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One Big Reason Why Child Slavery, Exploitation And Torture Is Still Rampant In The World

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By Kabir Sharma

India is one of only 4 countries not to have ratified neither of the ILO international conventions on child labour. The others are Marshall Islands, Palau and Tuvalu.

Both are part of the principle eight ILO conventions covering ‘fundamental’ principles and rights at work. The Minimum Age Convention (1973) details out the age above which children could start different types of labour. The Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention (1999) calls for effective measures to secure elimination of the worst forms of child labour as a matter of urgency. It is the fastest ratified convention in the world.

ILO child labour convention copy
Source: Al Jazeera

The worst forms of child labour are defined to include all forms similar to slavery (such as the sale and trafficking of children, debt and compulsory labour, including forced recruitment in armed conflict, etc), the use, procuring or offering of a child for prostitution, for the production of pornography or pornographic performances; use of children in illicit activities such as the production and trafficking of drugs; and work which by nature or the circumstance, is likely to harm the health, safety or morals of children.

Most of these take place in India on large, systematic scales, and horror stories of slavery, exploitation and torture are plenty. The requirement of strict adherence of this convention has the potential to bring about major changes.
Nobel Laureate Kailash Satyarthi earlier this month repeated that India ought to ratify the conventions. “India should not sit in the club of three or four countries that have not signed … We cannot keep dragging our feet on the issue of child labour as this is a sensitive issue in the global economy. We cannot ignore it and put it aside.

Child labour is decreasing but child trafficking and child slavery is not, and have remained stagnant at 5.5 million children still working as forced labourers,” the child rights campaigner and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate said, adding that there are still 168 million child labourers, more than half in dangerous forms of work, including being child soldiers and child prostitutes.

Globally, Asia accounts for the largest part of this with 122 million child labourers. But statistics are only one aspect of the story. It is important to look at what type of work is done, by whom, and for whom. The image of the child helping his parents with their work hides widespread exploitation all across Asia. Conditions of extreme poverty and marginalization lead to a lot of the exploitative child labour, including in many tribal societies in India and Asia, and migrant workers in general. And most of it takes place in the non-formal sector of the economy, where there are no trade unions.

Astonishingly, India is also one of the few countries not to have endorsed the ILO conventions on freedom of association, which deals with right of workers and employers to form and join unions and organizations.

child labour

Conclusions from some of ILO’s recent studies have falsified many myths people have about child labour. One such is the belief that availability of cheap labour, a lot of which comprises children, is necessary for the smooth running of developing national economies. The ILO argues that growing economies require quality education and a skilled workforce to flourish. “If you look at a number of countries in Asia, South America and elsewhere, there are examples of economies that have expanded rapidly while making education and social protection schemes a priority. For many, investing in education has helped lead to economic growth.

A second belief is that child labour helps young people transition into paid work as adults. The ILO’s 2015 report found that young people with prior involvement in child labour were more likely to be in unpaid family work or in low-paying jobs as adults, while those who had left school at or below the general minimum working age of 15 were at greater risk of remaining outside the world of work altogether.

For developing countries, child labour is not going to disappear simply by the stroke of a pen. However, with a majority of countries’ adopting legislation guided by standards adopted by the International Labour Organization (ILO), trends have shown improvement in the last few years. Pressure from both national and international legislation, communities and press all play crucial components.

Bolivia last year decided to reduce the minimum age for children to be allowed to work from 14 to 10, as part of the government’s plan to help people living in poverty.

Having ratified the conventions on child labour, international pressure on the country has been immense. New York-based Human Rights Watch said, “Bolivia’s move is out of step with the rest of the world. Child labour may be seen as a short-term solution to economic hardship, but is actually a cause of poverty.

South America has seen a substantial reduction in the last fourteen years, but the move by Bolivia could halt this progress. “The new law runs against the regional current,” Carmen Moreno of the ILO said. “Mexico has set 15 as the minimum age and Chile age 16.

Pressure to adhere with basic and agreed-on international norms is something that must continue to negotiate with regional political and cultural priorities, especially when effects on children are seen to be harmful.

Determined global action against child labour can only result from concerted efforts of governments agreeing on basic rights of children: What is needed is strong legislation sensitive to the fact that a decent childhood and quality education are fundamental rights of each and every child, wherever he may be born.

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  1. B

    It is men who are not seen as human beings in society, but work machines. Civilization has been built on the bodies on dead men. It is men who are thrust in the army. It is men who work the most dangerous jobs. It is men who work menial jobs. It is men who work as labourers, cleaners, servants, drivers, construction workers, in lock factories, as mechanics, in restaurants, as street-vendors, at tea stalls, as electricians, plumbers, carpenters, woodcutters, rickshaw pullers, etc. Also, please explain to me why women on women violence is not covered by feminists, why a committing suicide in India every 6 minutes is not screaming headlines, why women are released in hostage situations before men, why are lifeboats reserved for women, why do men have to leave seats for women, why it is men who have to pay alimony, why women receive lighter sentences for the same crimes committed by men, why dowry is a woman’s issue despite more harassment from wives, why men have to pay child support, why child custody is always given to women, why 95% of work related deaths are of men, why most homeless are men, why verbal and psychological abuse from wives is not included in domestic violence statistics, why quotas are in place for women in companies and parliament, why seats are reserved for women in buses and metros, why news channels announce ‘women’ and children, why men have to earn for women but not the other way around, why most dangerous jobs are worked by men, why media only focuses on women’s issues, why the lynching of an innocent man falsely accused of rape in Nagaland was not news, even though it was as horrendous as Nirbhaya, if not more.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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