Advocacy: Insight – Forgotten Women

Advocacy: Insight

French prosecutors investigate claims of modern day slavery against Saudi prince

French prosecutors launch a human rights investigation following accusations of modern day slavery against an unnamed Saudi Prince. The claims come from seven women, mostly from the Philippines, who were recruited in Saudi Arabia and worked for both the Prince and his family. The victims claim the Prince kept them in a state of modern-day slavery in his apartment in France. Defined as the severe exploitation of other people for personal or commercial gain, modern slavery violates the basic human rights afforded to all persons- the prohibition of slavery and the right to freedom of movement.

The seven women fled their ‘employment’ whilst working in France and have since come forward to French authorities. According to Le Parisien newspaper, the alleged abuse occured in 2008, 2013 and 2015 at the apartment in the Neuilly-sur-Seine suburb west of the capital. Their testimonies to the French authorities claim they were forced to sleep on the floor and were often hungry as they had no time to eat due to the constant labour.

Anick Fougeroux, president of the aid group SOS Esclaves (“Slaves“), told the paper “the first time we met with them, what was shocking to see was that they were hungry. They were crying with hunger.”

The Saudi Prince involved has not been publicly named, nor has he been questioned in relation to these allegations as he is not currently in France and authorities face jurisdictional issues.

This case raises questions in relation to slavery and its evergrowing presence in modern days. Although most envisage slavery as a historical transgression, the reality is that slavery is more prevelant now than it ever was before.

The UN’s International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the Walk Free Foundation calculated that roughly 13 million people were captured and sold as slaves between the 15th and 19th centuries; today, an estimated 40.3 million people – more than three times the figure during the transatlantic slave trade – are living in someform of modern slavery. According to slavery expert Siddharth Kara, modern slave traders now earn up to 30 times more than their 18th and 19th century counterparts would have done.

With 71% of victims being women and girls, and 25% comprising children, the most vulnerable in our society are being exploited by an epidemic that generates as much as $150bn (£116bn) in profits every year.

With such stark statistics, it is clear that the issue of slavery has never been more prevalent and the work to eradicate this billion dollar industry is far from over. Perhaps the emergence of testimonies from modern day slavery victims, as in this case, will help trigger the abolition of this inhumane industry.

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