A groundbreaking report on slavery in domestic servitude in Europe has been released today, by Maria Grazia Giammarino, Co-ordinator for Combatting Trafficking in Human Beings and representative of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).
Titled ‘Unprotected Work, Hidden Exploitation: Trafficking for the Purpose of Domestic Servitude,’ the report sheds light on what has been called the most “invisible” form of slavery. Often, domestic slaves toil alone—closed off from access to the outside world, completely at the mercy of his or her exploiters.
In the forward to this report, Giammarinaro says, “Trafficking for the purpose of labour exploitation is commonly perceived as less invasive and damaging than trafficking for sexual exploitation.” She continues:
“[A] domestic servant is subject to the inexplicable and unpredictable anger of their exploiters, and is exposed to all kinds of cruel treatment and even sexual abuse. This is really torture… This invisible exploitation must become a concern for all of us. It could be taking place next door, in our own social environment.”
LACK OF RIGHTS
Factors that make domestic workers vulnerable to exploitation include a lack of legal regulation—and even, a lack of recognition that domestic work is “real work.” The report says, “the level of rights and protection [given to domestic workers] is usually lower than general labour standards.” In fact, European legislation even excludes domestic workers from the definition of “worker”.*
In the U.S., domestic servants are denied the same level of legal protection that most other sectors of the labor force enjoy. The 1935 passage of the National Labor Relations Act under President Roosevelt gave millions of workers in America basic workers rights—including the right to collective bargaining. But, as Kevin Bales and Ron Soodalter write in The Slave Next Door, these rights were not extended to domestic workers.
*Council of the European Communities, Directive 89/391/EEC of 12 June 1989.