Human Trafficking as a Human Rights Issue

In the previous post, we indicated that human trafficking is unquestionably a human rights issue. We promised to make a post on human trafficking and human rights. This was prompted by the very inspiring speech by US Ambassador Luis CdeBaca at the Centre for American Progress on The US role in combatting human trafficking. The Ambassador stated that the greatest human right is freedom and human trafficking/modern day slavery is the complete and full antithesis of freedom.

A quick look at the Universal Declaration of Human Rights clearly shows that the arguably greatest threat to human rights is slavery. Below is the UDHR Articles which are violated by the heinous crime of human trafficking.

Article 3.

  • Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

Article 4.

  • No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.

Article 5.

  • No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Article 13.

  • (1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.
  • (2) Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.

Article 23.

  • (1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
  • (2) Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.
  • (3) Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.
  • (4) Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.

Article 24.

  • Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.

Victims of trafficking do not enjoy any of above rights. Anti human trafficking issues should therefore be squarely located within international and national discourse on human rights. The tendency is to talk about civil and political rights and view issues such as trafficking as a seperate issue needing seperate attention. Yet any successful confrontation of this problem should look at it as-first and foremost-a human rights issue and not-as is oft done-a social issue.

gilbert makore


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