Why do we still have child labour?
A 16 year old domestic worker Akhter Ali was found dead in Lahore in his employer’s house. He and his sister have been working for Fauzia, daughter of PML-N MPA Shah Jahan. It is confirmed after the post-mortem that the boy was beaten to death with the help of a sharp weapon.
A similar case came to the fore in January 2017 when a probe was initiated against a judge and his wife in Islamabad for keeping a juvenile housemaid in wrongful confinement. The father of the victim later forgave the couple for what they did. The recent in the series of such cases is of a well known anchorperson accused of incarcerating and torturing a child domestic worker. The evidence is in the form of many audio recordings viral on social media. We believe that there must be hundreds of other cases which haven’t been reported yet and the employed children must be going through the same treatment.
Why are we still unable to control the challenge of child labour? Is there a lack of interest on part of the state? Is the society not truly educated on a child and juvenile’s rights? Are the feudal and their desire to rule the weak stronger than the efforts made for child protection? Is the awareness about child rights ineffective and insufficient at different levels of education?
The first and core reason is the lack of awareness among masses about the rights of a child, prohibition and illegality of child labour and little knowledge of the penalties and punishments for the illegal act.
As mentioned earlier, even the educated lot and the advocates of human rights and child rights are practically involved in violating the existing laws in urban areas as has been witnessed in the aforementioned cases.
There have been many campaigns on a regular basis to educate the people on family planning on print and electronic media, and the anti-planning campaign is equally rigorous. A very effective counter strategy was needed to handle but we usually we get late in such situations.
Thirdly, a boy and a girl child, particularly in rural and some of the urban areas, are seen differently. The boy is considered as the symbol of strength and honour. It is thought the more male offspring, the stronger you are.
Pakistan ranks 107 among 118 countries as per 2016 global hunger Index with 22 percent of population undernourished till the baby boy arrives. It is preferred by the average and below average families to let the boys and girls earn for them, as sending them to school is beyond reach. Sometimes they are handed over to the families away from their own home and parents to work. The wages paid are very nominal in certain cases plus the treatment as we already can be termed as a form of modern slavery.
As a society, child labour and challenges related to it are taken as a routine stuff as majority of the people are practically being facilitated by these little labourers. There are different civil society organisations engaged in child rights protection, but that again lacks coherence and continuity. The dilemma with civil society organisations is that though at times they are working for the same cause but the efforts are diverged rather than converged.
State really needs to think seriously how to protect the future of the nation. Pakistan is a part of international obligations like United Nations Convention on Rights of the Child (UNCRC) sustainable development Goals (SDG) Conventions on International Labour Organisation (ILO) which stresses upon the elimination and eradication of all and worst forms of child labour. It seems at times that certain elements are scared to share the rights particularly of women and children. Our books at all levels do talk about human rights lets specifically talk about a child’s rights.
Legislation can only be empowered by effective implementation, plus rigorous awareness campaigns on a regular basis will help.
Civil society organisations in collaboration with media can help a lot in raising awareness among masses on child rights. We have initiatives like Zamong Kor in Peshawar for the street children. We, as individuals, have to discourage child labour practically to protect the rights of our children.