Over 85% of the 20 million slaves kept by feudal lords, manufacturing owners, and aristocrats live in South Asia. “Bonded labor” may be new to many readers, but to those who have experienced it, it’s hell.(Anwaar)
The United Nations and International Labor Organizations define slavery as “the status of a person over whom some or all of the powers attached to the right of possession are exercised.” Let’s examine bonded labor’s origins and effects.
The cyclical process begins when an employer or landlord gives laborers a debt in advance for employment. This agreement stipulates that the laborers will pay the advance payment, called peshgi in Pakistan, by working. The laborers can repay this loan over time. They find it difficult or impossible to pay it back, locking them in a cycle of forced labour and growing debt.(Anwaar)
Due to unfair and often unspoken contract provisions, entire families are forced to work for the company. Most of the minimal pay goes toward loan repayment. The debt increases as the workers “use” the owner’s property and “consume their food.”
Typically, entire families of bonded laborers in agriculture, brick manufacturing, and fishing work for the same landlord or employer. (Qureshi and Khan)“Agriculture laborer in Sindh and many parts of Punjab are subjected to forced labor in Pakistan, mostly in the form of debt bondage. Additionally, brick kilns, household work (especially child and female labour), carpet weaving, and mining all have high rates of bonded labour. Except for mining, all of the aforementioned industries have a significant female labour base. The majority of bond laborers are from socially marginalised groups, such as minorities and immigrants, who additionally experience prejudice and political disenfranchisement. “ (“Promoting the Elimination of Bonded Labour in Pakistan (PEBLIP)”)
Pakistan has ratified several related conventions, including C105, Abolition of Forced Labor Convention, 1957, and C182, Worst Forms of Child Labor Convention, 1999, in addition to Convention C029, Forced Labour Convention, 1930, which has been in effect since December 23, 1957.” (What Is Bonded Labour? Know More about Bonded Labour in Pakistan – Paycheck.Pk, n.d.)
Due to the nature of exploitation, which can be carried out by human traffickers under the pretence of employment, through financial fraud, or simply through force and threat, bonded labour is compared to modern-day slavery (kidnapping). Any form of slavery or facilitation of slavery, including forced labour, is expressly prohibited by Article 11 of the Constitution, which was adopted in 1973 and amended in 2015. (What Is Bonded Labour? Know More about Bonded Labour in Pakistan – Paycheck.Pk, n.d.)