These Children Are Trapped In "Modern-Day Slavery"

Photographed by Vlad Sokhin / Panos
Slavery may be outlawed in most parts of the world, but that hasn't stopped the practice from continuing in new forms.

Haiti is no exception to this phenomenon.

The country is home to hundreds of thousands of restaveks, children who become at a young age entangled in an arrangement that human rights groups say equates to modern-day domestic slavery. According to the Restavek Freedom Foundation, this practice affects one in every 15 Haitian children.

Restaveks are typically born to poor parents in the countryside and given to wealthy families with the hope that they'll have better futures. Once they move in with their hosts, the children perform house chores in exchange for education and being taken care of.

But the Restavek Freedom Foundation says that many times the host family doesn't hold up their end of the deal, and the children perform menial tasks for no pay.

"With few exceptions, restavek children become slaves, working in the homes of their 'masters' from early morning until night," photographer Vlad Sokhin, who spent time in Haiti capturing the daily lives of these children, explains in an introduction to his photography project. "They fetch water [every] day, cook, wash clothes, clean yards, and do all other household chores. They are not allowed to sleep on a bed, eat at the table with the rest of the host family, or play with other children."

While the country has outlawed human trafficking, the practice is still a problem.

The 2016 Global Slavery Index ranks Haiti eighth in the world for prevalence of modern slavery by population. Today, about 407,000 children in Haiti are engaged in domestic child labor, according to a study conducted by UNICEF in partnership with more than 30 organizations. The investigation also found that 207,000 children under the age of 15 "work in unacceptable forms of domestic child labor."

Ahead, a heartbreaking look into the lives of the restavek children.
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Photographed by Vlad Sokhin / Panos
Jeanse, 16, a restavek stands near her "master" Jean-Felix Lousienne, 44, who took her from the Petion-Ville refugee camp. Jeanse sleeps and eats on the floor and is constantly exposed to beatings and verbal offenses. She does not have any identification documents, and is not allowed to go to school.
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Photographed by Vlad Sokhin / Panos
Viviane, 11, left, helping her sister, Islande, 13, do the dishes in their host family's house. The sisters, both restaveks, have lived in servitude since 2008, when their mother gave them away.
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Photographed by Vlad Sokhin / Panos
John, 40, with his restavek girl Mamaika, 8, who has been serving for him since the earthquake of 2010.
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Photographed by Vlad Sokhin / Panos
Francoise-Jessica, 11, and her brother, Francois-Samuel, 7, in their master's house. Their mother gave them away as restaveks after the 2010 earthquake, and since then, they have been serving a poor family of four in the slum area of Morne de l'Hôpital.
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Photographed by Vlad Sokhin / Panos
Judeline, 12, a restavek, washing her mistress' hair.
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Photographed by Vlad Sokhin / Panos
Amberline, 7, right, with her 3-month-old brother, Loubes. Their mother Adeline, 32, left, cannot afford to feed her three children or pay for Amberline's schooling. Adeline says that in a few months she will give Amberline to a family as a restavek.
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Photographed by Vlad Sokhin / Panos
Olrtega, 13, a restavek, washes the dishes in his master's house. He has been living in servitude since 2008 after his mother gave him away.
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Photographed by Vlad Sokhin / Panos
A member of the host family scolding Enso, a restavek, for work not properly done.
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Photographed by Vlad Sokhin / Panos
A young man carries a heavy coal sack on his back in the Morne L'Hopital slum.
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Photographed by Vlad Sokhin / Panos
"Modern slaveholders" praying before a meeting with child advocates from the Restavek Freedom Foundation, at a school in Port-au-Prince. The NGO has conducted a series of workshops for host families to help change their attitudes towards restaveks.
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Photographed by Vlad Sokhin / Panos
Starlie, 14, a restavek, changing the diaper of her master's son. Starlie, who became a restavek at the age of 10, is allowed to go to school because the Restavek Freedom Foundation pays her school fees. After school, she has to do all the housework.
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Photographed by Vlad Sokhin / Panos
Judeline, a restavek, carries a heavy bucket of water from the well to her master's house. She goes to school, but can only do her homework once she has finished all of the household chores. She is not allowed at the table, so she sits on the steps to study.
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Photographed by Vlad Sokhin / Panos
A 12-year-old restavek learning to count at the Kwadbouke School.
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Photographed by Vlad Sokhin / Panos
Victoria, 15, was given, by her father, to a host family as a restavek after the earthquake of 2010 where she was subjected to abuse and beatings. She was removed from servitude by the Restavek Freedom Foundation and placed to their "transitional home." She now dreams of obtaining a university degree and becoming an accountant.
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Photographed by Vlad Sokhin / Panos
Former restaveks playing in their bedroom in the Restavek Freedom Foundation's transitional home. The house was built by the RFF as a shelter for restavek girls subjected to abuse by their host families. The residents here have a secure environment and attend one of the best schools in Port-au-Prince.
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Photographed by Vlad Sokhin / Panos
Children in the classroom of a primary school. All of these children are restaveks and receive free education provided by the RFF. They still live with their host families, and go back to their chores every day after school. Most of them are not allowed to play with other children, and school is the only place for them to interact with their friends.
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