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When will Child Slavery end?

Child Labour in Pakistan | Moderate Thoughts Research Center

Pakistan is a country facing multitudes of problems. However, child labor, especially the treatment meted out to domestic child workers, is one that sends shivers down one’s spine. Broken ribs, fractured bones, body burns; such incidents are often reported and highlighted by the media. The harrowing Rizwana case, where a domestic child worker was ruthlessly assaulted by the employer, is not the first of its kind; nor does it seem to be the last. The question arises: why do people prefer employing children as servants? For starters, they find children to be more affordable, manageable, easier to manipulate, and less difficult to introduce into a household. Another dominant reason for parents to send their young children to work in homes, according to various reports, is poverty. In poor households, children become the breadwinners at a very young age.

Even though some households may treat domestic workers well, it does not justify children working as domestic help. Moreover, it is pertinent to state that the onus of child labor and the consequent treatment meted out to them lies not only on the employer but also on the parents.

Carrying the discussion forward, children should not be working before a certain age. Instead, they should be getting an education. There are laws in place to ensure this. Article 25-A of the Constitution, dealing with the right to education, makes it compulsory for every child, between the ages of 15-16, to get an education. In addition, there are laws that restrict children from all sorts of employment until the ages of 15 and 14 in Punjab and Sindh respectively.

On the flip side, however, some 23 million children are out of school and bereft of educational opportunities. Adding fuel to the fire is the fact that 12 million children are laborers, with almost 300,000 of them working as domestic helpers. It is evident from the aforementioned discussion that there is an implementation gap that needs to be filled. Successive governments have failed to fill this implementation void.

To nip this evil of child labor in the bud, the state needs to ensure that children are not forced into bondage. Further, educational opportunities should be extended to all, regardless of which social strata they belong to. The number of hotlines for complaints of child labor must be increased, and their access should be made easier. Apart from this, the state needs to ensure the availability of larger safety nets that provide support to the financially poor. Last but not least, the culprits of child worker abuse should be taken to task and punished accordingly.

To conclude, it is about time the state and society stood up and owned the children of lesser gods.

Sheihryar Asif

Sheihryar Asif

Holding a Degree in Political Science, he writes frequently on geo-politics and issues related to Pakistan's Economy, Politics and Society.

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