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There are at least 8.4 million child slaves in the world today. Nearly two million of these are forced to work as prostitutes, while almost half a million are child soldiers.
But the largest proportion of child slaves – more than five million – are held as forced labour. In some countries, these child slaves are simply juvenile victims of a thriving adult slave culture, but in other countries children are bought and sold specifically as child labourers.
In this episode of Slavery: A 21st Century Evil, Rageh Omaar investigates the plight of child slaves in Haiti. They are known as ‘restaveks’ from the French words ‘rester avec’, meaning ‘to stay with’. This is the practice of poor families giving their children as domestic help to wealthier acquaintances or relatives. As well as taking place within Haiti, this form of slavery can also involve children being sold or trafficked to the US. Our investigation exposes the slave traders who lure these children from isolated villages and then sell them to wealthy families.
“It’s like living in a family, but you’re not a part of the family. It’s like living in a home that’s not your home, because eventually you know they’re going to tell you to get out. It’s living in fear – fear of the adult and fear of the unknown.”
Indias' Bridal slaves
India has one of the world’s fastest growing economies. But the southwest Asian country also has the largest number of slaves in the world.
|“They injected me with drugs and beat me. Then I was sold on.”Jamila, a former bride slave
In the midst of widespread poverty, fueled by economic inequality and rampant corruption, a new form of slavery – bridal slavery – has flourished. Women and young girls are sold for as little as $120 to men who often burden them with strenuous labour and abuse them. In a country where female children are sometimes considered a financial burden, the common practice of infanticide and gender-selective abortion has led to a shortfall in the number of women available for marriage – something made all the more problematic by high dowry costs. Experts say this has encouraged bride trafficking.
Jamila, a former bride slave, says her traffickers kidnapped and drugged her, before selling her to an abusive man. “He would hit me and beat me day and night. I would have to work all day in the heat …. That’s no life …. Is it worth living?” Shafiq Khan, who runs a grassroots organisation dedicated to tracking down bride traffickers and their victims, explains: “The girls do equal amounts of work in two jobs. They are sex slaves, not just to one man but a group of 10 or 12 men. Apart from that there is agriculture – working on the farms with animals from morning until night.”