-duty quarters of their workplace, and since the authorities cannot inspect the private workplace as it would have done a proper place, therefore this places are conducive for exploitation of these people by their “so called employers”. Although not bought as slaves, fundamental human rights of migrants are frequently violated or ignored. The exploitation can range from wage and hour violations to physical and sexual abuse. In many cases employers have withheld legal documents of migrant workers, thereby restricting their mobility. Domestic workers such as these are not covered by labor protection legislation; that fact combined with language and cultural barriers makes them easy targets for exploitation.
In the United States reports that most domestic workers are poor women from developing countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America who enter the United States on temporary visas. Once paperwork is filed for their visas, international institutions and embassies take a “hands-off” approach to the plight of these domestic workers. Investigators have found that in such situation there are cases of untreated illness the workers suffer, sexual abuse, and in some cases, symptoms of involuntary servitude.

These above steps of investigation done by the United States Department of State, I believe is one the ways in which the U.S has been fulfilling their obligations. In the Universal periodic report submitted to the U.N High Commissioner on Human Rights, they stated in there that;

“Freedom of association also protects workers and their right to organize. Workers regularly use legal mechanisms to address complaints such as threats, discharges, interrogations, surveillance, and wages-and-benefits cuts for supporting a union. These legal regimes are continuously assessed and evolving in order to keep pace with a modern work environment. Our UPR consultations included workers from a variety of sectors, including domestic workers who spoke about the challenges they face in organizing effectively. Currently there are several bills in our Congress that seek to strengthen workers right. Ensuring that workers can continue to associate freely, organize, and practice collective bargaining as the US economy continues to change”. For debt bondage, this occurs when a person is paying off a loan or debt he owes by working for the person he owes. Most of the time, they are made to work for a time to exceed the original amount owed. They are kept under surveillance and close watch. In many situations, this “payment” of loan will move to the next generation of the original debtor. The UN Working Group on Contemporary Forms of Slavery recognizes that some 20 million people are still held in debt bondage around the world.

In Nigeria, reports have shown that it has over 701,000, who are enslaved, ranging from bonded labour quarries to sexual exploitation, and domestic slavery included. Furthermore, it has been reports have shown that forced domestic labour and bonded labour have been serious problems in Nigeria.

Maids and male servants in Nigeria are sometime exploited by their employers and used as cheap labour. They have no official watch group that tries to still the abuse they suffer in the respective households. Early to rise, and the last person to retire to bed, they bear the brunt of work in Nigeria for most of the day, without any respite, or overtime. Their salary is fixed, and their day off work is nil. These people suffer verbal, physical, psychological, and sexual abuses from their employers.

Moreover, these “house boys” or “house girls” as they are popularly known as, gain employment via “agencies” in the cities. These agencies are the one that hand them over like goods to their employers, without properly screening these “employers” on matters concerning the servants. Whatever miniature salary they receive, ¾ goes to the “agencies” and the remaining fraction goes to their parent in the village (not worth a plate of food)

An instance of domestic workers sad ordeal, as related to true life stories are narrated here in; Tonia Ayo-Ola, 19, has worked for three months without a day off. Each morning she is up by 6 a.m. preparing breakfast for her "master". She doesn’t roll out her sleeping mat on the living room floor, until after the last person is in bed, often well after midnight.
In cases like this, the “master” as they are so called, when taking these people from their family, they promise to pay good amount of money for their services, when these domestic worker starts work, they live in shoddy housing conditions, then made to work like donkeys for only meals and a roof. Tonia’s case is a typical example of a domestic worker plight in Nigeria.

Compared to Tonia’s case, this sad predicament affects children from age 8 to 15 the most in Nigeria; they are taken away from their homes, promised education and money to support their family, once taken, the promise is not kept. 12 year old Iyagu related his story; after the death of Iyagu's father, his mother and her eight children were left in financial difficulty. His mother decided to allow Iyagu to go with an acquaintance, who promised to take him to Alloh, where he would receive an education and earn some money. Iyagu was sent far from his home, to live with people he had never met, at just eight years of age. The suffering was too much for Iyagu. At nine years old, he ran away to find the man who had taken him to the house. "I told him I wanted to go back home or I would simply die. By chance he sent me back home." When Iyagu returned home, his mother was overcome with joy to have him back.

Statistics have shown the conditions of domestic workers in Nigeria as of the year 2012 as follows:
Nature of work done: The domestic servants engaged in a variety of work with 72.5% doing diverse domestic household shores, 32.5% involved in farming, 12.5% engaged in bricklaying and security guards while 20.0% were gardeners. Most of domestic servants (66.25%) were not aware of the type of job they would engage in before leaving their hometown or country. Neither were they aware of who would be their employers.
Hours of work: About 60.0% of these workers indicated that they had no specific working hours, however 12.5% worked for 12 hours daily, while 27.5% worked for 9 hours. Most of them (90.0%) worked both on week days and at weekends with 95.75% of them not receiving any pay or compensation for weekend jobs. The Domestic Workers Convention stipulates that workers are entitled to at least 24 consecutive hours of rest weekly.
Wages and Salaries: The wages/salaries paid to domestic workers vary with 66.25% of respondents earning N6, 000.00 per month while 18.2% and 2.5% earn N7, 000.00 and N8, 000.00 respectively. It is worth noting that 12.5% of respondents earns below N5, 000.00 monthly. 62.5% of the respondents indicated that the money was usually collected by the agent who brought them to the workplace. 31.25% collected their wages by themselves while 6.25% of the respondents indicated that their parents collect their wages. Fees charged by agencies should not be deducted from workers salaries as it is a violation of article 15 of the Domestic Workers convention.
Living Conditions of Domestic Servants: Their sleeping point includes garage (27.5%), kitchen (12.5%), guestrooms (10.0 %,) and boys quarters (42.0%). In addition, most sleep on sleeping mats, which are thinly woven from palm leaves; laid on cold hard tiled floors. Such conditions are unfavorable to their health conditions, a violation to their right to health as provided by article 13 of the Domestic Workers Convention.
Feeding About 68.0% of the respondents indicated that they didn’t eat the same type of food with their employers and that their quality of food is usually very low relative to those of their employers. It happens that most often, domestic workers in Nigeria are made to either eat leftovers or a different kind of food with less nutrition.

Health Care The workers mostly (42.73%) depend on the employer for medical care when ill, while a good proportion (66.25%) indicated that they never took ill since they left home. Most of them agreed with the fact that those who brought them (uncle or agent) cared less about their health problems and they see complaints about health issues as signs of weaknesses which may lead to their repatriation of the young people back to the village. Just because of fear of what agents and employers will think or do to them, these people hardly ever complain about their health problems, which will lead to them using their minute salary to cater for themselves.
Bonded labour in Nigeria is a typical and rampant form of slavery, here, it only occurs when a creditor gives a loan to a poor person, and attaches to it an outrageous interest rate, which will make payment of that loan difficult. As a consequence of not paying the loan, the wife and children of the man as far as their next generation will be in servitude and enslaved just to pay off the debt that magically accumulates.
Persons and families who are the victims of the practice of bonded labor, could work for every day in a year for all the years of their life and still never be able to repay the capital and full interest on the loan. Victims of bonded servitude, usually farm and labor for their masters and receive only enough food to barely keep them alive.
WAYS IN WHICH THE U.S USES TO HELP AND PROTECT THE OF RIGHTS OF DOMESTIC WORKERS.
Apart from the investigation made by the US Department of State, actions that governments have taken or may consider taking to help to address involuntary domestic servitude include:
• Updating national labor laws to include domestic workers with protections such as minimum wage, overtime, inspections, and the right to join a union and collectively bargain, and time off.

• Regulating labor recruitment, particularly fee structures, to prevent debt bondage;

• Informing citizen and migrant domestic workers of relevant workplace and other rights to encourage self reporting of trafficking abuses;

• Ensuring Embassies and consulates have appropriately trained staff to assist nationals who are temporary workers abroad in case of trafficking abuses.

• Ensuring trafficking victims, including victims of domestic servitude, are offered comprehensive services through government agencies, NGOs or other organizations;

• Ensuring legal provisions exist to hold employers criminally and civilly liable for domestic servitude.

WAYS IN WHICH NIGERIAN GOVERNMENT HELP TO PROTECT THE RIGHTS OF DOMESTIC WORKERS

According to Orakwue Arinze of the Nigerian government’s National Agency for Prohibition of Traffic in Persons (NAPTIP), the Nigerian government has passed a law making it illegal for children less than 18 to work in the household of non-family members. But labour is so cheap that domestic help is the norm, and few Nigerians are aware of the law.
NAPTIP officials say that it's a fight against poverty in a country where the UN estimates 70 percent of the population live on less than US $1 a day.

NAPTIP is working with UNICEF to reunite trafficked domestic workers with their families. But UNICEF’s representative said the task is complicated because some of the youngest children do not know their father’s names or where they are from. For others, UNICEF is working with the government to provide hundreds of domestic workers in Lagos with vocational or literacy classes to broaden their horizons.
These and other progressive ways are what the Nigerian government has resorted to in combating domestic servitude.

REFRENCES * ANTI-SLAVERY http://www.antislavery.org/english/slavery_today/what_is_modern_slavery.aspx * BRANDEIS UNIVERSITY PUBLICATIONS http://www.brandeis.edu/projects/fse/slavery/contemporary/essay-domestic-migrant-workers.html * CATHOLIC NEWS AGENCY http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/human-trafficking-has-many-faces-human-rights-expert-says/ * UNITED NATIONS ON THE CONVENTION OF SLAVERY 1926 * ANN JORDAN, SLAVERY, FORCED LABOUR, DEBT BONDAGE AND HUMAN TRAFFICKING; FROM CONCEPTUAL CONFUSION TO TARGETED SOLUTIONS. * STUDY MODES ESSAY ARCHIVES http://www.studymode.com/essays/What-Is-Modern-Slavery-153856.html * SUPPLEMENTARY CONVENTION ON THE ABOLITION OF SLAVERY, THE SLAVE TRADE AND INSTITUTIONS AND PRACTICES SIMILAR TO SLAVERY * DOMESTIC WORKERS CONVENTION NO 189, INTERNATIONAL LABOUR ORGANIZATION * FIGHT SLAVERY NOW! http://fightslaverynow.org/why-fight-there-are-27-million-reasons/labortrafficking/domestic-servitude/ * US DEPARTMENT OF STATES “DIPLOMACY IN ACTION” http://www.state.gov/j/tip/what/ * ONLINE DAILY TRUST NEWSPAPER http://dailytrust.info/index.php/international/7948-nigeria-3rd-in-global-modern-slavery-report * INTERNATIONAL TRADE UNION CONFEDERATION (ITUC), INTERNATIONALLY RECOGNISED CORE LABOUR STANDARDS IN NIGERIA. REPORT FOR THE WTO GENERAL COUNCIL REVIEW OF THE TRADE POLICIES OF NIGERIA. * OMOJOLA AWUSUSI AND GRACE MODUPE ADEBOR, DOMESTIC SERVANTS AND RURAL-YOUTH MIGRATION IN NIGERIA: ISSUES FOR NATIONAL INTERVENTION. * IRIN, HUMANITARIAN NEWS AND ANALYSIS http://www.irinnews.org/report/61047/nigeria-domestic-workers-or-modern-day-slaves * ANTHONY AKUSON, NIGERIAN WORLD FEATURES ARTICLES http://nigeriaworld.com/articles/2009/mar/312.html * UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF STATE, GOVERNMENT ACTION TO ADDRESS INVOLUNTARY DOMESTIC SERVITUDE * UNITED NATIONS HUMAN RIGHTS ARCHIVES http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Slavery/SRSlavery/Pages/SRSlaveryIndex.aspx

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[ 1 ]. Anti-slavery archives http://www.antislavery.org/english/slavery_today/what_is_modern_slavery.aspx (accessed 4th March 2014)
[ 2 ]. Catholic news agency http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/human-trafficking-has-many-faces-human-rights-expert-says/ (accessed 4th March 2014).
[ 3 ]. Anti-slavery archives http://www.antislavery.org/english/slavery_today/what_is_modern_slavery.aspx (accessed 4th March 2014)
[ 4 ]. Ibid (supra)
[ 5 ]. 1926 UN Convention on Slavery, Article 1(1)
[ 6 ]. Ann Jordan “Slavery, forced labour, Debt Bondage, and Human Trafficking; from conceptual confusion to targeted solutions” (February 2011) page 5 .
[ 7 ]. Study mode essays http://www.studymode.com/essays/What-Is-Modern-Slavery-153856.html (accessed 27th March 2014).
[ 8 ]. Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of slavery; article 1(a)
[ 9 ]. Domestic Workers Convention No. 189 of the ILO, article 1 (a) (b)
[ 10 ]. Fight Slavery Now http://fightslaverynow.org/why-fight-there-are-27-million-reasons/labortrafficking/domestic-servitude/ (accessed 25th April 2014)
[ 11 ]. U.S Department of State “Diplomacy in Action” archives http://www.state.gov/j/tip/what/ (accessed 27th March 2014)
[ 12 ]. Brandeis University Archives http://www.brandeis.edu/projects/fse/slavery/contemporary/essay-domestic-migrant-workers.html (accessed 25th April 2014)
[ 13 ]. Ibid 7
[ 14 ]. Anti-slavery http://www.antislavery.org/english/slavery_today/bonded_labour.aspx (accessed 25th April 2014)
[ 15 ]. Brandeis University archives http://www.brandeis.edu/projects/fse/slavery/contemporary/essay-bonded-labor.html (accessed 25th April 2014)
[ 16 ]. Daily Trust http://dailytrust.info/index.php/international/7948-nigeria-3rd-in-global-modern-slavery-report (accessed 24th April 2014)
[ 17 ]. International trade Union Confederation, Report for the WTO General Council Review of the Trade Policies of Nigeria ; page 8
[ 18 ]. Omojola Awususi and Grace Modupe Adebor “Domestic Servants and Rural-Youth Urban Migration in Nigeria: issues for National Intervention” Vol 2 (March 2012) page 2.
[ 19 ]. Ibid page 2
[ 20 ]. IRIN http://www.irinnews.org/report/61047/nigeria-domestic-workers-or-modern-day-slaves (accessed 25th April 2014)
[ 21 ]. Omojola Awususi and Grace Modupe Adebor, “Domestic Servants and Rural-Youth Urban Migration in Nigeria: Issues for National Intervention” Vol. 2,( March 2012). Page 4
[ 22 ]. ibid
[ 23 ]. Domestic Workers Convention No189 ILO. Article 10 (2)
[ 24 ]. Omojola Awususi and Grace Modupe Adebor, “Domestic Servants and Rural-Youth Urban Migration in Nigeria: Issues for National Intervention” Vol. 2, (March 2012) page 4.
[ 25 ]. ibid
[ 26 ]. Ibid.
[ 27 ]. Anthony Okosun, Nigeria World feature Article, pbl 30th March 2009 http://nigeriaworld.com/articles/2009/mar/312.html (accessed 26th April 2014)
[ 28 ]. United States Department of State, Government action to address involuntary domestic Servitude( June 2012)page 2
[ 29 ]. IRIN http://www.irinnews.org/report/61047/nigeria-domestic-workers-or-modern-day-slaves (accessed 26th April 2014)
[ 30 ]. ibid

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