This post has been written by Anushree Tadge, a third year law student from ILS Law College, Pune.
“Child slavery is a crime against humanity. Humanity itself is at stake here. A lot of work still remains, but I will see the end of child labor in my lifetime.” – Kailash Satyarth
12th June is marked as the World Day against Child Labour and this year United Nations has proposed the theme of “impact of the Covid-19 crisis on child labour”. This is an international day to promote the awareness to prevent the unfortunate happening of ‘child labour’ across the globe. Almost 1 out of 10 children suffers the plights of a child labor today. The International Labour Organisation launched this day in the year 2002 and since then, nations throughout the globe have been urged to take efforts to eradicate the root cause of this problem in the respective countries. Almost every web search about this day mentions that there is an estimated data of 152 million children in child labour, 72 million of which are in hazardous work. But how have we reached this horrifying mark? What are the causes? Who is to be held responsible? How can we curb this? Child Labour is serious and it will only get worse as we move along this pandemic and hence the above mentioned questions need addressed now more than ever.
Before explaining in brief the above marked problem let’s understand -Why are international days important? The foremost reason why states are acknowledging international days is to simultaneously acknowledge the work of the United Nations behind such issues. International days work as a reminder to the worldwide population, a reminder of important issues, issues that people don’t think of daily and hence forget their existence itself. June is the month with the most international days it has also marked the World Environment day (5 June) and will further also celebrate the International Widow’s Day (23 June) along with many other
According to the International Labour Organization child labour is defined as the work that deprives children of their childhood, of their potential and dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development. It is also the primary cause and consequence of poverty. The UNICEF also believes that child labour includes any economic activities which hinder the working child’s full development and even education. In other words, if a kid is forced to work causing mental, physical, social or immorally negative impact on him/her, or such work hinders with their potential to attend a regular school and thereby making them not able to experience a joyful and healthy childhood.
Further, the ambit of child labour is very wide. It extends right from shoeshine boys, ragpickers, street children who are beggars, sex workers, migrant children working in stone quarrying, construction sites to daughters who are forced to leave school for taking care of the household and younger siblings behind their parents. This also includes children who are bonded, children who have to work in order to pay the debts of their parents. Fasih (2007) mentions that child labour creates some really unskilled and uneducated labour which in turn affects the country’s development and economy.
Socio-economic factors like poverty, civil war, urban migration, globalisation, family income etc. are some of then many reasons behind child labor in India and across the globe. Child Labor is an infection mostly caused to the children in larger households. To understand this, a simple question is to be asked, if a large family has a very small limited income, what would the parents prefer- feeding the children and themselves or spending on education? Even more, if such income is not sufficient to meet the basic ending of food and clothing isn’t it a very obvious fact that children will also work at a very tender age to meet the family requirements. Many children belong to a normal lifestyle household meeting basic ends, but are still expected to work in order to learn “essential skills” like in rural areas of Guatemala. The aforementioned instances are still not worrisome because more hazardous illegal works are stealing drugs, trafficking, prostitution, confined industrial workers. Companies and industries often hire children as they provide cheap and malleable labour. They cannot be represented, they do not have unions, they are desperate, they don’t have rights and they don’t have the wisdom of age to fight for their needs. Michael Moore correctly quotes “You can’t regulate child labor. You can’t regulate slavery. Some things are just wrong.” Some are comfortable with what they do, while some are not.
In India As per census reports, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Maharashtra are the top five states with the highest number of child labor. The highest jump was recorded in Uttar Pradesh where child labour increased by 12% to 21%, although Andhra Pradesh has always been the top ranked home to largest number of child labourers. Legislations like the Indian Penal Code, the Juvenile Justice (care and protection) of Children Act-2000, and the Child Labour (Prohibition and Abolition) Act-1986 are responsible to identify, prosecute and stop child labour in our country. Non-Governmental Organisations like Bachpan Bachao Andolan, ChildFund, CARE India, Talaash, Child Rights and You, RIDE India, Child line etc. have been working really well to eliminate child labor in India. The good news being, as per the census of 2011 child labour in the country has dropped down by 65%.
According to the Vatican News, Pope Francis noted on this World Day Against Child Labour, that this an unfortunate a phenomenon the Pope said, which “endangers” the integral development of so many boys and girls. He also appealed to institutions to protect minors in every form and way as they are the future of human family and fostering their growth, health and serenity is important. World Day will be conducted as a virtual campaign this year. The UN along with two organisations is making an effort to prioritise eliminating child labor. ILO-UNICEF also introduces a jointly prepared paper today, which will be presented in year 2021, emphasizing on the main channels through which this pandemic is likely to affect children and force them to work. It is estimated that 42-66 million children could fall into extreme poverty, vulnerable families will fall prey to debt bondage, criminal networks will also exploit the vulnerable sections and further force them to work in hazardous areas, stricter controls at borders will also increase the risk of human trafficking. Migrants, internally displaced persons, from disaster affected areas travelling to their home states are more vulnerable to child labour and at particular risk in the current crisis.
2021 is announced as the year to eliminate child labour completely To curb this, many global level initiatives are put forth and some are really promising. The Alliance 8.7, Sustainable Development Goal multi-stakeholder partnership has been established to put an end to child and forced labour, 21 countries have committed to provide domestic resources to meet SDG target 8.7. The ILO also plays a key role in establishing a coordinated response and network of more than 250 organizations to addressthe emerging challenges of COVID-19 in affected communities and therefore to mitigate the risks ofa resurgence of child labour and forced labour. The ILO also works closely with regional initiatives and organizations such as the Regional Initiative Latin America and the Caribbean free of Child Labour, the African Union, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the South Asia Initiative to End Violence against Children (SAIEVAC), the European Union (EU) and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
Child Labour has been a prioritised issue in many countries, and more and more nations are only getting added to the list but worldwide it’s a sad and grievous state of affairs. Especially in these times of crisis, pro-activeness is expected from governments all over the globe to handle it effectively. Not only at the national and international levels but people like you and me are also responsible for the fate of such children. It is a collective responsibility, a shared responsibility, a duty to one and all and nobody should morally move away from it. It is the Government’s duty to put forth policies and legislations to eradicate this, and it is an expected duty of all of us to ‘question’. Question authorities, question power holders, question everybody who is in a position to dominate others. It is urged to all to be responsible citizens. Just because you do not see a exploited child labourer, it does not imply such a kid does not exist. Mostly children working in hazardous activities are ‘invisible’ But what can you and I do? The next time you see a ‘chotu’ in a restaurant or a ‘chintu’ in a garments store, please ask him if he really gets the something so basic of a facility like going to school? And if so, hold accountable every person who made him work there. These small things matter.