CHILD LABOUR: EXISTING LAWS AND PRESENT CIRCUMSTANCES
The problem of child labour is a socio-economic reality of Bangladesh. This study indicates the child labour increase in a developing country like Bangladesh and poverty is the main reason for the children to become child labourers. As one of the most striking issues in the developing countries, a need to identify the vulnerable children and point out their problems has come into the light. An attempt is made in this article to present the socio-economic scenario of child labour in Bangladesh and to find out the ways in which child labour can be decreased gradually.
THE DEFINITION OF CHILD LABOUR:
As Vittachi observes, child labour shows up, in exaggerated form, a labour problem deeply woven into the fabric of an unequal society. The term child labour‟ refers to the engagement of children in any work that takes away all or most of their rights as children, i.e. right to attend regular school, uninterrupted mental and physical development. According to UNICEF, “Child labour is work that is likely to interfere with a child’s education and development; labour that exceeds a minimum number of hours, labour that is hazardous; and/or labour performed by a child who is underage according to state legislation. A child is considered a person under the age of 18 years”ILO signifies some activities as the worst form of labour. It defines, “The worst forms of child labour include trafficking, armed conflict, slavery, debt bondage, sexual exploitation and hazardous work”.
LAWS AND REGULATIONS ON THE WORST FORMS OF CHILD LABOR:
The Labor Code establishes the minimum age for work at age 14 and the minimum age for hazardous work at age 18. The Labor Code allows certain exceptions, permitting children ages 12 to 13 to perform light work, but it restricts the kinds of work they can do. It also limits the hours children ages 14 to 18 can work. However, the Labor Code excludes many sectors of the economy in which children work including work on small farms, domestic service and home-based work.
The Labor Code prohibits parents or guardians from pledging their children’s work in exchange for a payment or benefit and the Penal Code prohibits forced labor. Those who violate the law are subject to penalties, which include imprisonment. The Women and Children’s Repression Prevention Act of 2000 (amended in 2003) criminalized the trafficking of children and established strict penalties and fines for violators, but failed to include such penalties for labor trafficking. In February 2012, the Parliament approved a new national anti-trafficking law, the Human Trafficking Deterrence and Supression Act 2012, which expands the definition of trafficking to include labor trafficking, covers men and boys and makes trafficking a capital offense with a maximum sentence of the death penalty. The Penal Code and the Suppression of Immoral Traffic Act of 1933 criminalizes the prostitution of girls under age 18.
While the law establishes that education is free and compulsory in Bangladesh, children are not required to attend school after age 10. Although education is free, in practice, the costs of teacher fees, books and uniforms are prohibitive for many families; therefore, children are not sent to school. Additionally, permitting children to stop attending school at age 10, when they are too young to work legally, makes children particularly vulnerable to the worst forms of child labor.
EDUCATION AND CHILD LABOUR:
Legislation alone has proved insufficient for eradication of child labour in less developed countries. Pursuant to the 1973 United Nations convention, most countries made provisions of law that set a minimum required age for working, but apparently to no avail. The Constitution of Bangladesh (Articles 23 and 34) also contains provisions conveying the same spirit and idea. It prohibits the employment of children in factories, mines or in any hazardous work. Bangladesh has also passed a compulsory Primary Education Act, providing penal prescription on parents for not sending a child to school. But to create an enforcement mechanism is not only a costly proposition, it also possesses the potential of yet another breeding ground for corruption. Therefore, the making of laws has to be accompanied by the provision of alternatives acceptable to children and their families. Adult unemployment may be the immediate reason why parents send their children to work. Often adults, incapacitated by years of labour in their own childhood are forced to send their children to continue the same vicious cycle of poverty, ill-health and death. In Bangladesh, a study conducted by the UNICEF and the ILO (Berlau, 1997) tried to trace some of the children released from the garment industry to see what happened to them after their termination from employment. Some were found working in more hazardous situations, in unsafe workshops where they were paid less, or in prostitution. More importantly, often there is the question of the survival of the entire family, which leads children to go in search of jobs. In most of these families, the childrens’ contribution made the difference between destitution and survival (Chawla, 1996:16). Hence, for an effective elimination of the child labour problem, legislation and economic incentives have to work together and technical cooperation has an important role.
After observing the different laws to prohibit child labour and the present condition of the people of Bangladesh I found that some steps should be taken to balance between the law and the reality. Some important recommendations can be as following:
- Increasing employment of adults in new sectors so that children of families don’t have to bear the economic burden of the low incoming families.
- Providing incentives in primary and high school level educations.
- Regular monitoring of workplaces like, brickfields, garments or other mills and yards or industries that, no children are working there and take necessary measures against the owners who engage them in such works.
- In order to stop child labour eradication of poverty is a precondition. Government has to ensure they recruit human resources in the projects and establishments and can earn their legitimate and necessary wages.
- Finally, Child labour should be given priority in the national social security strategy.
In the context of Bangladesh, the law needs to be modified and some new Acts should be enforced. Priority should be given on economic development, education and employment sectors to combat child labour. By doing this we will be able to see a practical law and implications of this law.
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