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One in 130 Women and Girls Globally Are Victims of Modern Slavery, With Figures Expected to Rise From COVID-19

Walk Free, UN's Every Woman Every Child, and human rights advocates and organizations from around the world, call on governments to outlaw forced and child marriage and eradicate systems, such as kafala, which normalize the exploitation of migrant workers

Published on October 12, 2020

A breakthrough report which reveals one in every 130 women and girls is currently trapped in modern slavery has sparked a global campaign, with human rights advocates calling on all governments to ban forced and child marriage, and to end state-sanctioned exploitation of migrant workers*.

Walk Free’s report, Stacked Odds, the most comprehensive evaluation of the female experience of modern slavery and exploitation to date, reveals almost 29 million women and girls are victims of modern slavery.

Females account for 99 percent of all victims of forced sexual exploitation, 84 percent of all victims of forced marriage, and 58 percent of all victims of forced labor.

Walk Free Co-founder, Grace Forrest, said the findings detailed in the Stacked Odds report were a wake-up call for governments ahead of the UN’s 2030 deadline to eradicate modern slavery. “Our report, and this new campaign, shine a light on the insidious reality of modern slavery,” Ms. Forrest said. “It is not good enough that 136 countries still fail to legislate against forced and child marriage.”

Executive Coordinator of Every Woman Every Child Vivian Lopez, “Walk Free’s new report Stacked Odds, and the campaign it has inspired are critical to building awareness of the too-often ignored crime of modern slavery,” Ms. Lopez said. “It is shocking, but unfortunately unsurprising, that women and girls are disproportionately affected by modern slavery and exploitation.”

Survivors and anti-slavery organizations from around the world contributed to Stacked Odds, which provides a roadmap for change to address the systemic inequality confronting girls and women. The report notes that although work to improve the situation for women and girls is underway, action to date is falling short of promised outcomes and that the problem is made worse by the impacts of COVID-19.

Reports of gender-based and domestic violence, child marriage, and child sexual exploitation, among other forms of exploitation, have significantly increased because of a reduction in economic opportunities in the aftermath of the pandemic and restrictions placed on movement to manage the rapid spread of the virus.

Walk Free, and human rights advocates and organizations from around the world are calling for united global action to address the disproportionate risk of modern slavery facing women and girls.

They are demanding governments legislate against forced and child marriage, and for the eradication of systems such as kafala, (where a migrant worker’s immigration status is legally bound to an individual employer or sponsor for their contract period), which normalizes the exploitation of migrant workers.

They also call for governments and businesses to prioritize supply chain transparency to ensure workers are protected and to guarantee a living wage including protection mechanisms in crisis situations.

Executive Editor