Child labour remains a persistent and grave issue in numerous countries across the globe, and India is no exception. The exploitation of children through forced labour not only robs them of their childhood but also hampers their physical, mental, and emotional development.
World Day Against Child Labour
Observed on June 12th every year, the World Day Against Child Labour serves as a poignant reminder of the global commitment to eradicating child labour. It stands as a crucial catalyst for the growing worldwide movement dedicated to combating this pressing issue. By raising awareness, mobilising stakeholders, and advocating for effective policies and actions, this international day aims to create a powerful momentum towards ending child labour in all its forms.
The theme chosen for the World Day in 2023, “Social Justice for All. End Child Labour!”, underscores the intrinsic link between social justice and the eradication of child labour. It recognises that child labour is not just an isolated problem but a symptom of broader societal inequalities and injustices. The slogan serves as a call to action for governments, civil society organisations, employers, workers, and individuals around the world to unite in their efforts to promote social justice and create a world where children are protected, empowered, and given the opportunity to fulfil their potential.
By highlighting the relationship between social justice and child labour, the World Day raises awareness about the underlying causes and consequences of this exploitative practice. It underscores the fact that child labour is often driven by poverty, lack of access to education, and social exclusion. It draws attention to the need for equitable and inclusive societies that provide fair opportunities for all, ensuring that no child is forced into labour due to circumstances beyond their control.
The observance of the World Day Against Child Labour offers a platform for diverse stakeholders to come together, share experiences, and showcase best practices in the fight against child labour. It encourages dialogue, collaboration, and the exchange of knowledge to develop innovative strategies and policies that address the root causes of child labour. By harnessing the collective power of governments, international organisations, civil society, and individuals, the World Day aims to inspire action at all levels to protect children’s rights and promote social justice.
Additionally, the World Day serves as a reminder of the commitments made by countries around the world to eliminate child labour. It provides an opportunity to assess progress, identify challenges, and renew efforts towards achieving Sustainable Development Goal Target 8.7, which calls for the eradication of child labour in all its forms by 2025. It acts as a platform for advocacy and encourages governments to strengthen legislation, enforcement mechanisms, and social protection systems to effectively address child labour.
Furthermore, the World Day Against Child Labour recognises the importance of collaboration between governments, employers, workers, and civil society organisations. It emphasises the need for joint efforts and partnerships to create sustainable solutions and ensure the effective implementation of policies and programs. By working together, these stakeholders can share resources, knowledge, and expertise to protect children’s rights, provide quality education, and promote social justice for all.
India’s Child Labour Law: An Overview
India’s commitment to eradicating child labour is evident in its comprehensive legal framework designed to address this pressing issue. The cornerstone of this framework is the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act of 1986. This act serves as the primary legislation to protect children from exploitation and ensure their well-being.
The act encompasses various provisions that aim to prohibit the engagement of children in hazardous occupations and processes while regulating their working conditions in non-hazardous occupations. By doing so, India aligns itself with international standards set by organisations like the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).
The primary objective of the act is to provide a legal foundation for safeguarding children’s rights and protecting them from exploitative labour practices. It emphasises the need to create a safe, nurturing, and enabling environment for children to grow, develop, and access education without being subjected to harmful or hazardous work.
Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act 1986
Legal Minimum Working Age in India
According to the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act 1986, the legal minimum working age in India is 14 years. This means that children below the age of 14 are prohibited from any form of employment, whether it is paid or unpaid, except under specific circumstances. The act recognises the importance of providing children with opportunities for education, skill development, and overall growth during their formative years.
Exceptions and Provisions
a. Family-based Work: Children are allowed to assist in non-hazardous family-based work, such as helping their parents in agricultural activities or small-scale industries after school hours or during vacations. However, this must not interfere with their education or compromise their safety and well-being.
b. Entertainment Industry: Children can be employed in the entertainment industry, such as films, television, or advertisements, subject to obtaining permits and complying with strict guidelines to ensure their welfare. The law places emphasis on protecting children’s rights, ensuring their education, and preventing their exploitation in the entertainment sector.
Prohibited Occupations and Processes
To protect children from hazardous work environments, the Indian government has identified and prohibited specific occupations and processes where their engagement is strictly prohibited.
1. Hazardous Occupations: The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986, specifies a list of hazardous occupations and processes where children below the age of 18 are strictly prohibited from working. These include mining, manufacturing of explosives, handling toxic substances, and occupations involving high-risk activities such as working at construction sites, operating heavy machinery, or in occupations that pose risks to their health, safety, or moral development.
2. Hazardous Processes: In addition to hazardous occupations, the law also prohibits children from being engaged in hazardous processes. These processes include carpet weaving, bidi-making, brick kilns, the production of fireworks, and other activities that may endanger their health, safety, or overall development.
Penalties and Enforcement
To ensure compliance with child labour laws, the Indian government has established penalties and strict enforcement mechanisms. Violation of the law can lead to imprisonment and fines. Additionally, the government has taken measures to increase awareness, strengthen inspection systems, and promote rehabilitation and education for rescued child labourers.
Penalties: The law provides for penalties such as imprisonment and fines, which are determined based on the severity of the offence. The penalties aim to act as a deterrent against employing children and ensure the protection of their rights.
Inspection and Enforcement: The government has established various mechanisms to monitor and enforce compliance with child labour laws. This includes the appointment of labor inspectors who conduct regular inspections in workplaces to identify and address instances of child labour. The government also encourages the involvement of civil society organisations and the public in reporting cases of child labour.
Rehabilitation and Education: Recognising the importance of rehabilitation and education for rescued child labourers, the government has implemented various schemes and programs. These initiatives aim to provide access to quality education, vocational training, and rehabilitation services to help children reintegrate into society and break the cycle of poverty.
India’s child labour laws and regulations play a crucial role in safeguarding the rights and well-being of children. The legal minimum working age of 14 years and the prohibition of children’s engagement in hazardous occupations and processes are essential steps towards eliminating child labour. However, the effective implementation and enforcement of these laws, along with awareness campaigns, rehabilitation programs, and improved access to education, are crucial in addressing the complex issue of child labour and ensuring a brighter future for all children in India. By prioritising the well-being and development of children, India can move closer to eradicating child labour and creating a society that values and protects the rights of its youngest members.