The Deal with Debt Bondage
Human trafficking encompasses many types of enslavement, but one common form is bonded labor, also known as Debt Bondage. Statistics show that 1 in 5 Americans will die in debt, according to Marketwatch. Many of us will inevitably experience debt, whether that is a car or home loan, or even borrowing $20 from a friend.
But what if you found yourself in a debt that you could never pay off?
Currently, the approximate number of those trapped by debt bondage include an upwards of 8.1 million, according to ILO.
What is Debt Bondage or Bonded Labor?
According to End Slavery Now, this type of entrapment occurs when an individual is trying to pay off a loan or inherited debt of a relative. It can even pass down from generation to generation. It usually manifests itself as an employment agreement with brutal conditions, and slowly turns into an unattainable end and a permanent enslavement.
The problem with this type of bondage is that it is difficult for the victim to ever get out of the hands of their employer. What begins as a small debt adds up from additional expenses due to needing shelter, food, and water.
"Debt bondage usually manifests itself as an employment agreement with brutal conditions, and slowly turns into an unattainable end and a permanent enslavement."
Who does debt bondage impact?
The most at-risk group for bonded labor are migrant workers who work with labor agencies to find jobs in other countries. Things like immigration, housing, and travel can feed into the debt they already owe. Traffickers have been known to take the worker's legal documents and hold them over the individuals so they have to stay, at least until their documents or visa expires.
The International Palermo Protocol reports the most common cases of bonded labor occur in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Nepal.
As far as bonded labor, also known as peonage, in the U.S. goes, it is against the law to use debt as a form of coercion for forced labor and has been since the legal emancipation of slaves in 1865 as a result of the civil war.
What type of work is involved in bonded labor?
Usually, individuals work in factories to make a multitude of products. The best way to identify what this type of work looks like is to recognize the signs and hear other stories. The Hindu newspaper covered a story of bonded labourers forced to live in a chicken coop in late November 2017.
According to the article, ten people, some minors, were recently rescued from Nuapada in Odisha from poultry farms. The individuals were paid 50 rupees a day, which is six times less than the minimum wage, and was forced to eat the same food given to the chickens.
The families were beaten and exploited for three months after being promised accommodations and a 15,000 rupee salary. They were manipulated and then trapped. Finally, they were freed by the Ramnagaram district administration, local police, IJM, and a district anti-human trafficking unit.
"The families were beaten and exploited for three months after being promised accommodations and a 15,000 rupee salary. They were manipulated and then trapped."
The outcome ended with high hopes for these families, but for many others, help is still on the way. At Dressember, we raise funds to give grants to organizations like those involved in this case so that more individuals can be freed.
It’s important to realize that bonded labor strips victims of their dignity and takes control of their lives. If we link arms and declare that this form of trafficking and enslavement is an atrocity, we can move the needle forward to making sure that debt is never used to enslave people
About the Author
Miranda Lintzenich is an analog girl stuck in a digital world. A little quirkier than most, Miranda enjoys 70s music, odd clothing styles, working at her school newspaper and serving pizza on the side.