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Child Slavery in Haiti

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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.


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