Child Slavery in Haiti - by Stephen Lendman
In November 1989, the UN General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child, recognizing "that in all countries in the world, there are children living in exceptionally difficult conditions, and that such children need special consideration." Then in May 2000, the General Assembly adopted an Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.
In 1990, the UN Commission on Human Rights appointed a Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography with a mandate to investigate the problem and submit reports to the General Assembly.
Today, Gulnara Shahinian holds the post, and on June 10, 2009 addressed Haiti's Restaveks, a century-old system under which impoverished families, mostly rural and unable to adequately provide for their children, send them to live with wealthier or less poor ones in return for food, shelter, education, and a better life in return for tasks performed as servants - de facto slaves subjected to verbal and physical abuse.
Some as young as three are beaten, forced to do anything asked, request nothing, speak only when spoken to, display no emotion, and receive none of the benefits parents expected, just exploitation and mistreatment that's often severe. Too often it's from relatives as poor families often send their children to live with those better able to provide care, yet they seldom do.
Haiti's poor also use them to help with domestic and other chores, and some work for homeless families under the worst of conditions, including nothing to eat for days, harder work, greater abuse, at times whippings leaving scars, getting attacked by rats in their sleep or street predators any time, and being easy prey for kidnappers who seize them for prostitution or forced labor, internally or abroad.
On July 10, 2009, Shahinian released a report titled, "Promotion and Protection of all Human Rights, Civil, Political, Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, including the Right to Development" covering contemporary forms of slavery that affect adults and children.
She called it a global issue in traditional and emerging forms that haven't been sufficiently addressed. She also found that where laws on forced labor exist, enforcement is limited, and "very few policies and programmes....address bonded labour." They should given its scale worldwide, affecting an estimated 27 million people conservatively and very likely many more as much of the problem is unreported.
In March 2009, this writer addressed it in an article titled, "Modern Slavery in America." It's disturbing and pervasive despite US laws prohibiting all forms of human trafficking through statutes created or strengthened by the 2000 Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (VTVPA) providing for imprisonment for up to 20 years or longer as well as other penalties. Other laws were also enacted, including the 2003 Protect Act to end child exploitation.
Yet slavery exists in different forms, affecting farm workers, domestic help, factory and other sweatshop labor, restaurant and hotel work, guest workers on US military bases in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, and most of all for prostitution and sex services that exploit children as well as adults.
The International Labor Organization (ILO) defines forced labor as follows:
"....all work or service which is exacted from any person under the menace of any penalty and for which said person has not offered himself (or herself) voluntarily."
Forced child labor is:
"(a) all forms of slavery or practices similar to slavery, such as the sale and trafficking of children, debt bondage and serfdom and forced or compulsory labor, including forced or compulsory recruitment of children for use in armed conflict;
(b) the use, procuring or offering of a child for prostitution, for the production of pornography or for pornographic performances;
(c) the use, procuring or offering of a child for illicit activities, in particular for the production and trafficking of drugs as defined in the relevant international treaties; (and)