Gender-blindness of current modern slavery laws must change, says Surya Deva

Author: Surya Deva, City University of Hong Kong, on Cambridge Core blog, Published on: 11 March 2019

"Slavery and gender-blind regulatory response", 8 Mar 2019

International Women’s Day offers a good opportunity to assess the extent to which gender considerations are integrated into the business and human rights (BHR) agenda. I take modern slavery, a popular BHR issue, as a site for this assessment...

Like other human rights abuses, women are impacted differently than men by contemporary forms of slavery...

Women are also disproportionately affected by contemporary forms of slavery, as they are made more vulnerable by patriarchal norms and discriminatory economic structures...

However, the regulatory responses to slavery continue to be gender-blind. The anti-slavery legislation of the United Kingdom (UK) and Australia are a case in point. In essence, they require companies of certain size to report annually on due diligence steps taken by them to deal with slavery throughout their operations...[T]hey do not even begin to think of differentiated context of slavery for women and girls. For example, in Section 54(5) of the UK’s Modern Slavery Act 2015, there is no reference to adopting gender-sensitive due diligence processes or collecting gender-disaggregated data. Nor is gender considered a relevant consideration in businesses training their staff about slavery and human trafficking. The Australian Modern Slavery Act 2018 is no better when it comes to adopting a gender perspective to slavery...

This gender-blindness of the current modern slavery laws must change. The 2.0 version of slavery laws should require businesses to (i) adopt a gender-sensitive approach to identify contemporary forms of slavery, (ii) take gender-responsive measures to prevent and mitigate slavery, and (iii) provide gender-transformative remedies whenever needed.

Businesses should conduct gender-sensitive human rights due diligence to find out the nature and extent of slavery in their supply chains...

Read the full post here