Combating Forced Labor

Combating Forced Labor and Labor Abuses: Addressing Strict Structures and Upholding Human Rights

Labor abuses, including forced labor and human rights violations, persist worldwide, transcending geographical boundaries. This article examines the impact of the Cotton Campaign—a global coalition of human rights organizations formed in response to labor abuses in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan’s annual cotton harvest, focusing on combating forced labor. It also explores the role of strict social structures, such as caste systems, in perpetuating labor abuses, emphasizing the urgent need for collective action to promote economic equality, social justice, and human rights.[1]

The Cotton Campaign: A Call for Change

The sizable annual cotton harvests in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan have drawn international attention due to the prevalence of labor abuses. Workers, including children, have been subjected to forced labor in these regions. In response to these alarming practices, the Cotton Campaign was formed in 2011—a Washington, D.C.-based global coalition of human rights organizations that aims to pressure these nations to end forced labor practices and uphold international labor standards.

The Cotton Campaign has achieved significant progress in pressuring Uzbekistan to address labor abuses. The collective efforts and sustained advocacy have led to positive outcomes. More than 270 prominent retailers have committed to avoiding Uzbek cotton, and the United States has blocked its importation. These actions have had a tangible impact on the cotton industry in the region.[2] However, despite these achievements, disagreements persist between the campaign and the International Labour Organization (ILO) regarding the extent of Uzbekistan’s progress in eliminating forced labor. This highlights the importance of continued vigilance and concerted efforts to eradicate labor abuses entirely.

Struggles Against Strict Social Structures

According to Anti-Slavery International (ASI), strict hierarchical social structures and caste systems, poverty, discrimination against women and girls, and a lack of respect for children’s rights and development needs act as major barriers to eliminating slavery and addressing social inequality. These interconnected issues contribute to the perpetuation of labor abuses and hinder progress towards social justice.

South Asia’s caste system exemplifies the impact of strict social structures on perpetuating discrimination and limiting opportunities for individuals. Over 200 million Dalits, considered “Untouchables,” face significant discrimination and are often confined to menial work. Despite efforts over the past 70 years to address caste discrimination through legislation and affirmative action, challenges persist in fully eliminating the social and economic disparities faced by Dalits.[3]

The presence of labor abuses and strict social structures highlights the urgent need for collective action to combat forced labor and promote human rights. The Cotton Campaign has made progress in pressuring Uzbekistan to address labor abuses, but challenges remain in eliminating forced labor entirely. Addressing social hierarchies, like South Asia’s caste system, requires sustained efforts to dismantle discrimination and ensure equal opportunities.

By fostering awareness, advocating for reforms, and promoting social justice, we can strive for a world free from abuses and hierarchies while empowering marginalized communities. Join the cause and make a difference by sponsoring a child through GFA World. Your monthly sponsorship can transform lives, break the cycle of poverty, and create a brighter future. Choose a child to sponsor and empower a child, transform a community, and make a global impact. Together, let’s build a future filled with love, hope, and opportunities for children in need.

Learn more about combating poverty and inequality

[1] “40 million in modern slavery and 152 million in child labour around the world.” International Labour Organization.–en/index.htm. September 19, 2017.
[2] Grove, Thomas. “Uzbekistan Aims to End Forced Labor in Cotton Fields.” The Wall Street Journal. December 17, 2018.
[3] “Dalit Enterprise.” Accessed July 6, 2023.