What is Bonded Labour?
Bonded labour, also known as debt bondage, is probably one of the least known forms of slavery today but responsible for enslaving millions of people around the world. A labourer becomes bonded when his or her labour is demanded in repayment for a loan. This advance is known as `peshgi’ in Pakistan. The person is then tricked or trapped into working for very little or no pay, often for seven days a week. The value of their work is invariably greater than the original sum borrowed. A child is considered bonded labour when he/she inherits debt; when the child is used as collateral for a loan; and when the child takes an advance on expected future wages.
The bonded labourer essentially forfeits his/her right to employment, right to move freely, and right to appropriate and sell his or a family members’ property or product of his labour at market value. These are a range of violations of internationally recognized human rights and further include the right not to be held in slavery, the right not to be imprisoned arbitrarily and the right to freedom of association as in trade unions.
Additionally, bonded labourers are routinely threatened and subjected to all kinds of physical abuse by employers. Threats and violence, both by the employer and the local police are used to coerce and discourage the bonded labourer from attempting legal redress or physical escape.
Bonded labourers suffer a range of violations of internationally recognised human rights including:
the right not to be held in slavery or servitude
the right not to be imprisoned merely on the ground of inability to fulfill a contractual obligation
the right not to be arbitrarily arrested
the right to liberty of movement
the right to freedom of association, including the right to form and join trade unions.
Prevalence of Bonded Labour in Pakistan
Bonded labour is a form of slavery prevalent in Pakistan in various sectors of the economy, most notably agriculture but also brick kilns, carpet weaving,fisheries, mining and probably others. Geographically speaking, the most widespread bonded labour is found in the southern portions of Sindh Province andPunjab Province, nevertheless, anecdotal evidence suggests that bonded labour exists in all four provinces of Pakistan.