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Global Warming and the Pandemic Increase Women and Girls’ Risk of Modern Slavery

Children may be working longer hours or under worsening conditions as a result of the economic recession and school closures caused by the pandemic

UNICEF/Simon Lister At an age when children should be in school, millions are engaged in work that is potentially harmful to their health.

Approximately 80 million children from 5 to 7 years old are subjected to modern-day slavery today, according to UNICEF and ILO’s findings from June. Moreover, experts claim that one in every 130 women and girls are victims of forced labor, domestic servitude, child and forced marriage— all classified as contemporary forms of slavery.

In light of the 30th anniversary of the United Nations’ Voluntary Trust Fund on Contemporary Forms of Slavery, the UN declared that 18,000 victims were assisted through the Fund’s organizations this year alone.

Expanding on the overlap between contemporary slavery and young women’s exploitation, experts explained that “gender inequalities lie at the heart of contemporary forms of  slavery,” adding that “accountability of perpetrators must be strengthened as a matter of priority, as currently impunity prevails in far too many instances.”

The findings indicate that the Coronavirus, global warming and economic supply chains have all contributed in increasing the risk of women and girls’ being subjected to modern-day slavery.  The aforementioned crises entail that “children may be working longer hours or under worsening conditions as a result of the economic recession and school closures caused by the pandemic.”

Child labor may also be due to job and income losses in their families, consequentially pressuring minors to assume further economic responsibilities and negatively affecting their academic pursuits. Furthermore, forced recruitment of children into criminal and armed groups bears weight in the ongoing issue.

In attempts to counter such risks on the International Day for the Abolition of  Slavery, experts are urging the UN’s Member States to establish safer migration pathways, improve access to fair labor, collaborate further with the business sector and trade unions, and raise their contributions to the Fund.

On a final note, the experts concluded that “slavery in all its forms needs to end for everyone, including women and children in contexts of armed conflict.  Slavery is a disgrace to humanity which in the 21st century cannot be tolerated.”

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