Now a day’s the Supreme Court is hearing the case concerning the torture of a child maid named Tayabba at the hands of her employers in Islamabad. Similarly a sad incident of abuse was reported from Gujranwala, a 12-year-old maid was thrown hot tea on her face by her employer. She sustained severe burn injuries and was admitted to the hospital. These incidents are tip of the iceberg and many go unnoticed and unreported.
Despite a significant decline in the numbers of child labourers recorded worldwide, menace of child labour is increasing in Pakistan and according to reports country is ranked number three in the world with the highest prevalence of child and forced labour.
According to The Global Slavery Index Pakistan comes third, after Mauritania and Haiti, while International Labour Organisation (ILO) says that the overall number of child labourers has declined. Under international obligations Pakistan is bound to take immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour, but despite efforts of government numbers of child workers are increasing. A large number of children still constitute a significant part of the labour force in Pakistan. Children are working in various sectors particularly in agriculture, factories, small car workshops, shops, hotels, cinemas, vending on the streets, the fishing industry, mining, brick kilns, weaving, bracelet making, packing and construction etc. Children in the labour environment are highly vulnerable to exploitation and this can hamper their development as well as expose them at risk to other forms of violence including physical, psychological.
In such a scenario move of Sindh Assembly to pass a bill against the employment of children below the age of 14, punishable by a prison term and fine is a significant development. It is also reality that there are already many laws against child labour in Pakistan but they are not fully enforced. Poverty is one of the major causes behind child labour; extreme poverty leads the guardian of young children to put them to work for whatever meager amount they are granted by their employers. Hence, reducing poverty is also directly linked to eliminate curse of child labour.
According to Child Rights Movement National Secretariat over 12.5 million children in Pakistan are involved in child labour. Some surveys have revealed that there are 8.52 million home-based workers in the country and some say the number of child labourers up to the age of 10 years is around 6 million. At the moment there is no exact figure to reveal accurate number of children employed in households.
At first government needs to figure out the numbers of children working in the houses only then their welfare can be monitored. Government needs to work on poverty alleviation and spread awareness for family planning as these steps can end such exploitation of children. We need to provide these little citizens their rights; they make a significant portion of our next generation. If we wish to make a prosperous Pakistan, our federal and provincial governments must take steps to abolish child labour.
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