Ragini Khanna • onInformation 8 years ago • 10 min read


According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) a new generation of children is being deprived of the chance to take their rightful place in the society and economy of the 21st Century. The ILO has proposed that child labour will disappear in a decade. If this happens well and good. But in reality the situation is worsening. One in eight children in the world is exposed to the worst forms of child labour which endanger childrens physical, mental health and moral well being.

The problem

In many countries children lives are plagued by armed conflict, child labour, sexual exploitation and other human rights violations. Children living in rural areas have fewer opportunities to obtain good quality education. They have less access to services than children living in cities. The UN Convention on the Rights of Children (CRC) (Article 38) has explicitly prohibited person under age 18 being recruited into the armed forces or direct participating in hostility. In spite of this special provision under CRC, many countries still involve children below 18 years in hostilities.

Child labour keeps children out of school and is a major barrier to development. To make the anti child labour law a reality, poverty and unemployment need to be eliminated. Unless the standard of living improves at the lower levels of the society, children will be forced to work. Many middle and upper class families do not hesitate to engage young boys and girls to help them with household cores. The middle class family feels by employing a child below 14 years they are helping poor families to increase their earnings for daily livelihood.

Age of the Child.

  • According to the Convention on the Rights of the Child article (i) defines The child as every human being below the age of 18 years unless under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier.
  • The Indian Penal Court (IPC) defines the child as being 12 years of age.
  • Indian Traffic Prevention Act 1956 defines a Minor as a person who has reached the age of 16 years.
  • Section 376 of IPC which punishes the perpetrators of the crime of rape defines the age of consent to be 16 years of age.
  • Section 82 and 83 of the IPC states that a child under the age of 7 years cannot be guilty of an offence and further a child under 12 years is not considered to have attained sufficient maturity to have an understanding of the nature of the Act and the consequences of his conduct.

Juvenile justice Act 2002 defines a male minor as being below 16 years and a female minor as being below 18 years of age From the above definitions, it could be seen, in the Indian context the age of an Individual in order to be determined as a Child is not uniformly defined. The consequences of this are that it offers various gaps in legal procedures which are used by the guilty to escape punishment.

Indian Scenario of Child Labour & Legislation

According to the UN Study about 150 Million children of age group five to 14 are working in various industries in India. They are found working in road-side restaurants, tea stalls and shops, at construction sites and in factories. Girls suffer labour exploitation to such a degree that million of girls die before they reach the age of 15. They are paid a pittance as low as Rs.20 per day and many live in shops or work places where they are subjected to various forms of exploitation. Besides the work they are abused physically, mentally and sexually by the scurrilous task masters.

Mafia gangs bring children for Begging in urban cities. A child beggar of aged between five and ten collects the maximum. With a burn scar or decapitation they can earn more. As they grow older their earnings decrease. As a consequence they graduate to be big -time traders involved in drug peddling, pick pocketing, robbery and prostitution. A child beggar will only be paid 10% of his earnings of Rs.300 to 500 a day. If he fails to meet the target fixed by the contractor he is punished brutally. The girls by the time they reach 13 years switch over to prostitution. Begging is used as a profession by antisocial elements forcing children in begging. Begging is prohibited in some cities of India by local governments.

The Indian government ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1992 and introduced various pieces of legislation to curb child labour. The Labour Ministry of India has imposed a ban on children under age 14 from working as domestic help in hotels. Under this law any employment of children under 14 will invite imprisonment up to two years and a fine of Rupees twenty thousand. India has also banned employment of children in hazardous industries including the manufacture of fire crackers, carpet making, glass making etc. under Child Labour Act 2002 Although India has the second largest child population in the world, there is no single unified separate legislation to deal with all the offences against children. It is high time India introduced an all encompassing common act to safeguard the rights of a child.

Impact of Child exploitation on Children Employing children for labour is an act that endangers a childs physical/emotional health and development without giving the child an opportunity for good education, food and shelter. Of the four major types of child abuses, physical, sexual, emotional and neglect, child labour falls under neglect exploitation and emotional abuse. Child labour is the exploitation of children for commercial reasons.

Neglect is a different concept to exploitation and constitutes a failure to provide for a childs basic need. The forms of neglect include physical, educational and emotional. Physical neglect includes inadequate provision of food, housing and clothing, denial of medical care and inadequate hygiene. Educational neglect is the failure to enrol a child at a mandatory school age in school. Emotional neglect is the lack of emotional support such as the failure to provide psychological care, domestic violence and allowing a child to participate in drugs and alcohol abuse.

A child worker becomes alienated from the rest of the family, has low self esteem, and is likely to engage in self destructive behaviour. He or she is likely to have impaired psychological development and develop anti social behaviour including lying and living with fear complex.

What can be done to stop child labour? A million dollar question with no specific solution. All sections of the society need to work together to stop misuse and abuse of children. Stakeholders to tackle these issues include: 1. National Governmental agencies 2. Non governmental organisations. (NGOs) 3. Peoples forums 4. Corporate entities 5. Individual social service activists

Let us analyse why child labour is in existence in spite of various pieces of legislation. Poverty is the major cause for children being sent to work. The percentage of the Indian population living in poverty is high. It is estimated 37% of the urban population and 39% of the rural population is living in poverty. Poverty has an obvious relationship with child labour. The hardships arising out of abject poverty coupled with vices like drugs and alcoholism compel illiterate families especially in rural areas to initiate their children into back breaking work under tiring and sometimes dangerous conditions. The childhood of many children is shattered in the sinks of city hotels, dusty construction sites, hazardous factories and in waste heaps.

The second reason, especially in India, is lack of educational facilities is in some parts of rural India e.g. Bihar, West Bengal etc. where abject poverty still exists.

The third reason is the migration of adult labour with their children to urban towns where construction work is booming and plenty of job opportunities exist for poor families including children who are exploited and paid poor wages.

Abject poverty and the lack of social security network systems are the basis of an even harsher type of child labour � bonded child labour. The bonded labour system is still prevailing in some states of India where poor peasants who owe money to land owners agree to give their children as bonded labour for long periods. In return they receive a one time payment or waver of their loans.

Influential mafia groups are also engaged in trafficking children from remote rural areas to affluent towns. The children are then forced into labour and begging. Girls are forced into prostitution.

Role of Stakeholders in Stopping Child Labour

National Government Agencies.

  • National Agencies need to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. (CRC)
  • An effective legal system needs to be introduced to check employment of children below 14 years through proper legislation
  • Economic sanctions to be enforced on countries that allow the employment of children for the manufacturer of export products
  • Proper monitoring and implementing authorities to be set up to implement various acts passed by the National Government.
  • National social welfare schemes to be introduced to supplement income for poor families whose children are removed from work sites


a) NGOs have a Key role in raising awareness and informing people about the misuse of children, denying them the fundamental rights of shelter, food and education. UNICEF has clarified the role of NGOs as essential players in many of the intervention stages with direct involvement in identification and rescue operations. b) Assist governmental agencies in implementing various pieces of legislation

c) Identify areas where child labour exists and bring to the notice of Government. d) Undertake advocacy with national governments for the implementing of strict legislation to ban child labour e) Organise rehabilitation centres to shelter children removed from work sites.

Civil society / Peoples forum

a) Civil society can play an active role in identifying and alerting authorities to child labour sites b) Create awareness among parents and the public about the effect of child labour on children. c) Motivate parents to send their children to school d) Organise counselling sessions for children and parents e) Organise joint protests, rallies, hoardings etc. against employing children below 14

Corporate entities

a) Include banning of child labour in their mission b) Introduce welfare schemes for children c) Allot separate welfare funds as part of corporate social responsibilities to help organisations working for the cause to ban child labour d) Put up hoardings giving messages on the benefits of banning child labour

Individual social service activists

a) Resist any form of child labour b) Openly oppose child labour activities which comes to their notice without any fear c) Be very assertive in expressing displeasure to shop owners and organisations that employ children for labour.

In India there are many international and national NGOs campaigning for the abolition of child labour. A few important NGOs in the field are a) Child right resource center (CRRC) b) Campaign against child labour (CACL) c) Child Line


All stake holders should jointly resist any form of child labour using what ever means available. A networking of international NGOs working in this field has to be created for advocacy with various departments to ban child labour. International funding organisations have to identify a contact organisation in each country to help NGOs who are working in this field undertaking activities for the banning of child labour and identify national projects to be implemented in a transparent manner with good stewardship.


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