By Orlando Bell
Durham University Justice Society yesterday hosted a panel discussion on Modern Slavery as part of their Annual Human Rights Conference. The panel included esteemed figures in the fight against modern slavery including Professor Parosha Chandran, advisor to the British Parliament’s Modern Slavery Project and contributor to UN reports on trafficking in persons.
The discussion was begun by Professor Gary Craig, visiting professor at the Law School at Newcastle University and Chair of the North East Regional Race Crime and Justice Research Network. Professor Craig stressed the importance of ensuring UK anti-slavery legislation is properly enforced. He pointed out that Britain cannot take the moral high ground on such matters when our own enforcement of anti-slavery legislation continues to be lacklustre.
Professor Parosha Chadran proceeded by explaining the flaws in current UK modern slavery legislation. Ms Chadran called for the introduction of penalties for corporate failure to properly address slavery within their supply chains, a common problem especially in the fast fashion industry. Recommending extra-territorial jurisdiction and penalties including closure and major fines, she concluded “to bring corporations to account we have to bring them to their knees, and that is done through the pocket.”
To bring corporations to account we have to bring them to their knees, and that is done through the pocket.”Professor Parosha Chadran
The highlight of the discussion came from Ms Meena Varma’s moving account of contemporary caste discrimination. As director of the Dalit Solidarity Network, Ms Varma’s work and contribution here emphasised the continued discrimination faced by Dalit people, that is the caste characterised as ‘untouchable’. There are 260 million Dalits worldwide, a crime is estimated to be committed against them once every 15 minutes. This discrimination exists not just in countries such as India, Nepal, and Sri Lank, but also elsewhere. She argued, “caste discrimination does exist in the UK” — a fact the UK government does not officially recognise.
The panel concluded with a presentation by Dr Judith Spicksley on debt and slavery in historical perspective, and was followed by a question and answer session in which, among other things, the current Indian farmers’ protests and the difficulties of discussing issues of caste with family members were discussed.
At any given time in 2016, an estimated 40.3 million people were in modern slavery, whilst a further 152 million children are victims of child labour. This panel was an important reminder of the work that the world must continue to undertake in order to eradicate these gross violations of human rights and eliminate modern slavery. Ms Varma concluded the panel with a simple message; “Educate, agitate, organise.”
Educate, agitate, organise.”Ms Meena Varma
The societies’ human rights conference continues on Thursday 21st of January with a panel discussion titled ‘Violence Against Women and Girls”.
Image: Durham University Justice Society