Intercultural Human Rights Law Review

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The first section of this article situates labor trafficking, including domestic servitude, on a continuum of labor abuse and exploitation, by way of a discussion of the Convention Concerning Decent Work for Domestic Workers. Here the paper cautions against the equal and opposite dangers of categorizing all domestic labor abuse as domestic servitude on the one hand, and ignoring less severe forms of labor abuse, on the other. Moreover, it argues that the strict enforcement of ILO standards aimed at reducing labor abuse and exploitation is necessary to prevent involuntary labor, including involuntary labor in the home. The second section examines the evidence of domestic servitude in the United States. For the purposes of this article, the most striking aspect of the available evidence is what it reveals about the connection between domestic servitude, as a form of labor trafficking in general, and poverty, migration ethnicity, and gender. This analysis supports the inference that discrimination explains the cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment human traffickers inflict on those they enslave. The third section analyzes discrimination under three aspects: the impact of discrimination on human dignity and rights; state obligations under international human rights law to eliminate all forms of discrimination; and the mentality of those who abuse and exploit others. This discussion demonstrates the necessity to modify social and cultural patterns of conduct and customary practices that perpetuate racial, gender, and other forms of discrimination, thereby leading to serious violations of human dignity and fundamental rights. The final section frames the contours of an integral approach to the prevention of domestic servitude and other forms of labor trafficking.

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