Haiti's child slaves high on index


Slavery is alive and thriving, a new report says.

But many of the 29 million modern day slaves migh...


Slavery is alive and thriving, a new report says.

But many of the 29 million modern day slaves might challenge your concept of who is a slave. It might be an indebted laborer, a victim of human trafficking, or, in the case of Haiti, the child working in the kitchen.

Walk Free Foundation used an expanded definition of slavery to produce what it says is a first-of-its-kind look at the practice in the modern world.

_It would be comforting to think that slavery is a relic of history, but it remains a scar on humanity on every continent,_ says Nick Grono, CEO the Australia-based foundation that produced the Global Slavery Index 2013, the first of a planned annual publication.

Nearly half of the world_s slaves live in India. But the index ranked 162 countries according to the percentage of enslaved people in the general population. Western Africa_s Mauritania, Haiti and Pakistan had the three highest rates of slavery, respectively, according to the index.

While Mauritania_s 140,000 to 160,000 enslaved people fit more closely with the historical perception of who is a slave, Haiti provides a different face to the practice.

Haiti_s 200,000 to 220,000 enslaved people are mostly children who live with families not their own, working as household servants in the Caribbean country_s complex and long-standing restav__k system.

Under restav__k (a Haitian creole word derived from French meaning _one who stays with_), poor, often rural, families send their children to live with a family of better means, usually in urban areas. The children are sent with the understanding that the family will clothe, feed, quarter, and educate them in exchange for their work.__

But inside the homes, _many of these children suffer the cruelest form of neglect _ denied food, water, a bed to sleep in, and constant physical and emotional abuse,_ the report says.

The group estimates that between 300,000 and 500,000 children are in a similar circumstance, according to information it gathered on the ground. It is unclear why they counted some, but not all, restav__k children as slaves.

In compiling the index, researchers defined slavery as _the possession and control of a person __ with the intent of exploiting that person through their use, management, profit, transfer, or disposal._

Some have argued against defining slavery so broadly, based in part on its historic significance.

In The Haitian Times last year, columnist Max Joseph wrote, _For Haitians, or any member of the African Diaspora for that matter, the word _slavery_ is distinctively associated with the transatlantic slave trade in which millions of Africans were forcibly uprooted from their villages and sold like domesticated animals in faraway lands.

_The notion of associating the restav__k phenomenon with slavery is a naked attempt at trivializing one of the most grotesque episodes in human history,_ Mr. Joseph wrote.

In its report, the foundation says it_s important to focus on _hidden_ enslaved people, such as restav__k children.

_Since hidden slaves can_t be counted it is easy to pretend they don_t exist. The Index aims to change that,_ Kevin Bales, the lead researcher on the index, said in a statement.

Countries with the five highest rates of slavery:

Mauritania
Haiti
Pakistan
India
Nepal
*The United States ranked No. 134 of 162

Christian Science Monitor | By Ezra Fieser

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