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Members of this Honourable House,

Today, Saturday, December 2, Jamaica joins with the international community in commemorating, the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery, which marks the adoption, by the UN General Assembly in 1949, of the United Nations Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others.

Our recognition of this day is not only aimed at raising awareness about contemporary forms of slavery such as trafficking in persons, sexual exploitation, forced labour and the worst forms of child labour, but it also represents an opportunity to strengthen our collective resolve to eradicate this scourge against humanity, from the face of the earth.

Members of this Honourable House,
It is horrifying that there is evidence and shocking data that, in this the Twenty First Century, there are over forty million persons who are victims of forced labour, debt bondage, forced marriages andTwenty-Firsticking.

Members of this Chamber will have seen the recent media reports of slave markets operating in Libya, where African migrants, persons at their most vulnerable fleeing conflict zones, persecution and some simply seeking a better life with the aim of supporting families left behind – migrants seeking passage to Europe, are being sold at auction. This human indignity is unreservedly and entirely condemned by the Government of Jamaica, and we commit to working with the international community to curtail this despicable trade in human beings, wherever it occurs across the world.

The United Nations system along with Member States must continue to publicize, educate and inform our citizens of the existence and different forms of modern day slavery and its consequences, especially on the most vulnerable among us, and of its dehumanizing impact on the entire human race. We encourage all countries to take the necessary measures within their borders to identify and eliminate this abhorrent practice, and in this regard we note announcements emerging from the AU/EU summit in Cote D’Ivoire which ended 2 days ago, where specific actions are to be taken to address the situation of migrants in Libya.

In this context Mr President, while we condemn the despicable actions in Libya recently brought to the world’s attention – while we are unable to erase from our minds these modern day images which some of us had only ever seen before in centuries old drawings in our history books – I call on Jamaicans to also focus their outrage on issues here in Jamaica. Modern Day slavery is not limited to the inhumanity experienced by African migrants. It includes the young girl in rural Jamaica answering an ad promising on the job training in customer service who finds herself forced into prostitution under threat of death if she tries to run – modern day slavery; It includes the young boy who lost his parents and is taken in by a member of a neighbouring community but is forced to work 7 days of the week “to earn his keep” with little food or drink but an abundance of beatings and who is not allowed to go to school or play – modern day slavery.

The Government is taking steps to increase awareness of the different practices, and working to reduce the vulnerabilities of our own population. In that regard, work has crossed administrations, and we have established an inter-ministerial National Taskforce Against Trafficking in Persons (NATFATIP) in which the Foreign Ministry is involved.

As part of the country’s campaign against human trafficking, Jamaica was most recently an active participant in the United Nations High Level Meeting on Trafficking in Persons, held in September 2017. We presented the Jamaican docudrama, “Rescue”, to showcase our efforts at combatting this ignoble practice.

This is not a matter that can be addressed by governments alone. Legislative frameworks are in place and task forces have been trained, but we still have to look around us and be aware of matters that should be reported. The Big men – whether CEOs, Pastors or area leaders – and in some cases women accomplices and perpetrators as well – they must be reported if they are supporting the exploitation of vulnerable boys / girls ; men and women. If you see something wrong, say something.

As we mark the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery, Jamaica reiterates the importance of safeguarding human dignity. Let us pay special attention to the most vulnerable among us, as no form of slavery should be excused or tolerated in our societies. We must all remain vigilant to ensure the eradication of this scourge that is a stain on humanity, whether on the continent of Africa, or right here at home.
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