KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 18 — There are an estimated 142,600 people currently bonded in slavery in Malaysia, placing the country eighth among the worst perpetrators of slavery in the Asia Pacific region by percentage of population, according to an international study on modern slavery.
The Global Slavery Index 2014, which was published last week by Australian-based The Walk Free Foundation, found that there is an allegedly high tendency in Malaysian public policy to support slavery, human rights violations and discrimination.
Though the findings were tempered by good stability and development, it still left Malaysia ranked 56 out of 167 countries covered in the study, with 0.48 per cent of its nearly 30 million population allegedly made up of slaves.
The highest prevalence of slavery, however, was found in Mauritania, where 4 per cent or 155,600 of its 3.9 million population are considered slaves, followed by Uzbekistan, where 3.97 per cent or 1.2 million of its 30.2 million population comprises slaves.
Haiti came in third in terms of prevalence of slavery, with 2.30 per cent or 237,700 of its 10.3 million inhabitants allegedly bonded into slavery.
In terms of absolute numbers, however, India leads the pack with an estimated 14.3 million or 1.14 per cent of its population working as slaves, followed by 3.2 million (0.24 per cent) in China and Pakistan where nearly 2.1 million (1.13 per cent) of its population are victims of slavery.
The Index also tagged a bottom half rating of CCC on the Malaysian government’s response to modern slavery, finding that there is limited support for victims and a system that “may criminalise and/or deport victims, and/or facilitate slavery”.
This is despite the existence of a criminal justice framework that criminalises “some forms of modern slavery” and a national policy and coordinator to implement policies that provide “some protections for those vulnerable to modern slavery”.
The best rating for government response given by the Index is AAA, while the lowest is D.
Getting the same government response rating as Malaysia in the Asia Pacific region were India, Japan, South Korea, China, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Mongolia, Cambodia and Myanmar.
Nepal, Indonesia and Thailand were given one rating better at B, while New Zealand, the Philippines and Taiwan were given BB ratings.
Australia was the only country to get a BBB rating, while North Korea was the only country to be give a D, scoring a zero on nearly all of the ranking criteria.
At the global level, the only country to get a AA rating is the Netherlands, while Sweden was given an A rating, above the United States, Switzerland, Ireland, Norway, the United Kingdom, Georgia, Austria, Belgium, Croatia and Spain, which were all given the same BBB rating as Australia.