Modern Slavery and Bonded Labour in South Asia : A Human Rights-Based Approach book cover
1st Edition

Modern Slavery and Bonded Labour in South Asia
A Human Rights-Based Approach

ISBN 9780367671051
Published December 18, 2020 by Routledge
188 Pages

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Book Description

This book investigates one of the most pervasive forms of modern slavery: bonded labour, whereby labour is linked with a credit agreement, leaving a debtor bound to repay their debt through long-term servitude. Drawing on cases from Nepal and India, the author adopts a human rights-based approach, interpreting slavery as a violation of human rights, and focusing on the empowerment of slaves as rights holders. Ultimately the book aims to explore the links between rights, power inequality and oppression, and to uncover ways to achieve the full liberation of bonded labourers.

Identifying the factors and forces that contribute to and reinforce the situation of bonded labour in South Asia, the book demonstrates how systems of bonded labour are connected to long-term processes of colonisation, dispossession, migration, nationalisation of natural resources, and the introduction of private land ownership. Despite the fact that the United Nations has reported debt bondage as the most prevalent form of forced labour worldwide, there it is still little known about the real practical impacts of this approach to the lives of marginalised people.

Based on extensive ethnographic research, this book will be a useful guide to students and scholars of modern slavery, international development, and South Asian studies.

Table of Contents

Introduction  1. Slavery and Bonded Labour: A Problem of Definition  2. A Brief History of Slavery and Debt Bondage in India and Nepal  3. Bonded Labour: A Question of Power and Accountability  4. Human Rights and Liberation  5. Human Rights-Based Approaches to Bonded Labour: Cases of Sahariya and Kamaiya People  6.Human Rights and Freedom: Are They What We Fought For? Conclusions


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Elena Samonova completed her PhD at the University of Helsinki, Finland. She is currently a post-doctoral fellow at University College Dublin, Ireland.


"Focusing on a rights-based approach towards the liberation of bonded labourers in India and Nepal, Samonova empirically depicts the empowerment of former slaves. She offers a timely analysis in a period where human rights and empowerment discourses are central to governmental and non-governmental action against slavery. And, from the perspective of the oppressed she gives empirical meaning to abstract concepts of power and freedom and allows for a vivid insight into the understanding of those terms by former bonded labourers." -- Christine Molfenter, PhD Candidate writing on the abolition of bonded labour in India, South Asia Institut, University of Heidelberg, Germany

"Slavery and bondage in South Asia are among the oldest and most widespread in the whole world. Today, several million people, including children and women, still live under extremely harsh conditions in this part of the world. Yet this is still a neglected topic among scholars. Samonova brings new insights into the lives and conditions of bonded people in India and Nepal, and offers theoretical and practical suggestions to implement appropriate policies in these areas. A brilliant achievement and a must-read." -- Stanziani Alessandro, Directeur d'├ętudes EHESS and Directeur de recherche, CNRS, France