Exploitation by the State

Approximately 10% of forced labor victims are exploited by the state or armed forces—approximately 2.2 million people (ILO, 2012a). According to the ILO, states do have some authority to mandate service, but only under certain specific conditions, such as compulsory military services; normal civic obligations (e.g., jury service); and emergencies (ILO, 2012b). In some cases, it is not the state that requires the labor, but those fighting against it in rebel or militia groups. As noted earlier, the use of child soldiers is considered to be a form of human trafficking (discussed further in Chapter 4).

Myanmar, a major offender in this category at the time of the first edition of this text, has been working to make reforms and in 2012 signed a joint plan with the United States to address trafficking of its citizens (US Department of State, 2012a). Myanmar had been noted for its governmental use of child soldiers and for forcing its citizens to provide free labor for the government. Villagers were required to travel from their homes to build roads, dams, and temples as well as act as porters for the military. Not only were villagers not paid for this compulsory labor, they were forced to provide their own food and face physical consequences, including beatings and death, if they did not fulfill their duties (Human Rights Watch, 2001; ILO, 2005). The situation in Myanmar is not yet free of forced labor, but it continues to show signs of improvement (US Department of State, 2013a).

In contrast, Uzbekistan has gained increasing notice for its use of state-sponsored forced labor. During the cotton harvest each year, people are forced to work in the fields to bring in the crop. The government sets such a low price for cotton, it is impossible for farmers to recruit and pay a voluntary workforce. While the number of children under 15 years old who have been trafficked has been decreasing, older children and adults are still subjected to this forced labor (US Department of State, 2013b).

China and North Korea have been cited for their use of forced labor camps. The ILO Convention number 105, adopted in 1957, prohibited nations from using forced labor as a form of political coercion or as punishment for expressing political views (ILO, 2012b). North Korea uses these camps to punish political prisoners, who are forced to labor in such work as logging, mining, and farming (US Department of State, 2013b). It is estimated that 80,000 people are held in these camps, a reduction from the previous estimate of 120,000. This is due in small part to the release of prisoners, but it is primarily because of the high mortality rate of those sent there (Harlan, 2013). While China originally used the camps for the detention of government critics, they have expanded to include “re-education” of those addicted to drugs, sex workers, and followers of Falun Gong (Bodeen, 2013). At the beginning of 2013, China stated they would be closing them (Bodeen, 2013). While progress has yet to be observed, later that year a woman won a court case against the state after being sentenced to a labor camp for protesting the sentences given to men who raped and trafficked her daughter (Jacobs, 2013).

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