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1998 | 54th Regular Session of the UN Commission on Human Rights (16 March - 24 April 1998)

Child labour situation in the world and more particularly in India and Pakistan

March 16 – April 24, 1998
Palais des Nations, Geneva

In many countries of the world, millions of children are involved in child labor, some of which is illegal and deprives them of their childhood.

The International Labor Office (ILO) estimates that worldwide the number of working children is at a staggering 250 million, of which at least 120 million between the ages of 5 and 14 years work full time. In addition, many of them are subjected to the most intolerable practices, which include:

  • activities that are contrary to fundamental human rights, such as bonded child labor, children working under conditions of slave-like practices, children in prostitution, children used in drug trafficking or in the production of pornography,
  • activities that expose children to particularly grave hazards to their safety and health such as work with chemicals, dangerous tools and machines or work involving heavy loads and complex tasks,
  • activities that are performed under hazardous working conditions and in a dangerous environment, involving the risk of physical violence, sexual harassment, work in isolation or at night, excessive working hours and work under extreme temperatures.

We would like to draw the attention of the Commission to the child labor situation in India and Pakistan, as many members of our group are involved in local projects with children. In these countries, many reports indicate that there are millions of children involved in child labor.

In Pakistan, specifically, this is a contravention of the 1973 Constitution, which declares in Article 11, clause 3 that children below the age of 14 years shall not be engaged in any factory or any other hazardous employment.

Often, child labor involves dangerous and hazardous work. For instance, hundreds of children in Karachi work inside oil tankers, drenched in dangerous and often inflammable oils for a few rupees a day. In India, thousands of children are forced to move to cities and become involved in child labor for survival.

In Pakistan, one of the classic feudal relationships still persists although it is outlawed by the Bonded Labor System of 1992. It involves peasant families providing child labor services in brick kilns or agricultural fields in return for various debt, wage or rental obligations. More significantly, the children do not officially exist in government records, in the census or in the national registration act. This deprives them of their national identity cards and, later on, of their right to vote.

Franciscans International and the Dominicans urge the government of Pakistan:

  • to deploy greater efforts in view of fully complying with the provisions contained in its own Constitution and national legislation,
  • to provide proper identification papers for working children.

Franciscans International and the Dominicans support the early adoption of a Convention on child labor, which would focus on the most hazardous and exploitative forms of such labor at the next ILO International Conferences (June 1998 and 1999). The proposed new standards would complement and reinforce the ILO Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No. 138) and the Forced Labor Convention, 1930 (No. 29) and will contribute to the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

In this context, we urge the Commission to consider in its resolution on the rights of the child the recommendations expressed by the International Program on the Elimination of Child Labor (IPEC), namely:

  • to support national efforts to combat child labor and to build up a permanent capacity to tackle the problem,
  • to give priority to the eradication of the most hazardous and exploitive types of child labor,
  • to emphasize preventive measures and build in sustainability from the start.

To meet the challenge of eliminating the exploitation of children will require ongoing efforts both by governments and civil society. Policies for the progressive elimination of child labor must be linked to long-term strategies on education and health services and to governments’willingness to contribute to their funding.

Franciscans International and the Dominicans have already expressed their concern in a joint NGO statement under agenda item 6 on the negative impact of land mines on the right to development of the most vulnerable groups of society – especially children during and after armed conflicts.

We appeal to the Commission to consider in its resolution on the rights of the child the following:

  • to welcome the adoption of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti Personnel Mines and on their Destruction (Ottawa Treaty, December 1997) and its signature by 123 States,
  • to urge all States to consider early ratification of the Convention, which will offer significant protection to children affected by situations of armed conflict.
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