Pay attention to human rights at sea

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  • Human trafficking is a global phenomenon to which no country is immune.
    The International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates that 20.9 million people are forced into labour every year all over the world. In an announcement in 2016, the United Nations Office for Drug and Crimes (UNODC) has stated that human trafficking is a US$150-billion industry globally, and 54 per cent of trafficking cases involve sexual exploitation, 38 per cent forced labour, and 8 per cent pertain to other forms of trafficking.
    According to a global report released on 19 July, 2018, Myanmar ranks 18th out of 167 countries in the Global Slavery Index. Roughly 10 per cent of the country’s population, or 575,000 people, are living under modern slavery. The types of modern slavery identified by the report include human smuggling, forced labour, purchase of slaves with money, forced marriage, and forcing under-aged kids to work and selling them, apart from normal slavery.
    When trafficking cases in Myanmar are studied, it will be found that they are taking place in relation to and connection with market demands in countries, including our neighbours.
    In 2018, there were 155 cases of forced marriage, 28 cases of forced prostitution, 18 cases of forced labour, one case of forced adoption, and four cases of surrogacy. Of all cases of human trafficking, about 11.99 per cent involved men and 88.01 per cent involved women.
    It has been found that a majority of women who illegally migrate to neighbouring countries for jobs fall prey to forced marriages. In domestic trafficking cases, prostitution and labour exploitation are taking place in the main.
    To give protection to Myanmar fishermen working inshore and offshore from falling prey to human trafficking, the Myanmar Fisheries Department is cooperating in a five-year project on fighting trafficking in persons in Myanmar.
    Meanwhile, some sections of the news media have reported that Myanmar fishermen working inshore and offshore of Mon State, Taninthayi Region, Ayeyawady Region are facing forced labour, exploitation, lack of social security rights, and torture.
    About 3.2 million Myanmar fishermen are working in the fishery sector, and about 57 per cent of the fishermen are in the fresh water fisheries sector and about 43 per cent are working at sea. We must not turn a blind eye to the predicament of our fishermen.
    Taking lessons from one of our neighbouring countries whose image was tarnished for human rights violations against fishermen, we must take the necessary steps to prevent such injustice in our coastal waters.
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