Prevalence

There are an estimated 2,058,200 people in modern slavery in Pakistan – this is equivalent to 1.13% of the entire population

Debt bondage is the most prevalent form of modern slavery in Pakistan. It exists in developing, and sometimes illegitimate and ungoverned industries.The provinces of Punjab and Sindh are hotspots of bonded labour, which is mainly found in the brick making, agriculture, and carpet weaving industries.While official statistics are not available, one media report recently estimated that the brick kiln industry employs around 4.5 million people across the country.1  It is thought that the majority of brick kiln workers in Punjab are bonded labourers.2

Products known to be produced using modern slavery 3

AgricultureBricksCarpetsCoalCottonRiceSugarWheat

While brick kilns are now under the responsibility of provincial Departments of Labour, half of the approximately 10,500 brick kilns in Punjab remain unregistered.4  The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan has reported that in Sindh and Punjab provinces some bonded labourers in brick kilns are “either kept in captivity by armed guards or their family members become virtual hostages.”5

A lack of documentation of debt repayments and the non-payment of the low minimum wages exacerbates bondage and compels families to put children to work. 6  Upon death or permanent disability of adult workers, the remaining debt is transferred to other family members, including young children. Workers who attempt to leave the kilns are often discovered and forced to return to continue paying off their debt.7

There are an estimated 10 million child workers in Pakistan,8 3.8 million of whom are five to 14 years old.9  Within this vulnerable population, children are exploited in brick kilns, agriculture, domestic work, auto mechanic shops, carpet weaving factories and for commercial sexual exploitation.10  From January 2010 to June 2013, 41 cases of torture against child domestic workers were reported11 in Pakistani media. Of this, 34 were girls and 19 resulted in death.12

Despite the social stigma and shame associated with commercial sex in Pakistan, local NGOs have noted a rise of forced prostitution and commercial sexual exploitation of children. Extreme poverty and unemployment can compel families to sell children into commercial sexual exploitation13 to meet demand for pre-pubescent girls, some are as young as 10 years old.14  The trafficking of Pakistani men and women for forced labour, sexual exploitation and forced marriage to the Gulf and Europe has been identified.15  Pakistani nationals are in the top ten nationalities of suspected traffickers in Europe.16

The intersection of gender inequality and poverty contributes to the high number of child and forced marriages in Pakistan. In January 2012, 338 cases of forced marriage were recorded, which equates to 4,000 cases a year.17 Given significant levels of under reporting, this is likely an under-estimate. In some cases women are married to settle family disputes known as Vaani (for Punjabis) and Swara (for Pashtoons),18 while others are forced to marry through the custom of Vatta Satta, or ‘exchange’ marriage. According to Shari’a law, which influences the common law system in Pakistan, girls can be married after they reach puberty, which is often before the 16 years of age required by Pakistani law, and well under the international standard of 18 years old.

Government response

ScoreSurvivors are supportedCriminal justiceCoordination and accountabilityAttitudes, social systems and institutionsBusiness and government
CC33.333.333.331.30

Pakistan has national laws that prohibit bonded labour and transnational human trafficking. However, following a constitutional amendment in 2010, the Federal Government devolved most legislative and enforcement powers to the provinces, including responsibility for labour, child protection, and women’s protection. The provinces are yet to make all the necessary laws on these issues.

No single national-level body exists to oversee a coordinated response to the modern slavery challenges that Pakistan faces. Cross-border human trafficking remains under the purview of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) of the Ministry of Interior and Narcotics Control, but there is no national level mechanism to address internal trafficking. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) is working to build capacity through training and supply of technical resources to FIA, but this intervention is insufficient considering the size of the problem.The Government of Pakistan does not have strong victim identification and support systems. While District Vigilance Committees and rehabilitation funds exist for victims of bonded labour on paper, their effectiveness has yet to be demonstrated. There are government-run shelters for victims of trafficking, but these restrict victims’ movement.

The overall response is hampered by inadequate funding.19  The funds that are available are directed towards transnational human trafficking interventions and programmes to address child labour. However, without specific interventions on worst forms of child labour, debt bondage and forced marriage, the majority of victims remain unidentified and unsupported.

Vulnerability

Slavery policyHuman rightsState stabilityDiscriminationDevelopment
85.979.268.96060.4

A weak rule of law, wide spread corruption,20 and poverty reinforce political, social, and economic structures of modern slavery in Pakistan. Underpinning this are culturally accepted practices that are tantamount to modern slavery.

Some land owners, for example, believe their relationship with the haris (tenant) is that of a protector and an elder. This reinforces perceptions that lower caste groups are not equal citizens and subsequently limits policy and service provisions tailored to their needs. Victims of sexual exploitation are similarly vulnerable to police abuse due to the criminalisation of sex workers, including children. Police and government structures are steeped in this system of inequality and, rather than address it, they maintain the status quo. There are however signs of change. In 2013, Ms Veero Kolhi became Pakistan’s first former bonded labourer to contest an election. Her candidacy was described as a milestone for bonded labourers.21

Recommendations

Government

  • Convene a conference of Federal and Provincial governments to review the current legislation and put in place all the necessary international, federal and provincial laws necessary to end modern slavery, including reforming those laws that criminalise victims.
  • Establish a single agency with Cabinet-level representation of the Federal and Provincial Governments to create a single, integrated National Strategy to end modern slavery, with an appropriate plan and budget.
  • Enforce the registration and regulation of brick kilns and other workplaces.
  • Enforce the payment of the minimum wage to brick kiln and other workers.
  • Set and audit minimum labour standards in all Federal and Provincial government procurement activities.
  • Build capacity of the frontline government officials of Police, FIA, Social Security, Labour and Human Resource Departments and judiciary through comprehensive training programmes.
  • Support projects to ensure at risk workers are registered on the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA)22database and social security system.
  • Facilitate access of bonded labourers to easy loans and grants through microfinance schemes and other safety nets.

Business

  • Export-oriented industries such as textiles, agriculture and carpet-weaving should work through their industry bodies and with appropriate third parties (such as the World Wildlife Foundation’s Better Cotton programme) to create industry-wide supply chains that are free of modern slavery.
  • Domestic industries, such as brick kilns, should work with the Regional Governments, District Vigilance Committees and other organisations to find innovative ways of eliminating the need for
    child and bonded labour in their businesses.
“The brutal kiln owner would not have set us free under any circumstances, I was detained with fourteen members of my family including three children under five for the last six months and we were forced to work on a kiln without remuneration.”
Rubina, talking with media in South Punjab where she was freed in a police raid along with her family members.  
"Bonded labour: 15 of fettered family freed in Bahawalnagar”, The Express Tribune, December 28, 2011, accessed 15/08/14: http://defence.pk/threads/bonded-labour-15-of-fetteredfamily-freed-in-bahawalnagar.149516/#ixzz3AiX2skCH

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Footnotes

  1. Waaqas Naeem, “Bonded by Evil”, The Tribune, September 15, 2013, accessed 19/10/14: http://tribune.com.pk/story/604432/bonded-by-evil-brick-kiln-workers-continue-to-bake-amid-owners-cruelty/
  2. Unfree labour in Pakistan: Work, Debt and Bondage in Brick Kilns, (Pakistan Institute of Labour Education & Research, 2004), p. 15, accessed 15/08/14: http://apflnet.ilo.org/resources/unfree-labour-in-pakistan-work-debt-and-bondage-in-brick-kilns/at_download/file1
  3. All listed products can be found in: Bureau of International Labor Affairs, List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor. 2013 List, (United States Department of Labor, 2013), accessed 10/10/14: http://www.dol.gov/ilab/reports/child-labor/list-of-goods/
  4. Field source
  5. State of Human Rights in 2012, (Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, 2012), p. 7, accessed 15/08/14: http://hrcp-web.org/hrcpweb/wp-content/pdf/AR2012.pdf
  6. Unfree labour in Pakistan: Work, Debt and Bondage in Brick Kilns, (Pakistan Institute of Labour Education & Research, 2004), p. 14, accessed 15/08/14: http://apflnet.ilo.org/resources/unfree-labour-in-pakistan-work-debt-and-bondage-in-brick-kilns/at_download/file1
  7. As above, pp. 14-23
  8. State of Human Rights in 2012, (Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, 2012), p. 7, accessed 15/08/14: http://hrcp-web.org/hrcpweb/wp-content/pdf/AR2012.pdf
  9. As above, p. 214
  10. State of Pakistan’s Children – 2013 Report, (Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child, 2013) accessed 15/08/14: http://www.sparcpk.org/SOPC2013.html
  11. The Unending Plight of Child Domestic Workers in Pakistan, (Child Rights Movement Punjab et al., 2013), p.5, accessed 15/08/14: http://www.isj.org.pk/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/The-unending-plight-of-child-domestic-workers-in-Pakistan.pdf
  12. As above.
  13. “Pakistan: Sold Into Sex Work”, IRIN, April 25, 2010: http://www.irinnews.org/report/88921/pakistan-sold-into-sex-work
  14. EU Eurostat, Trafficking in Human Beings, (Eurostat, 2014), p. 36, accessed 18/10/14: http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/home-affairs/what-is-new/news/news/2013/docs/20130415_thb_stats_report_en.pdf
  15. As above, p. 52
  16. 2012 Annual Report, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, accessed 15/08/14: http://hrcp-web.org/hrcpweb/publications/annual-reports/
  17. 2012 Annual Report, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, accessed 15/08/14: http://hrcp-web.org/hrcpweb/publications/annual-reports
  18. In Vaani/Swara, a woman is married to a man from an opposing clan to settle a dispute
  19. Walk Free field research suggests that the budget for the Federal Investigative Agency was around US 1.8 million, solely for external human trafficking, in 2012, but the FIA function includes what would more properly be called migrant smuggling or irregular migration.
  20. Pakistan is rated 127 of 177 (177 being the most corrupt) on Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index. See: “Pakistan”, Transparency International, accessed 01/10/14: http://www.transparency.org/country/#PAK. Recent investigations have revealed corruption affects government offices, including FIA, see: http://tribune.com.pk/story/592094/purging-the-watchdog-fia-declares-62-of-its-officials-corrupt/, http://www.dawn.com/news/1107732
  21. State of Human Rights, (Human Rights Commission, 2013), accessed 17/10/14: http://hrcp-web.org/hrcpweb/wp-content/pdf/AR2012.pdf
  22. “National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA),” Ministry of Interior, last modified 2014: http://www.nadra.gov.pk/

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Survivors are identified, supported to exit and remain out of modern slavery
Criminal justice mechanisms address modern slavery
Coordination and accountability mechanisms for the central government are in place
Attitudes, social systems and institutions that enable modern slavery are addressed
Businesses and governments through their public procurement stop sourcing goods and services that use modern slavery

Government response rating: AAA

Numerical range: 59 to 64

The general characteristics of a country that has received a rating of AAA are as follows:
The government has an implemented an effective and comprehensive response to all forms of modern slavery, with effective emergency and long-term reintegration victim support services, a strong criminal justice framework, high levels of coordination and collaboration, measures to address all forms of vulnerability, and strong government procurement policies and legislation to ensure that slavery is not present in business supply chains. There is no evidence of criminalisation or deportation of victims.

Government response rating: AA

Numerical range: 53 to 58

The general characteristics of a country that has received a rating of AA are as follows:
The government has implemented a comprehensive response to most forms of modern slavery, with strong victim support services, a robust criminal justice framework, demonstrated coordination and collaboration, measures to address vulnerability, and government procurement guidelines and/or supply chain policies or legislation to ensure that slavery is not present in business supply chains.

Government response rating: A

Numerical range: 47 to 52

The general characteristics of a country that has received a rating of A are as follows:
The government has implemented key components of a holistic response to some forms of modern slavery, with strong victim support services, a strong criminal justice framework, demonstrated coordination and collaboration, measures to address vulnerability, and may have taken action to ensure that government procurement policies do not encourage slavery.

Government response rating: BBB

Numerical range: 41 to 46

The general characteristics of a country that has received a rating of BBB are as follows:
The government has implemented key components of a holistic response to modern slavery, with victim support services, a strong criminal justice response, evidence of coordination and collaboration, and protections in place for vulnerable populations. Governments may be beginning to address slavery in supply chains of government procurement, or of businesses operating within their territory. There may be evidence that some government policies and practices may criminalise and/or cause victims to be deported.

Government response rating: BB

Numerical range: 35 to 40

The general characteristics of a country that has received a rating of BB are as follows:
The government has introduced a response to modern slavery, which includes short term victim support services, a criminal justice framework that criminalises some forms of modern slavery, a body to coordinate the response, and protections for those vulnerable to modern slavery.There may be evidence that some government policies and practices may criminalise and/or cause victims to be deported, and/or facilitate slavery.

Government response rating: B

Numerical range: 29 to 34

The general characteristics of a country that has received a rating of B are as follows:
The government has introduced a response to modern slavery, with limited victim support services, a criminal justice framework that criminalises some forms of modern slavery, (or has recently amended inadequate legislation and policies), a body or mechanisms that coordinate the response, and has policies that provide some protection for those vulnerable to modern slavery. There is evidence that some government policies and practices may criminalise and/or deport victims, and/or facilitate slavery. Services may be provided by International Organisations (IOs)/ NGOs with international funding, sometimes with government monetary or in-kind support.

Government response rating: CCC

Numerical range: 23 to 28

The general characteristics of a country that has received a rating of CCC are as follows:
The government has a response to modern slavery, with limited victim support services, a criminal justice framework that criminalises some forms of modern slavery, has a national action plan and/or national coordination body, and has policies that provide some protections for those vulnerable to modern slavery. There is evidence that some government policies and practices may criminalise and/or deport victims, and/ or facilitate slavery. Services may be largely provided by IOs/NGOs with international funding, with limited government funding or in-kind support.

Government response rating: CC

Numerical range: 17 to 22

The general characteristics of a country that has received a rating of CC are as follows:
The government has a limited response to modern slavery, with largely basic victim support services, a limited criminal justice framework, limited coordination or collaboration mechanism, and few protections for those vulnerable to modern slavery.There may be evidence that some government policies and practices facilitate slavery. Services are largely provided by IOs/NGOs with limited government funding or in-kind support.

Government response rating: C

Numerical range: 11 to 16

The general characteristics of a country that has received a rating of C are as follows:
The government response to modern slavery is inadequate, with limited and/or few victim support services, a weak criminal justice framework, weak coordination or collaboration, while little is being done to address vulnerability.There are government practices and policies that facilitate slavery. Services, where available, are largely provided by IOs/NGOs with little government funding or in-kind support.

Government response rating: D

Numerical range: <0 to 10

The general characteristics of a country that has received a rating of D are as follows:
The government has a wholly inadequate response to modern slavery, and/ or there is evidence of government sanctioned modern slavery. However, countries in this category may be experiencing high levels of poverty and internal conflict that may prevent, or hinder a response to modern slavery.