Children are the gifts; they are the precious gifts presented by Almighty God to human life for filling the world with smile, happiness, and hope. Children are the future citizens; it is childhood which determines a child’s future, his/her life and their worthy contributions to the world. Thus it becomes an important aspect for us, for everyone in the society, and for the Government to protect, nourish and work for the overall welfare of children of a particular Nation and the children of the World as a whole. When we discuss about child labour, we know that it is a curse upon the God gifted little ones on Earth.
Child Labour, in general, means the employment of children in any work with or without payment. Every child out of school in the age group of 5 to 14 years, children who are paid in work, children who work outside the homes or children who in hazardous industries can be said to be child labourers. According to Stein and Davies, child labour means any work by children that interferes with their full physical development, the opportunities for a desirable minimum education and for their needed recreation. Origin History of child labour can be traced to some dark realms of industrialisation.
But a more detailed study of this heinous, shameful practice can reveal that child labour was there much before industrialisation in various forms like in child slavery. If we turn the pages of History we see that there was a custom for youths from the Mediterranean basin to serve as aides, charioteers and armed bearers to their adult counterparts. A few of such examples can be found in Bibles when David serves his King Soul; we find the examples of Hercules and Hylash in Greek Mythology as well. In Greece this practice was considered to be an educational tradition and boys were considered to be an efficient fighting force.
Hitler Youth was an official organisation in the Nazi Army. During the battle of Berlin, this youth force was a major part of the German Defences. In India, children used to help and accompany their parents in agricultural and other household activities in ancient times. Thus we see that child labour is not quite a new thing to the world. But during 1780 and 1840s, there was a massive increase in child exploitation. During the industrial revolution, it was very common to find children working in factories. In 1788, more than 60% of workers in textile mills of England and Scotland were children.
Since industrialisation, children have been seen working in factories, mines, some having their own small business like selling food, flowers, polishing shoes, serving as waiters in restaurants and as domestic servants as well. The most controversial and worst forms of child labour and exploitation included military use of children, child trafficking, organised begging and child prostitution etc. So these are the various forms of child labour that are being present in today’s societies over the world.
Causes of Child Labour India accounts for the second highest number where child labour of the world is concerned. Africa accounts for the highest number of children employed and exploited. Over population, poverty, parental illiteracy, lack of proper education, urbanisation, availability of cheap child labour are some common causes of wide-spread child labour. Parental ignorance regarding the bad effects of child labour, the ineffectiveness of child labour laws in terms of implementation, non-availability and non-accessibility to schools are some of the other factors which encourages the phenomenon of child labour.
It is also very difficult to immature minds and undeveloped bodies to understand and organise themselves against exploitation in the absence of adult guidance. Statistics show that in India, between 2007 and 2009, 5,392 instances of violations of the child labour prohibition laws were detected. Prosecution was launched only in six cases. The period saw only three convictions. In 2006-07, 2,363 child labour employment instances were found, but violators were booked only in one case which resulted in conviction(published in The Times of India, Kolkata edition, Monday, January 25, 2010).
Moreover, illiterate and ignorant parents do not understand the need for wholesome physical, cognitive and emotional development of their child. They are themselves uneducated and unexposed, so they do not understand the importance of education for their children. The industrial revolution has also had a negative effect by giving rise to circumstances which encourages child labour. Sometimes multi-nationals prefer to employ child labourers in developing countries especially in garment industries only because they can be recruited for less pay and more work can be extracted from them and there is no problem of union with them.
This attitude also makes it difficult for adults to find job in factories, forcing them to drive their little ones to work in factories. Orphanage is an another reason of child labour. Children born out of wed-lock, children with no parents and relatives, often do not find anyone to support which forces them to work for their own survival. Moreover, willingness to exploit children is the most responsible cause for child labour. This is the root of the problem. Even if a family is very poor, the incidence of child labour will be very low unless there are people willing to exploit these children.
Possible Solutions Elimination of poverty, free and compulsory education, proper and strict implementation of the labour laws, abolishment of child trafficking can go a long way in solving the problem of child labour. The World Band, International Monetary Fund can help in eradicating poverty by providing loan to the developing countries. Various poverty elimination programmes have been introduced by our Government as well for the cause. After the 86th Amendment of the Constitution in the year 2002, the provision for free and compulsory education between the age group of 6 to 14 years has been included as fundamental right under Article 21A.
Children irrespective of their race, caste, sex, economic condition, religion, place of birth, and parents to whom they born of need to how to read and write. They need social and professional skills that only a school and nurturing environment can provide. The most essential part in this regard is the effective implementation of the policies and strict enforcement of the labour laws. The Government must take strict measures against those employing child labourers in hazardous works and other industries. The NGOs also have a big role to play in this regard. Various NGOs are working for the cause of child labour.
MVF in Andhra Pradesh is a striking example. They have been working for the welfare of children in various respects. Compulsory education can help eradicating the problem of child labour up to a large extent. Statistics also show that education has helped in reducing child labour in Western Countries up to a large extent. Most importantly the incidence of child labour would diminish considerably even in the force of poverty, if there are no parties willing to exploit them. Strict implementation of child labour laws and practical and healthy authorities to replace this evil can a go long way to solve this problem of child labour.
Along with this, participation of the common educated citizens in the process of eliminating child labour can help out a lot. As common people also, we can help the poor uneducated children in getting at least some idea about the alphabets also! In the words of Bill Gates, we can say that “Until we’re educating every kid in a fantastic way, until every inner city is cleaned up, there is no shortage of things to do. ” Inclusion of Child Labour Laws in Legal Education and other branches of education can also be regarded as effective steps as it creates awareness among the student communities.
As a student of law, we can at least make the downtrodden aware of the needs of formal education system and the cause of elimination of child labour so as to provide those helpless children a chance to enhance their capacities to the fullest extent possible and enable them to contribute their best for making this world a better place to live in. What is child labour? Among adults the term “child labour” conjures up a particular image: children chained to looms in dark mills and sweatshops, as if in a long nightmarish line running from Lancashire in the 1830s right through to the South Asia of today.
In reality, children do a variety of work in widely divergent conditions. This work takes place along a continuum, from work that is beneficial, promoting or enhancing a child’s development without interfering with schooling, recreation and rest to work that is simply destructive or exploitative. There are vast areas of activity between these two poles. It is at the most destructive end, where children are used as prostitutes or virtual slaves to repay debts incurred by their parents or grandparents or as workers in particularly hazardous conditions, that efforts are focused to stop such abuse.