Modern slavery – it’s here; know the signs

24 August 2021

By Jamie Morris, Communications Advisor

Dr Jan Shapcott spoke recently at GP21: The Conference for General Practice about modern slavery. Her key message was that it’s here in New Zealand. But what is modern slavery? 

She said, “modern slavery can be a number of things – debt bondage (where a person is forced work to pay off debt), forced marriage, and forced labour. “There are also lesser forms of slavery to do with failing to protect an employee,” Jan says.

Recent examples of modern slavery

Joseph Matamata – jailed for 11 years for human trafficking and slavery
In 2020, Joseph Matamata became the first person in New Zealand to be convicted of using someone as a slave, and the first to be charged with both slavery and human trafficking. The offences were committed 1994 - 2019 and involved 13 victims.  Most recently, you may have seen the media coverage reporting that Joseph has had his appeal declined.

Kasmeer Lata –jailed for over six years for using her daughter as a sex slave
In 2018, Kasmeer Lata was jailed for using her teenage daughter as a sex slave and selling her body to men at least 1,000 times over a two-year period. Kasmeer placed advertisements for her daughter the New Zealand Girls online escort agency website, other sites and in the NZ Herald, lying about her age.

Tips for spotting a victim and what to do

Jane shared her top tips for GPs and rural hospital doctors for spotting a victim:

  • They usually come with a minder
  • The minder will hold their ID and complete the paperwork
  • They are usually older than the age on their paperwork.

A delegate asked what they should do if they come across a suspected case. Jane stressed, she wasn’t here to tell people what to do, more to let people know it was happening here in New Zealand.

Jane did however give some suggestions, saying you could contact Oranga Tamariki for a child, or the police for an adult. 

“You’d have to be very sure before you took any action,” Jane said.

The Human Rights Commission has detailed content about modern slavery.