Earlier this year our founder and director Philippa Southwell was called to give oral evidence as a legal expert in the Home Affairs Select Committee Modern Slavery Inquiry. As well as giving oral evidence our director Philippa also gave written evidence. Issues that were raised during the inquiry concern the Modern Slavery Act 2015, in particular the section 45 modern slavery defence and excluded schedule 4 offences, and section 54 corporate modern slavery compliance. Also of note were concerns regarding the exploitation of British national minors involved in child criminal exploitation in the forms of forced drug possession, robbery, burglaries, and weapons running. Philippa gave legal analysis on all of these topics. Further areas of focus by the inquiry were:
The detention of Modern Slavery victims in immigration removal centres, and the adequacy of policy in relation to victims of modern slavery and human trafficking being held in immigration detention centres.
The role of the independent anti-slavery commissioner and the relationship between the different law enforcement agencies, e.g. the police, NCA, GLAA, etc, with the national referral mechanism was a major focus of the evidence given by law enforcement professionals and the former Independent UK Anti-Slavery Commissioner.
and, Victim, and victim support services’, perspectives on policy and support available to victims of modern slavery and human trafficking.
The evidence for the inquiry was presented as a combination of oral and written evidence and is drawn from a wide variety of professionals and organisations representing a broad spectrum of sectors. At present those who have given evidence include legal practitioners from a wide range of specialisms; the NGO sector; law enforcement professionals and organisations, including the Home Office, NCA, Local Authorities and multiple police forces; Academic institutions and the research sector; various corporate bodies; and multiple individual experts and specialist organisations.
The Home Affairs Select Committee Modern Slavery Inquiry is ongoing, with oral evidence continuing to be heard. The final findings have yet to be announced. Both the written and oral evidence that have been heard as part of the inquiry, including those submitted by Philippa Southwell, can be found here.
However, whilst the use of technology to combat human trafficking and modern slavery is advancing in new directions and receiving high profile acclaim concerns have been raised that technology merely constitutes a tool and its use alone may not be enough. TechUK, an organisation responsible for representing approximately 900 companies that develop technology, has raised concerns that for technological tools to be truly effective corporations need to ensure they have a strong anti-slavery culture with a willingness to act. Whilst strong corporate and social anti-slavery cultures are vital, the development of technological tools and processes to target human trafficking and modern slavery demonstrate positive commitments by a wide range of actors to tackling these issues. Many of these technological developments are recognised as new and as these tools are refined it is quite possible that technology will take play a greater role in combating human trafficking and modern slavery.
New Modern Slavery Act 2018 in Australia introduces strict reporting requirements for businesses among other key objectives.
There has been significant interest recently over the introduction of the Modern Slavery Act 2018 (MSA) in Australia, and its likely coming into force in early 2019. The act will carry with it significant thresholds for businesses to meet in terms of reporting requirements. But what is the new act?
In the development CSR, rights observers have understood that corporate interests generally outweigh the voluntary demand for an ethical and socially responsible supply chain. There are various examples of CSR that have developed, which compels corporations to comply with legal standards. For example the UK Modern Slavery Act 2015 that that dictates national legal standards, which requires corporations to publish the steps they are taking to ensure their supply chains and free of modern slavery, child labour, human trafficking. This regulation applies both domestically and for international sourcing, in which certain export standards of mandatory social compliance are placed onto developing countries with cheap labour. The California Transparency in Supply Chain Act (CTSCA) 2010 operates similar obligations but working at state level. The Indian Companies Act (2013) compels Indian corporations to spend 2% of their pre-tax profit on CSR.
How Child Rights fit into CSR
Although such legislation is aimed more broadly at achieving supply chain transparency, upholding child rights is a key element of this. Specifically, there is a set of 10 Child Rights and Business Principles as outlined by Save the Children, the UN Global Compact and UNICEF, which give a comprehensive yet non-exhaustive list of CSR requirements in relation to child rights. Corporations must:
Meet their responsibility to respect children’s rights and commit to supporting the human rights of children
Contribute to the elimination of child labour, including in all business activities and business relationships
Provide decent work for young workers, parents and caregivers
Ensure the protection and safety of children in all business activities and facilities
Ensure that products and services are safe, and seek to support children’s rights through them
Use marketing and advertising that respect and support children’s rights
Respect and support children’s rights in relation to the environment and to land acquisition and use
Respect and support children’s rights in security arrangements
Help protect children affected by emergencies
Reinforce community and government efforts to protect and fulfil children’s rights
The focus of CSR towards children aims to eliminate child labour from supply chains, but also must take the nuanced approach which includes protecting the rights of children in their core business strategy, covering all operations, employee rights, marketing, and delivery of products and services.
With a hereditary system of servitude, Mauritania has previously demonstrated significantly low slavery prosecution rates. In 1981 slavery was deemed illegal, but the sanctions were increased in 2015 with punishment of 20 years imprisonment recognising slavery as a ‘crime against humanity’.
Two recent ground breaking cases in the country have led to the sentence of two guilty of enslavement to 20 years. The primary victim of this case died before the case conclusion, who alongside his son, were reduced to slavery.
Another defendant was sentenced to 10 years in prison for keeping three women as domestic servants a without pay. Although the defence put forward the argument of treating the servants ‘like family’, the court ruled that slavery is a crime no matter how ‘gentle’.
These verdicts mark significant progress in the slavery case law of Mauritania, marking the success of the legislation and the three tribunals to address modern slavery established in the country. Similar cases that have been pending for several years will be reactivated according to authorities, signifying the normalisation of human rights issues being upheld by law.
More than 15 million people were enslaved in Africa and sold during the Transatlantic Slave Trade, which constitutes the largest legally sanctioned forced movement of people in history. Spread over 400 years, 96% of those enslaved arrived in the Americas and remain a prominent foothold in the demographic. This year being its 70th anniversary, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights remains a foundation document in international law and slavery legislation:
United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres acknowledges this and makes a tribute to International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade this week on 25th March. Denoting this period as one of the most brutal and shameful eras in human history and remembering those who died and suffered, he aims to spread the message of equality and remind of the ‘dangers of racism and prejudice’ in social thought. Although modern slavery has changed form and means, much of our understanding is grounded in the history of the Transatlantic slavery era.
The UN International Labour Organisation (ILO) addresses the ‘World Day of Social Justice’ today, the 20th February by focusing on the rights of migrant workers. There are 150 million migrant workers worldwide, and 44% of which are women. Migration is most often fuelled or connected to the need for employment, therefore workers are acutely vulnerable to forced labour, coercion, discrimination and exploitation in unsatisfactory working conditions because they are overtly dependent on their employer in unfamiliar territory.
If migrant labour is met with respect for human rights and basic working conditions according to the international labour standards, their contribution will deliver benefits to the host community as well as the families of those who are forced to migrate. This must be adopted at a global, national and regional level, and governance must be coherent between labour ministries and businesses. The Global Compact on Migration will be amended later this year and will be essential to eliminating exploitation within migrant labour, and in turn contributing to social justice.
This week on February the 6th marked the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). This practice is recognised as a violation of human rights against girls and women, and is an underlying cause of deep gender inequality.
Although the reasons for FGM lie in cultural, religious or traditional practices and are sometimes perpetrated by women through their own autonomous decisions, it ultimately aims at ensuring females are subservient to their husbands, and therefore an oppressive force beyond the accepted social framework.
Elimination of FGM is included in the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, agreed to by all Member States. Many countries have moved towards this by criminalising these harmful activities, including Gambia in 2015. However, on top of a legal framework to reduce the physical harm, all stakeholders are needed to accept a shift in status quo against acts that historically perpetrate inequality.