Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writer
Though Jamaica registers favourably at 124 among a list of 162 nations on the 2013 Global Slavery Index, local interests are arguing that the nation still has work to do in dealing with issues such as human trafficking and child labour.
The index ranks India, at one, the worst offending nation with 13.9 million persons living in conditions of slavery, and China second, with 2.9 million persons living in such conditions.
However, in terms of prevalence, Mauritania tops the list with 151,000 persons out of a population of 3.8 million living in modern slavery. Haiti is second with 209,000 of 10 million persons living like slaves.
Jamaica, near the bottom of the list, is recorded as having around 2,400 persons living in slave-like conditions out of a population of 2.7 million.
Yesterday, Danny Roberts, head of the Trade Union Educational Institute at the University of the West Indies (UWI), said while Jamaica ranks well compared to most countries, it was notable that the island ranks worse that some of its neighbours in the region, like Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, and Cuba.
"I am certainly not happy with the status of our ranking, which clearly indicates that much more work has to be done in terms of dealing with human trafficking and the exploitation of our children, which are the two areas of concern," Roberts added.
Youth and Culture Minister Lisa Hanna, in the meantime, has promised a United Nations Committee that special attention will be directed toward child exploitation.
The Global Slavery Index reveals that in 2013, modern slavery takes many forms and is represented by human trafficking, forced labour, slavery or slavery-like practices, forced or servile marriage, or the sale and exploitation of children, including modern conflicts.
The index also notes that the victims of modern slavery have their freedoms denied and are used, controlled and exploited by another person for profit, sex or the thrill of domination.
"Having regard to our own history and the link with our African heritage, the concern would generally extend to the fact that countries like Mauritania, Haiti, Benin, and Gabon rank in the top 10 countries, having the most severe concentrated modern-slavery situation," asserted Roberts.
Yesterday, Hanna told a United Nations Third Level Committee on the Rights of the Child, with focus placed squarely on breaking the back of the problem, that a ministerial team has been pursuing a policy-based agenda committed to the transformation of the culture of how the society cares for and protects children.
"It speaks to the responsibility of the State, as well as the seminal role to be played by parents," she said.
The minister said that the country's child-protection actions are contained in the emerging National Framework of Action for Children 2012-2017.
POORLY UNDERSTOOD ISSUE
The index seeks to cover all forms of slavery. The report defines slavery as the possession and control of a person in such a way as to significantly deprive that person of his or her individual liberty, with the intent of exploiting that person through their use, management, profit, transfer or disposal.
The index describes the pheno-menon as a poorly understood global issue with some countries facing more severe challenges than others.
"But the crime affects all of us," the report stressed, citing human trafficking as an example.
The index attributes the causes to global corruption, conflict, poverty, discrimination, and the impact of poor or declining economic conditions and adverse environmental change.