Peru must do more to combat scourge of slavery, UN rights expert says

Gulnara Shahinian, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery. UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré

20 May 2011 – A United Nations human rights expert on slavery today urged Peru to do more to combat abuses in the country’s logging, mining and domestic services sectors.

Gulnara Shahinian, the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, said after a 12-day fact-finding visit to the Andean country that the Peruvian authorities have “demonstrated a strong will to combat contemporary forms of slavery by establishing multisectoral institutions at both national and regional level and developing relevant national plans.

“However, a lot remains to be done, in particular by enforcing existing legislation, introducing separate criminal sanctions for all forms of slavery, developing comprehensive protection mechanisms as well reintegration and compensation schemes for victims and strengthening implementation and monitoring of programs at regional and local levels.”

Ms. Shahinian focused on potential contemporary forms of slavery including forced labour in logging and mining, domestic servitude, and child labour.

“In urban areas domestic servitude remains mostly invisible and victims who are predominantly girls and young women migrating to cities, are not aware of their rights and feel unable to report of their abuses and exploitation,” the Special Rapporteur said.

In artisanal mining, she said that the “ungoverned gold rush in Madre de Dios [in the country’s southeast] has brought lawlessness and with it a whole range of slavery-like practices, mainly forced labour and sexual exploitation of both minors and adults.”

In the logging sector, she said, indigenous communities who live in remote and isolated communities find themselves entrapped by mounting debt for equipment, loans, and concession rentals and are locked in a cycle of poverty.

“Peru, which is experiencing one of the world’s fastest economic growths, should ensure that economic development does not take precedence over people’s rights,” Ms. Shahinian said.

Ms. Shahinian, who serves in an unpaid and independent capacity, reports to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.


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