Child Labour Laws
BY SHREYA GHOSH
As per international conventions, a child is a person who has not completed eighteen years of age, though different governments may have different age limits and specifications. According to The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 in India, a child is someone who has not completed fourteen years of age. Child labour in general terms means the employment of children in any such work that is prohibited and illegal which is hampers their overall growth, robs them of their childhood and last but not the least, obstructs or takes away their opportunity to education. On 12th June 2002, The International Labour Organization launched the day as World Day Against Child Labour.
Causes of Child Labour
There are various reasons some direct, some indirect which all leads to or encourages child labour in society. Certain evident causes, which are also the root cause for many problems in our society can be as stated below:
- Population – over population is a big cause of child labour, though that is not always the fact. The main problem is where the country facing over population having no or insufficient means and resources to provide for jobs and other necessary requirements for the growing population. In such situations, and for want of money to sustain the family, a family may force its child or children to go for work. Since they can be easily exploited and can be paid much lesser money than adults, they get work easily in hotels, stations, factories, etc.
- Illiteracy – illiteracy, especially of the parents, or elders in the family again leads to child labour. An illiterate person will neither be aware of the rights and duties of himself/herself nor of others. They do not realize the importance of education, especially at a young age and force their child/ children to go for work just to earn money.
- Poverty – poverty according to me is root cause of child labour, which indirectly also leads to and encourages all the other causes. Developing countries face this problem to the core where per family income is very less. Families, wantonly or unwantedly have to force their child/children to go for work to fulfill basic needs of the family. As said above, where with being poor, the family also has more number of family members, or where the elders are illiterate and are not aware of the basic needs of the child or the right of the child to education and development, this problem may be far more and worse.
- Urbanization – though urbanization has many positives for the growth of society, it has also lead to many adverse effects, which includes diversification of funds, which indirectly again reinforces poverty; it leads to slum dwellings in big cities, and so on. Also with growing urbanization, more manpower is required to do the work, and if it is at cheaper cost then that is a big profit for the factory owners and employers. All this directly or indirectly leads to and encourages child labour.
Rights of the Child
A child needs certain basic needs to help grow and develop overall, which can be described through the rights that he/she has. Different governments, international treaties, conventions, national and international laws define various rights of a child. The most accepted standard of all the one’s is the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). Right to good health, education, protection and against any kind of exploitation forms the basic one’s mentioned everywhere. The rights broadly classified under UNCRC are: –
- Right to Survival.
- Right to Protection.
- Right to Participation
- Right to Development
The Indian Constitution speaks elaborately about children’s rights. Apart from having the basic rights at par with all other adult citizens, children are given specific rights, such as: –
- Right to free and compulsory education (between 6-14years of age)
- Right against any hazardous employment
- Right to equal opportunity
- Right to early childhood care till age of 6years.
There are various laws, guidelines, acts on national and international level for the benefit of children and defining not just their rights, but also consequences in case its violated and punishments for the same. Some of such conventions, acts, are as follows: –
- International Labour Organization Conventions
It describes hazardous work and that no one under the age of eighteen years should be employed for any such work. It also defines minimum age. Every country approving and accepting the Convention should take immediate steps for the abolition and prevention of child labour through its laws.
- Child Labour ( Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986
This act makes child labour a cognizable offence. It also provides for the creation of a Rehabilitation Fund for the rehabilitation of children coming out such situations. It empowers the government to take up a periodic inspection of places where employments of children are prohibited. It also specifically lists down the places where employment of children are prohibited or restricted.
- The Employment of Children Act, 1938
It gives the basic guidelines as to the places where a child below fifteen years of age can be employed and in what circumstances. The employer has to maintain a register where children as allowed are employed with all relevant details as mentioned under the Act. It also provides for penalty.
General Responsibility of public and Government
When we face any such situation where we notice child labour, it’s our duty to report and lodge a complaint to the relevant authority.
We can lodge a complaint with police or NGO’s working for the same cause. We can lodge a complain either with the local police or NGO’s, or we can also complain to the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights or to the State Commissions. In case the police fails or does not lodge our complaint or does not investigate the matter and register a FIR we can write an application to the Superintendent of police, in case of failure of the Superintendent as well, a person can file an application to the Magistrate who will then look into the matter.
The government should take immediate steps to take the child out of the place and firstly to arrange for its rehabilitation. Government’s quick and strong action will help encourage and spread awareness in general public to fight the cause and report such matters more often. The basic intention of the government should be to not just bring the child out of such situation, but to make sure the further growth of the child and to make ways to cope up for the mental and physical and other losses faced by the child.
Status of Child Labour after the Modi government has come in power:
The Narendra Modi-led government proposed amendments in The Child Labour Prohibition Act, which would bring in lots of negative progress in the field of child labour and re-enforce it. As per the amendment, children below the age of fourteen would be allowed to work in family enterprises- which is a substitute and gives a lot of scope for interpretation as to what a family enterprise can mean than the previous mentioned work places like match-box packing. This will encourage the crime and is a serious setback to the progress till now achieved in this field. As per the new legislation, children below fourteen are banned under all sectors. For children between 15-18 years are not allowed to work in mines and in industries where they will be exposed to inflammable and hazardous substances.
It does not matter whether it is being done forcefully or with consent, in any case it is a crime under law and has to be reported.
Is there any emergency helpline to lodge a complaint against the exploitation?
There is also a 24-hour toll-free number 1098 operating in 72 cities in the country that can be accessed.
Consequences of Employing a Child as a Labour (Penalties):
The President has given ascent to a new change in the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act in 2016 regarding penalty provisions, which will now lead from six months to two years imprisonment and fine of Rs. 20,000 to 50, 000 or both for employing child below fourteen years of age. The second time offenders will get imprisonment of one year to thee years.
We as citizens and as members of society should also come forward and help the authorities in this regard by always reporting such crimes whenever we see it and give them all our support and stand and raise a strong voice together against this crime. Spreading education, more job opportunities and equal chances of opportunities in all countries, are few indirect solutions to this menace.
Shreya Ghossh is a skilled writer and has graduated in B.A.LL.B from the Institute of Legal Studies, Bangalore