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Contemporary Slavery


Special Court for Sierra Leone

On October 14-16, 2010, York Law & Society Professor Annie Bunting, and The Harriet Tubman Institute hosted an international workshop on forced marriage in conflict situations. This workshop was the first of two conferences supported by a Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council of Canada International Opportunities Fund (IOF) project grant.

On February 24-26, 2011, Professor Bunting will host a larger international conference in Freetown, Sierra Leone at the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL). Bringing together historians of slavery and women's human rights scholars, the conference will explore the phenomenon of forced marriage and enslavement from comparative and historical perspectives. During conflicts in Sierra Leone, Liberia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Uganda and Rwanda, women were kidnapped, raped and forced into 'marriages' with combatants. The Special Court for Sierra Leone recently found such gender violations to constitute a new crime against humanity of forced marriage as opposed to sexual slavery.

Research team members for the international project include representatives from the Coalition of Women’s Human Rights in Conflict Situations, the Feinstein International Center at Tufts University, Free the Slaves, the Harriet Tubman Institute, the Open Society Initiative for Eastern Africa, Rights & Democracy, l'Université du Québec à Montréal,the University of Liverpool, the Women’s Forum, the Wilberforce Institute on the Study of Slavery and Emancipation. In February, the international expert group, along with survivor groups, officials and leading academics and activists working on the issue will meet in Sierra Leone for an unprecedented conference on the topic.

The workshop will take place in the building which houses the Special Court for Sierra Leone.