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gender inequalities and power imbalances

Women and Girls

1 in every 130 women and girls globally is living in some form of modern slavery (The Walk Free Foundation).

71% of all those in modern slavery.

99% of people exploited in the commercial sex industry. 

40% of people engaged in state-imposed forced labour. 

84% of people who have been forced into marriage.

One of the root causes and enablers of the exploitation of women and girls is gender inequality. Gender inequality has created imbalances in power. This is because sexism, discrimination, misogyny and gender inequality are rooted in the political / socio-economic structure of our societies and cultures. The legislation and societal attitudes we abide by, and the distorted requirements enforced on daughters as opposed to sons, intensifies imbalances. Therefore, countries with a higher prevalence of gender inequality (in terms of education, economic status, health etc.) will generally have a higher prevalence of modern slavery. 

Women globally are more likely to live in extreme poverty and report food insecurity than men. This means leads to a lack of access to education, with statistics showing that people living in poor households have higher rates of illiteracy and that women in poor households are the most vulnerable of all. Inadequate education limits employment opportunities for women.

Subsequently, women have less economic opportunities available to them than men do. Women are at higher risk of modern slavery without access to substantial education and safer and fairer economic opportunities. Cultural practises, beliefs and institutions, lack of independence, restricted job opportunities and access to education all generate risks that disproportionately affect women and girls.

While in some cultures it is believed that forced or child marriages are the best way to improve or secure the future of a daughter, there may be health consequences. Such marriages can also increase the risk of other types of exploitation.

Discriminatory legislative practices including “unequal inheritance rights, husbands having the legal right to prevent wives from working, no legal protection from domestic violence, exemption from prosecution for rapists if they are married to, or marry, their victim” disadvantage the position of women and girls. These gaps in legislation and legal protection for women and girls must be addressed urgently to help reducing inequality.

The Walk Free Foundation has laid out three crucial steps that must be taken in order to correct gender imbalances and ensure that women and girls are provided safe opportunities to prevent them from falling into the hands of traffickers.

  1. Access to education for women and girls must be improved across the world.
  2. Economic and vocational opportunities for women and girls must be provided in an effective manner.
  3. Work must be carried out on a local, community-orientated level to change damaging gender-biased attitudes. 

Stacked Odds: How lifelong inequality shapes women and girls’ experience of modern slavery

Walk Free Foundation