P. A. Chacko
The UN as a world body is concerned. The 2016 report prepared by ILO, Walk Free Foundation and IOM (International Organisation for Migration) is a dark spot on the conscience of humanity. One in every ten children around the globe is subjected to this form of slavery. The data released during UN General Assembly session highlights that about 152 million children, including 64 million girls and 88 million boys are trapped in this modern slavery. 72.1 million are in Africa. Asia comes next with 62 million. Agriculture sector claims 70+% children. Services sector swallow 17% and industry 12%.
These children are deprived of their human right to education and a happy, healthy childhood. In addition to hard labour, they are vulnerable to sexual exploitation, and become victims of many forms of cruelty, abuse and drug menace. They may also be used to help in drug trafficking or as go- betweens for underground deals.
Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. When children are subjected to this type of modern slavery, how can they achieve or enjoy equality in dignity and rights? Article 3 speaks of everyone’s right to life, liberty and security of person. How do the children, working as slave labourers, enjoy the fullness of life, their liberty and security of their person? Article 4 stipulates that no one shall be subjected to slavery or servitude? Is the world listening to this? Or these declarations shall remain confined to books and papers? Art. 26 speaks of the right to education? Who enjoy these rights? The children of well to do families, of course. The economically well off. Poor families are forced to send their children for work due to economic deprivation. When the gap between the rich and the poor ever widens and more and more people are below poverty line, it is natural that poor families suffer economic deficiency. Hence, the problem of getting their children into slavery by force of circumstances!
The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) 1989 states that children’s rights are human rights with particular attention to the rights of special protection and care afforded to minors. A child is defined as one below 18 years of age. CRC spells out child rights in different forms: right to association with its parents, basic needs for physical protection, food, universal state-paid education, health care, legal protection, and protection of its civil rights, and provision of laws appropriate to its age freedom from discrimination as regards sex, place of origin, disability, religion, colour, ethnicity, or right to develop mentally and emotionally.
If a child is forced to do labour to sustain itself and family, the rights envisioned by CRC cannot be fully enjoyed by the child.
The world leaders, instead of shedding crocodile tears or sermonising, should tackle the question of poverty to solve the problem of child labour. Let them device methods to increase the purchasing power of people, especially those who are economically weak. It is not enough for a millionaire to spend a few dollars or euros on charity. The poor do not need charity crumbs or free cookies. They need to be treated with dignity and be given due wages. Their rights need to be respected. Provide good opportunities to develop with dignity. Do not treat them as objects of our pity. Treat them as subjects and persons. There begins human development!
Every child stands in need of love, care and protection. Every adult in the world stands in need of respecting every child as a human person!