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Between dreams and brooms: Heartbreaking reality of child labor in India

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A child rag-picker with his cart on World Day Against Child Labour in Varanasi on June 12, 2014. (Photo: IANS)

By Rukma Singh

As the world comes together to commemorate the World Day against Child Labor on June 12th, the significance of the reasons behind the very inception of this day remains untapped all throughout the world.

According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), child labor is “a violation of fundamental human rights, which impairs a child’s development, potentially leading to lifelong physical or psychological damage.”

The organization’s comprehensive research on the subject demonstrates that eliminating child labor can help developing economies generate economic benefits nearly seven times greater than the costs incurred in better schooling and social services.

The question is, what governs the choices behind child labor?

“I used to think I’ll earn enough to send my daughter to school. But by the time she turned five, I still didn’t have enough money to do that. Plus, my husband kept encouraging her to do household work because she was a girl. What else would she do? And what else could I say?
Today, at the age of 10, she can do all the household work possible. She’s a favorite in the apartments that I work in. With the kind of skills she has, she adds to the family’s little income.” says Babli, a household helper in a society in Gurgaon.

“I go to my favorite places first, finish the work as soon as I can. And then I go to the places I don’t like.” says Rani, Babli’s daughter.

“I don’t like them because they shout at me all the time. My work is to clean the house and dishes. But they want me to go ahead and clean the toilets also. It makes me feel a little bad but they promise extra money, so I go ahead.” she continues.

Analyzing the reasons

Child labor is induced by a continuous loop of poverty resulting in a lack of options of earning livelihood. This loop is further facilitated by societal landscapes.

Questions like “what else can we do?” loom over the lives of poor families. The result is that the only option left for them is to make sure each member of the family is earning some amount of money.

At such times, the want to be learned and educated are heavily overshadowed by the need to earn a living, no matter how bad the situation is.

Working in dingy beedi factories, risking lives in the mining industry, cleaning public toilets seem like doable alternatives to the families of these children. Even the existing labor laws protecting them does not deter the poor from going ahead.

Extent of the adversity

One of the basic problems in India is the fact that there is a multitude of schemes in place. But the proper implementation of even one seems like a farfetched dream.

With child labor reducing at a dismal rate of only 2.2%, it would take over 100 years to put an end to this menace, says an analysis done by Child Rights and You (CRY).

“This is of utmost concern especially since enforcement machinery is primarily based in urban regions and the implementation of child protection structures is stronger in urban India. This increase in urban child labor could be attributed to increased migration including seasonal migration for employment as well as trafficking of unaccompanied minors,” told Komal Ganotra, director, policy & research, CRY to a national daily.

‘Efforts’ by the Government of India

In an attempt to rebuild the country’s child labor laws, the Indian government has banned the employment of children below 14 years of age in various commercial ventures, while permitting them to work in family enterprises and on farmlands after school hours and during vacations.

The new amendment will, however, permit kids to work in “non-hazardous” businesses, the entertainment industry (including films, advertisements and TV serials) and sporting events from the 18 occupations and 65 processes specified under the 1986 law.

Reading between the lines

Behind this carefully constructed amendment lies the ability given to families to skirt the new law.  The new amendment is bound to push many an innocent life into the dark shadows of forced labor, forcing them away from one of life’s basic necessities: education. Added to this is the inherent disadvantage to the girl child, who can now more easily pushed into household labor while being denied her basic right to education.

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ILO: Global Unemployment Rises to More than 200 Million

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Ivanka Trump, right, speaks during a session on action to end forced labor, modern slavery and human trafficking at UN headquarters. voa

Global unemployment this year stands at more than 201 million, an increase of 3.4 million compared to 2016, says the International Labor Organization (ILO).

The ILO says the private sector, especially small and medium-sized enterprises, plays a crucial role in creating decent jobs around the world.

The ILO study (World Employment and Social Outlook 2017: Sustainable Enterprises and Jobs) reports private businesses account for nearly 3 billion workers or 87 percent of total global employment. It says a strong public sector is a foundation for growth, job creation and poverty reduction.

Deborah Greenfield, the ILO deputy director general for policy, says investing in workers is a key to sustainability. She also says providing formal training for permanent employees results in higher wages, higher productivity and lower unit labor costs. Greenfield says temporary workers are at a disadvantage.

“But, intensified use of temporary employment is associated with lower wages and lower productivity without achieving any gains in unit labor costs,” Greenfield said. “The report also finds that on-the-job training is an important driver of innovation. Since temporary workers are rarely offered training, this might also affect innovation in firms in a negative way.”

The ILO report says in some cases, innovation has led to the hiring of more temporary workers, mainly women. It notes, however, that while this might be beneficial in the short term, in the long term, it depresses wages and leads to lower productivity because of the instability of temporary work and lack of benefits.

The report, however, finds innovation increases competitiveness and job creation for enterprises. It says innovative firms tend to be more productive, employ more educated workers, offer more training and hire more female workers. voa

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Know Violence in Childhood : A New Study Reveals 1.7 Billion Children Suffer Violence Annually, Links it to Violence Against Women

Issued by Know Violence in Childhood, an international advocacy group, the report is titled ‘Ending Violence in Childhood: Global Report 2017’

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A Rohingya Muslim child kisses his mother as they rest after having crossed over from Myanmar to the Bangladesh side of the border near Cox's Bazar's Teknaf area, Sept. 2, 2017. Tens of thousands of others crossed into Bangladesh in a 24-hour span as they fled violence in western Myanmar, the UNHCR said. (VOA)

New Delhi, September 29, 2017 : A new study has challenged popularly held belief that cases of child labor and violence against children are committed only in poor countries. This new research has revealed that nearly three out of four children in both, poor and rich countries alike, around the globe experience violence each year.

Issued by Know Violence in Childhood, an international advocacy group, the report is titled ‘Ending Violence in Childhood: Global Report 2017’. The report traces cases and nature of violence between the perpetrator and a child.

The study found that the menace of violence in childhood is a universal problem, and affects nearly 1.7 billion children over the course of a year. This includes bullying or fighting, sexual abuse, corporal punishment at home and in school, and sexual violence.

Shockingly, the report confirmed that violence in childhood is linked with violence against women. Children who witness abuse of their mothers are more likely to become victims or perpetrators of abuse when they grow up, it said.

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Statistics revealing the persistence of violence in childhood. (VOA)

The researchers focused on violence between the perpetrator and the child. They did not include violence from war and other events. They took more than three years to document the scale of violence experienced by millions of the world’s children.

The report also looked at strategies to end the violence.

Rayma Subrahmanian, executive director of Know Violence in Childhood, said children are exposed to emotional and physical punishment from as early as 2 years old.

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Adriana Maria dos Santos, mother of the late Vanessa do Santos, and a friend, Laisa, cry over Vanessa’s casket during her burial in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, July 6, 2017. The 10-year-old child was killed two days earlier after being hit in the head (VOA)

Subrahmanian said violence is a learned behavior that is rooted in deep cultural norms. In some societies, beating is a form of discipline.

Children who are victims of violence often suffer immediate harm, but they also face lifelong physical and mental health problems — anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression or attachment disorders, among others. As teens, boys are more likely to be involved with homicide and suicide. Girls are more likely to suffer sexual assault.

ALSO READ Childhood bullying may have lifelong Health effects related to chronic stress exposure

Violence in childhood also inflicts an economic cost on society. Know Violence in Childhood said that children who experience violence at home or at school are more likely to be absent from school or to drop out. They are less likely to succeed in life and to get an education, researchers found. Also, up to 8 percent of global GDP is spent each year on repairing the damage caused by childhood violence, the study said.

While governments can put preventive measures in place, most governments fail to invest in tackling the root causes of violence, the report said. (VOA)

 

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World in the Grip of ‘Hidden Crimes’ : Over 40 Million People, Including Women and Children Trapped in Modern Slavery, Reveals New Report

In the past five years, 89 million people suffered in some form of modern slavery, lasting from days to years, the report estimates

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A government raid empties a shrimp shed in Samut Sakhon, Thailand. Slavery has often been considered an acceptable business practice in the country's seafood export capital. (VOA)

New York, September 20, 2017 : More than 40 million people were trapped as slaves last year in forced labor and forced marriages, most of them women and girls, according to the first joint effort by key anti-slavery groups to count the victims of the often hidden crime worldwide.

The International Labor Organization (ILO), the human rights group Walk Free Foundation and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said 40.3 million people were victims of modern slavery in 2016 — but added that this was a conservative estimate.

They estimated 24.9 million people were trapped working in factories, on construction sites, farms and fishing boats, and as domestic or sex workers, while 15.4 million people were in marriages to which they had not consented.

Almost three out of every four slaves were women and girls and one in four was a child, with modern slavery most prevalent in Africa followed by Asia and the Pacific region, said the report released Tuesday.

“It’s a conservative number,” Andrew Forrest, founder of Walk Free, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “It cannot capture the full extent of the horror of modern slavery.”

No region exempt

In the past five years, 89 million people suffered in some form of modern slavery, lasting from days to years, the report estimated.

“Forced laborers produced some of the food we eat and the clothes we wear, and they have cleaned the buildings in which many of us live or work,” the groups said in the report, stressing the crime was prevalent in all nations.

The findings mark the first time the groups collaborated on an international estimate and prompted calls for stronger labor rights, improved governance of migrants, action to address root causes of debt bondage, and better victim identification.

ALSO READ Between dreams and brooms: Heartbreaking reality of child labor in India

“Having a global number shows the prevalence of the issue of modern slavery. It shows there is impunity around the world where people are being traded by organized criminals” and “being let down by systems,” said Kevin Hyland, Britain’s independent anti-slavery commissioner. “We need to see this translated into action that develops a response about how we safeguard people.”

Previously the anti-slavery groups had used different data, definitions and methodologies to reach separate global estimates, said Kevin Bales, professor of contemporary slavery at Britain’s University of Nottingham and a member of Walk Free’s statistical team.

The latest estimate “is more accurate than any number that we’ve had previously,” he said. “We just have better data and better methods than we’ve ever had before.

“It’s a hidden crime,” he added. “It’s tricky to get at.”

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A boy sells colored balloons in Kabul, Afghanistan(AP Photo/Rahmat Gul) (VOA)

Child, sexual exploitation

The estimate compared with a 2016 Walk Free finding that 45.8 million people were slaves and an ILO figure of 21 million in forced labor, but both the ILO and Walk Free cautioned the latest number cannot be compared with earlier figures to show progress or failure in anti-slavery efforts.

But having an agreed-upon estimate can help galvanize anti-slavery efforts, said Jean Baderschneider, head of the U.S.-based Global Fund to End Modern Slavery.

“I’m so thrilled that they got this together. It’s a big deal for the field today,” she said.

Fiona David, executive director of global research at Australia-based Walk Free, said unlike previous estimates, the findings explicitly included people forced into marriages.

Many are women taken from their homes, raped and treated like property that could sometimes be bought, sold or passed on as inheritance, she said.

More than a third of the 15 million victims of forced marriage were under 18 when wed, and nearly half of those were younger than 15. Nearly all were female.

“Really the label marriage is actually a little bit misleading. When you look at what’s behind it, it could also be called sexual slavery,” she said.

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Women arrive at the entrance to the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia for a trial hearing about evidence of forced marriage and rape during the Khmer Rouge regime, on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, Cambodia (VOA)

Including forced marriage is a breakthrough that helps draw needed attention to the issue, Bales said.

“In a lot of countries around the world, they don’t even want to discuss the idea of marriage … in the same room as the idea of slavery,” he said.

Child labor

The ILO also released a separate report showing 152 million children were victims of child labor, which amounted to nearly one in every 10 children worldwide, with almost half of those engaged in hazardous work.

More than two-thirds of these children were working on a family farm or in a family business, with 71 percent overall working in agriculture.

The calculation of forced labor included the private economy, forced sexual exploitation and state-imposed labor.

Half of forced laborers were victims of debt bondage, who were made to work to repay a debt or other obligation, and nearly 4 million adults and 1 million children were victims of forced sexual exploitation.

“The vast majority of forced labor today exists in the private economy. This underscores the importance of partnering with the business community … to eradicate forced labor in supply chains,” the report said.

The ILO and Walk Free conducted surveys in 48 countries and interviewed more than 71,000 people, with findings supplemented by data from the IOM. (VOA)