Author: Pooja Heda, Kes Jayantilal H Patel College Of Law, Mumbai


In this article there is detailed explanation of bonded labour. What does that mean its impact on the society? The pros and cons of the being a bonded labour. It is also explained about the bonded labour in different parts of the world. It has been also mentioned about the situation of bounded labour in United Nations and India


Puspal, above together with her family, is one among many victims of bonded labour across the planet. Also referred to as debt bondage or debt slavery, it’s the foremost common sort of modern slavery. Despite this, it’s the least known. Debt bondage occurs when an individual is forced to figure to pay off a debt. They are tricked into working for small or no pay, with no control over their debt. Most or all of the cash they earn goes to pay off their loan. The value of their work invariably becomes greater than the first sum of cash borrowed. Puspal managed to go away because of the good support her family received from our project partners, but usually that it’s extremely difficult. People bonded by debt face coercion, violence and intimidation if they struggle to go away.

Bonded labour has existed for hundreds of years. Debt bondage was wont to trap indentured labourers into performing on plantations in Africa, the Caribbean and South-East Asia, following the abolition of the Transatlantic slave traffic. Bonded labour is most widespread in South Asian countries like India and Pakistan. Often entire families need to work to pay off the debt taken by one among its members. Sometimes, the debt is often passed down the generations and youngsters are often held in debt bondage due to a loan their parents had taken decades ago. In South Asia it still flourishes in agriculture, brick kilns, mills, mines and factories. Anti-Slavery International works in India where many thousands men, women and youngsters are forced to figure as bonded labourers in brick kilns and agriculture, often suffering extreme exploitation and abuse.

Debt bondage in a wider sense is spread much beyond South Asia and is an element of many other forms of slavery such as forced labour and trafficking. People borrow money to pay their traffickers for a promised job abroad. Once at their destination their passports are taken away and they cannot leave until they pay off the debts they owe to their traffickers. Bonded labour flourishes because of poverty and widespread caste-based discrimination. Limited access to justice, education and jobs for discriminated groups makes it difficult to get out of poverty.The need for cash for daily survival forces people to sell their labour in exchange for a loan. In South Asia bonded labour is rooted in the caste system and predominately affects Dalits (a caste called the ‘Untouchables’. Despite the fact that bonded labour is illegal the laws are rarely enforced, particularly where the people who exploit those from more vulnerable groups belong to the ruling classes.

Bonded Labour around the World:

The international Palermo Protocol requires the criminalization of bonded labour as a form of trafficking. Still, this particular system of slavery is deeply entrenched around the world. It’s most common in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal. In fact, the majority of the world’s slaves live and work in India in a form of bonded labour.

Bonded Labour in the United States:

U.S. law prohibits the use of a debt or similar threat of financial harm as a form of coercion for forced labor. The earliest U.S. legislation outlawed bonded labor under its Spanish name, peonage, which surged following the legal emancipation of U.S. slaves in 1865. Following the Civil War, former slaveholders and white Americans needed labor for their workforce, so they found new ways to force African Americans to work. Whites arrested and charged African Americans and then penalised them for their various crimes. Former slaves had little money to afford such fines, so white businessmen forced the emancipated slaves to take on debts in exchange for paying them. These former slaves then had a bond over them, and employers exploited the situation so that the debt could never be repaid.

Bonded Labour in India:

Researchers of bonded labor in India seek to understand its long-standing practices through an examination of contemporary forms of labor coercion, their origins and relationships to poverty and inequality, and implications for policymaking. Child labor, agricultural debt bondage, and bonded migrant labor are persistent forms of modern slavery that fall under the Indian constitutional definition of forced labor. While child labor and bonded labor in India are typically addressed separately in the literature, many researchers focus on the causes and consequences of pervasive child labor in the world’s largest democracy. Child laborers face major health and physical risks: they work long hours and are required to perform tasks for which they are physically and developmentally unprepared. Child labor is deeply entrenched as a common practice in many sectors and states, due in part to India’s economic emphasis on exports in recent years. According to a current estimate, a quarter of Indian children ages six to fourteen—roughly two hundred million children—are working, and a third of the remaining seventy-five percent are bonded laborers . The largest single employer of children in India is the agricultural sector where an estimated twenty-five million children are employed; and the second largest employer of Indian children is the service sector where children work in hotels and as household maids. An additional five million Indian children are employed in other labour-intensive industries



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