UNITED NATIONS (AP) – A UN researcher says contemporary forms of slavery are widely practiced around the world, including forced labor for China’s Uyghur minority, bonded labor for Dalits in lowest caste in South Asia and domestic servitude in the Gulf countries, Brazil and Colombia. .
The Special Rapporteur of the Human Rights Council, Tomoya Obokata, adds that traditional slavery, especially of minorities, is found in Mauritania, Mali and Niger in the Sahel region of Africa.
He said in a report to the UN General Assembly distributed on Wednesday that child labour, another contemporary form of slavery, exists in all regions of the world, including in its worst forms.
“In Asia and the Pacific, the Middle East, the Americas and Europe, between 4 and 6% of children are said to be in child labour, and the percentage is much higher in Africa (21.6% ), with the highest rate in substances – Saharan Africa (23.9%),” he said.
Its ruling on Uyghurs in China’s northwest Xinjiang province follows a US ban imposed last December on imports from the region unless companies can prove the items are made without forced labor . There have been many claims that China engages in systemic and widespread abuse of ethnic and religious minorities in its western region.
China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs strongly criticized this finding by Obokata, who is a Japanese scholar and professor of international law and human rights at Keele University in England.
In the report, Obokata said that based on an independent assessment of information available from many sources, including victims and government accounts, he “considers it reasonable to conclude that forced labor among Uyghurs, Kazakhs and other ethnic minorities in sectors such as farming and agriculture. manufacturing has taken place in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.”
He cited two systems used by China: the detention of minorities for education and vocational skills training followed by job placement, and a poverty alleviation through labor program in which surplus rural workers are transferred to other jobs. He said labor transfer is also practiced in Tibet, where farmers, herders and other rural workers are moved to low-paid, low-skilled jobs.
While these programs can create jobs and income as the government claims, Obokata said that in many cases the work is involuntary and workers are subject to excessive surveillance, abusive living and working conditions, restricted movement, threats , physical or sexual violence and other inhumane or inhuman acts. degrading treatment.
“Some cases may amount to slavery as a crime against humanity, which merit further independent analysis,” he said.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin accused Obokata of choosing to “believe the lies and misinformation about Xinjiang spread by the US and some other Western countries and anti-China forces.”
He also accused Obokata of abusing his authority as a special investigator to “defame and denigrate China and serve as a political tool for anti-Chinese forces.” He accused unnamed “forces” of fabricating misinformation about forced labor “to undermine Xinjiang’s prosperity and stability and hold back China’s development and revitalization.”
“China strongly condemns this,” Wang said. “There has never been ‘forced labour’ in Xinjiang.”
He said China protects the rights and interests of workers of all ethnic groups to seek employment, participate in economic and social life “and share the dividends of socio-economic progress”.
Obokata said minorities are also subjected to forced labor in Latin America, pointing to rural areas in Brazil, including the Amazon, where “slavery is intimately linked to economic activities that are causing environmental devastation, such as illegal logging and mining”. they are men of African descent with low levels of education, he said.
The report also cited two other forms of contemporary slavery: child or forced marriage and sexual slavery.
Rates of child marriage are rising in marginalized communities such as the Roma minority in southeastern Europe, he said. In some parts of the Balkans, half of all Roma women between the ages of 20 and 24 are married before the age of 18, compared with about 10% nationally, he said.
He said official figures in the UK suggest that the vast majority of cases of forced marriage relate to Pakistan and, to a lesser extent, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India and Somalia.
In other regions, Boko Haram has forced Christian women and girls to convert to Islam and marry, Obokata said. Some minority ethnic groups in Nigeria practice forced or child marriage at high rates: 74, 9% among the Kambari and 73.8% among the Fufude. , he said.
Forced marriage is also a concern in the African nation of Congo, in Cambodia, India, Kazakhstan, Sri Lanka and Vietnam in Asia, and in Bolivia, Colombia, Honduras and Panama in Latin America, he said.
Regarding sexual slavery, which has been particularly notable during conflicts and humanitarian crises, Obokata pointed to the more than 6,500 women from Iraq’s Yazidi minority who were allegedly held captive in 2014 by fighters from the Islamic State who used rape as a weapon of war against them. Nearly 2,800 Yazidi women and children remain missing or in captivity today, he said.
In Ethiopia, Obokata said, minority women in the northern Tigray, Amhara and Afar regions have been subjected to rape, FGM and other forms of sexual violence by parties to the conflict.
In northern Nigeria, Boko Haram has mainly targeted Christians and moderate Muslims for slavery, including sex slavery, he said.
In Myanmar, women from the Rohingya Muslim minority “have been subjected to systematic sexual violence by the country’s security forces that can be considered war crimes or crimes against humanity,” he said.
Despite the persistence of contemporary forms of slavery among minorities, Obokata said governments, national human rights bodies, civil society organizations and regional groups and others “have been playing an important role in preventing of the exploitation of minorities”.
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