Stories about bonded labour

Why do Pakistanis cheer Brandon Stanton, but attack Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy?

Like so many in Pakistan, I was pleased when American photo-blogger Brandon Stanton, founder of Humans of New York, visited the country to tell the stories of every day Pakistanis. As with his other excellent work, Brandon shared some moving tales, creating empathy as only he can. At the end of his Pakistan series, Brandon moved on to a despicable social ill of Pakistan: Bonded Labour, which is used to victimise thousands of Pakistanis and has been described as modern day slavery by the United Nations. Like any good journalist, Brandon highlighted the issue by sharing several heart-breaking stories alongside striking photos while relating some ...

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He was 12-years-old and wanted to liberate slaves in Pakistan. He is dead now

On April 16, 1995, a 12-year-old boy named Iqbal Masih was shot and killed while he was riding his bicycle with his friends in Muritke, near Lahore. He was punished for raising his voice against child labour. While he was in the US, he was asked why he wanted to return to Pakistan when he knew of the danger to his life. To that, he courageously responded saying his mission was more important than his life. And it was with his life that he paid the price for standing up for his beliefs. He was just 12-years-old. Masih said, “I want to do what Abraham Lincoln did.” He wanted to ...

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Dear Prime Minister, ending bonded labour is not Brandon Stanton’s job, it’s yours

I love brick houses; specifically the feel of those rectangular blocks. But when I know the hands that made those bricks were of a 12-year-old who couldn’t afford a decent meal in the morning, I don’t want to even see one let alone live in one. I cannot hold a passion for those houses anymore. Bonded labour is a shameful reality in Pakistan, which many are unaware of, as we celebrated our so called independence last week. So my question is, are we really free? Without sounding metaphoric, there are helpless people in our country who have been condemned to lifelong labour without or with ...

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Is the Human Trafficking Ordinance just another failed statute in Pakistan?

The situation of human rights in Pakistan as recorded by international rights organisations, bodies and agencies has always been grave and continues to exacerbate. In similar news, Pakistan is on the Tier 2 Watch List of the US State Department’s Trafficking in Person report for a second consecutive year. The countries whose governments fail to comply with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s (TVPA) minimum standards are placed on a tier, which is a clear indicator that there is apparently no political will to curb the menace of human trafficking. According to International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) trafficking records, the profits from forced labour are estimated to be in the ...

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12-year-old, for sale

I woke up in the middle of the night feeling a little wet between my thighs. Frightened about what it was that was happening to me, I sensed an uncertain feeling of guilt and shame creep up my spine. I live in a small room with eight other family members, so the first thought, after the panic, that came to my mind was, what if one of them saw me with these marks on my clothes? I picked up a lantern and rushed out of our bricked, one-room house, into the cold night. A strange sensation in my stomach wouldn’t ...

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The life of an abused woman

In this video a young woman by the name of Allahrakhi, from the Panah Shelter in Karachi, Pakistan, is interviewed. For her entire life, Allahrakhi has known nothing but sadness and misery. Orphaned as a very young child, her uncle took her and her siblings in, only to deprive them of their father’s wealth and make them bonded labour. On getting married, Allahrakhi was again subjected to abuse; she was beaten often and severely by her husband. Her sister-in-laws-, too were cruel. They did not allow her new clothes or food, and kept poisoning her husband against her . Later, when her child was born, ...

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Video Blog: Of human bondage

This documentary is about a women named Hina. She tells the sad tale of her life in Khanewal, where she has been working at a brick kiln since childhood. She, and many others like her, have been accused of stealing and prostitution. They have been imprisoned, sexually harassed and beaten within an inch of their lives. Yet, they continue to work at the brick kiln since it is their only means of feeding their children and putting clothing on their backs. The men who work at this kiln are separated from the women. The women are raped by the owners, who make videos of ...

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My days as a manual labourer

Many of my friends don’t know this but I worked as a manual labourer in my early teenage years. I used to work several hours a day for just Rs20.  There weren’t any weekly off days nor were there any extra benefits. If you got sick or were unable to come to work for some reason you couldn’t imagine getting paid those days. In fact, you would end up spending money on a visit to the doctor just so you could get back to your life of servitude. I can only describe those working hours as restless, endless stress. Sometimes, it would be so hard that ...

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