Imprint / Data Privacy


Reducing vulnerability to Modern Slavery.

One in every 130 females globally lives in modern slavery. In fact, women and girls account for nearly three quarters (71%) of all victims of modern slavery. Although modern slavery affects everyone, there is no escaping the fact that it is a gendered issue. Females account for a staggering 99% of all victims of forced sexual exploitation, 84% of all victims of forced marriage, and 58 per cent of all victims of forced labour.

In many countries, laws can exacerbate, rather than protect from modern slavery. They prevent women from inheriting land and assets, conferring citizenship on their children, traveling freely, and working without their husbands’ permission. In some countries, laws grant rapists exemption from prosecution if they are married to, or later marry their victims.

Crises such as COVID-19 or conflict trigger the economic instability and lapses in law and order that increase the vulnerability of women and girls to violence and exploitation. Women and girls who sit at the intersection of multiple vulnerabilities, for example those who are disabled, belong to an ethnic minority, or who are LGBTQIA+ experience an increased risk of modern slavery.

Regardless of where you live in the world, gender has a significant impact on vulnerability to modern slavery. Females outnumber males as victims of modern slavery in four of the five world regions.

They account for 73% of victims in the Asia and Pacific, 71% in Africa, 67% in Europe and Central Asia, and 63% in the Americas. Even in the Arab States, where estimates are significantly impeded by a lack of data on forced marriages and the forced labor of domestic workers, nearly 40% of all people living in modern slavery are female. They constitute 58% of all victims of forced labor.

Fundamentally, modern slavery is enabled by power imbalances. For women and girls, this imbalance is exacerbated by gender inequality and discrimination, which, as this report shows, is embedded in the fabric of our lives – the laws and social norms we live by, the different expectations imposed on daughters as compared to sons.

Gender stacks the odds against girls from before they are born to the end of their lives. Sex selection during pregnancy, combined with infanticide, reduces the birth rates and survival of infant girls in societies that consider them economic burdens. As they transition through childhood, adolescence and adult life, the impacts of discrimination multiply and gender inequality grows. In most countries, fewer girls attend school and have access to medical care than boys, and women are more likely to end up in poverty, to work in the riskiest sectors of the informal economy – and ultimately, in modern slavery – than men.



Reducing vulnerability to modern slavery

Conception to infancy Governments should:

  • Ensure that no child is born stateless by strengthening legal safeguards and ensuring birth registration.
  • Remove gender discrimination from nationality laws, including preventing the denial, loss, or deprivation of nationality on discriminatory grounds.
  • Criminalize Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting.

Civil society and faith-based organizations should conduct community education programs that challenge patriarchal norms and recast girls as valuable and valued members of society.


Governments should:

  • Increase access to primary school education for all children and particularly girls.
  • Criminalize commercial sexual exploitation of children, including buying and selling children for online exploitation.
  • Raise awareness of human trafficking and sexual exploitation, particularly in the context of online safety, including for vulnerable children.

Civil society and faith-based organizations should educate women and their families, including men and boys, about their equal responsibilities in domestic and care work.

Governments should:

  • Remove barriers to adolescent girls remaining in school, via campaigns that raise awareness about child marriage, reproductive health, and safe migration.
  • Criminalize forced marriage, and work with communities to provide access to justice for adolescent girls facing early marriage.

Civil society and faith-based organizations should implement programs focused on vocational and entrepreneurship training, and provide leadership and mentorship programs for adolescent girls.

Governments (and businesses) should:

  • Improve labor protection and working conditions in informal sectors where women are over-represented, such as the garment, domestic and care work, and sex industries.
  • Place particular focus on migrant workers by:
  • Ensuring they are protected in their workplaces and along their migration routes.
  • Requiring employers, not employees, to pay any fees or costs associated with recruitment to prevent debt bondage.
  • Increasing access to information relating to the migration experience.
  • Prevent discrimination against women on grounds of marriage or maternity, including prohibiting dismissal on grounds of pregnancy and introducing parental leave.

Humanitarian organisations should embed anti-slavery action within all crisis responses.

Late adulthood
Governments should:

  • Prohibit practices that allow women to be inherited by a male relative of her husband and enforce these prohibitions.
  • Improve legal rights for older women, allowing them to inherit land and property and maintain control of their assets regardless of marital status.
  • Work with communities and faith leaders to change social norms around widow cleansing, witchcraft accusations, and other harmful practices.
  • Protect vulnerable older women, such as those living in poor health and/or poverty or those who have been affected by conflict, climate change, and other disasters.
  • Fund research focused on older women, particularly on the types and drivers of exploitation.

The Stacked Odds Report was first published on,
an international human rights group focused on the eradication of modern slavery, in all of its forms, in our lifetime. Copyright: The Minderoo Foundation.


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