“Are chotu ek chai lana!” (Hey little one, give me a tea!)
In came a boy of about twelve years old to fill the cup of the impatient student. I was taken aback. The last thing I expected to see in a University famous for its egalitarian politics was child labour. However, nobody else around me seemed to be alarmed. That day I learned that the work done by over 12 million Indian “chotu’s” of between five to fourteen years old is seen as just another aspect of life as we know it.
On 13 May 2015 the cabinet approved changes to the child labour law. This means that the latest amendment to the Child Labour Prohibition Act will soon allow child labour for so called “family enterprises”. The official logic behind this amendment, as put forward by Minister of Labour and Employment Bandaru Dattatreya, is that children develop an “entrepreneurial spirit” through working and this would eventually pay off in their future. This assumption that child labour will benefit the child is, to put it mildly, absurd. Reality has taught us that child labour is harmful to the physical and mental health of children, hinders their proper development and renders them vulnerable to exploitation.
Additionally child labour works to reinforce systems of inequality. For example, research has shown that practices of child labour affect girls differently than boys. A 2001 report of the ILO concluded that girls are more frequently pulled out of school for work as the education of boys is in many societies given more importance. In India the school drop-out rate for girls, is twice as high as for boys. The recent changes in the law will work to reinforce this inequality as the expectation is that the “family business” label could even be used to do dismiss reports of domestic work by underage girls. Additionally, it is expected that children of Dalits, Muslims, tribal families and those belonging to other minorities will be affected the worst.
All with all, we could say that the World Day Against Child Labour 2015, organised by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), seems more relevant than ever before. This initiative annually brings together governments, employers and workers organizations, civil society, as well as millions of people from around the world on the 12th of June to draw attention to the predicaments of child labourers and to discuss what can be done to fight child labour as a societal social ill. Our team of the Center for Social Research commends the efforts of ILO. We could not possible agree more with this year’s slogan; “No to Child Labour, Yes to quality education”. Girl and boys belong in school, not in factories, rice fields, brothels, carpet weaving, brick breaking kilns or not even university canteens for that matter.
To read more about the World Day Against Child Labour 2015, World Day Against Child Labour.
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