CRIME OF THE CENTURY; 152 MILLION CHILD LABOURERS
World spiritual leaders have warned us that those who abuse children or indulge in child labour would and should be thrown into the deepest ocean with a millstone tied rounds their necks. Children are devastatingly honest and innocent that is why the heavenly realms comprise people who have the honesty and innocence of children. Seen in this light many of our leaders -- political, social, business and even religious leaders -- appear to be sadly lacking in honesty, innocence and a spirit of sincere, sacrificial and selfless service to the people, especially those caught in the poverty trap of a wicked world. Therefore such leaders face a fate that is too horrible to be imagined.
June 12, was the World Day against Child Labour. According to the Indian Express group some 152 million children are caught up in the torture of child labour with some 73 million being forced to get involved in hazardous work.
The United Nations, which mark this day worldwide is calling for an end to the brutalities of child labour. Despite the efforts made by NGOS and governments, the plight of illegal young labourers is a reality of society that we live in and we need to confront it with all the power at our disposal.
According to the UN, in 2002, the International Labour Organization (ILO) launched the World Day Against Child Labour to focus attention on the global extent of child labour and the action and efforts needed to eliminate it. Each year on June 12, the World Day brings together governments, employers and workers’ organizations, civil society and millions of people from around the world to highlight the plight of child labourers and what can be done to help them.
In a message, ILO Director-general Guy Ryder says Children are more vulnerable to risk than adults. It is a priority in the wider ILO campaigns against child labour and for safe and healthy work for youth of legal working age – “Generation Safe and Healthy ”. The child labourers are toiling in mines and fields, factories and homes, exposed to pesticides and other toxic substances, carrying heavy loads or working long hours. Many suffer lifelong physical and psychological consequences. Their very lives can be at risk.
No child under the age of 18 should perform hazardous work as stipulated in the ILO’S Conventions on child labour, namely the Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No. 138) and the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No. 182). They require governments, in consultation with social partners, to establish and enforce a national list of hazardous work prohibited for children. Ratification of these Conventions by 171 and 181 Ilo-member States respectively -- close to universal ratification – reflects a commitment to end child labour in all its forms. It is time to step up action, the ILO says.
A new ILO report, ‘Towards the Urgent Elimination of Hazardous Child Labour’, finds that certain occupational hazards -- including exposure to psychological stress and to commonly-used chemicals -- are even more serious for children than previously thought.
Another key finding is that adolescence, as a period of physical maturation, may start earlier and last into the mid-twenties. Within this extended period of growth, children (and young adults), face a range of vulnerabilities that require responses in law and practice.
In Sri Lanka, child labour may not be as extensive as in many other countries. But sometimes poverty-stricken families who have no means of feeding or giving education or healthcare to their children are forced to send them for household work in the families of rich and ruling elite. Such families need to ensure that the children while helping in the household work are provided education and healthcare facilities. They need to remember that just using or abusing a child is a crime that will bring penalties of hell-fire.