What good am I, if I know and don’t do?September 2014
September, the back-to-school, new uniform, new shoes, month. It’s a time for fresh starts and fresh thinking. With a hopefully holiday-refreshed mindset, in this edition we take a special look at one of today’s most prevalent human rights issues and yet one that seems to go unseen by so many: human trafficking.
As Michael Pollitt points out on p16, two hundred years after Wilberforce, an unexpected slave trade boom has forced the world to revise its anti-slavery legislation.
Although slavery is now constitutionally illegal everywhere, many countries still lack the institutional capacity to fully enforce the rule of law.
Pollitt explains the background to the UK’s new Modern Slavery Bill and why, after being - at first - heralded as Britain’s return to the forefront of international abolitionism, it is in fact intrinsically flawed. Supply chain legislation is not mentioned. Requiring companies to report on modern slavery in their supply chain has been deemed too much of an “additional burden” on UK business (argues the Home Office). And this despite a coalition of 15 leading anti-slavery organisations issuing a briefing paper calling for supply chain transparency to be included.
And on pages 8-9, Andrew Pederson reveals the diametric opposite to the American dream with an exposé of the sunshine state’s human trafficking problem. He tells us that research supporting the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act, passed in 2010 to require companies with over $100m in worldwide revenue to publicly disclose their efforts to eradicate slavery in their supply chains, found that most of California’s trafficked persons (84%) were concentrated in prostitution (45%), domestic servitude (24%) and sweat shops (15%). Reflecting the industries where trafficking is concentrated, the Attorney General’s report found that most (74%) trafficked people in California are women.
Notably, the report also showed that most of these victims (70%) are American citizens. He highlights the fact that one of the most important things we can do is to change the way we view the victims: “We’re not looking at a child prostitute, we’re looking at a victim of human trafficking”.
What with the recent Guardian exposé of the horrendous slavery that supplies many of us our prawn cocktails and reports that workers in Qatar are being paid slave wages for incredibly dangerous and testing work in order for us to enjoy a 2020 World Cup, it would be great to think that this month we could use our recently recharged inner batteries - both as businesses and as individuals - to take firm stances on cheap prawns, cheap t-shirts and poor wages.
As the lyric of a recent Tom Jones track goes: “What good am I - if I’m like all the rest/ If I just turn away - when I see how you’re dressed/ What good am I - if I know and don’t do/ If I see and don’t say.”
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