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Child labour: a shame for Bangladesh society

Despite adoption of several laws against child labour, the practice is widespread, particularly in rural Bangladesh, writes Minhazur Rahman Rezvi

Jun 20, 2017
By Minhazur Rahman Rezvi 
 
Every child is a fulgent star for any country. The child of today will be a leader tomorrow. Child labour is a major barrier blocking the latent talent of each child.
 
According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), approximately 168 million children are trapped in work today, while around eight million children are involved in hazardous work.
In developing countries, including Bangladesh, the percentage of child labour is high. In Bangladesh, as a developing country, child labour has socio-economic acceptance.  Acceptance of child labour is a social crime and also a shame for society.
 
According to a UNICEF report of 2013, 4.7 million are child labourers in Bangladesh. Of these, 12.6% children are between the age of 5 and 14 and. A total of 1.3 million children are engaged in risky work. The percentage of child labour is overwhelmingly higher in rural areas of Bangladesh compared to urban areas; respectively 83% and 17%.
 
A BSS report in 2003 stated that 3.2 million were active child labourers while 1.3 million children were engaged in hazardous jobs. After 10 years, in 2013, the total figure of child labour was 3.45 million, with 1.288 million in hazardous jobs, an increase of around 250,000.
 
There are many identified sectors of child labour in Bangladesh like in tea stalls, shops, waiters in hotels, bricklayers, automobile garages, plying rickshaws, farming and domestic service, where it is higher. 87 percent female and 12.3 percent are male among domestic child workers; among them a huge 42% are children aged 12 to 14 years.
 
According to Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi, ‘Child labour perpetuates poverty, unemployment, illiteracy, population growth and other social problems’.
 
In Bangladesh, high rates of population growth, poverty, illiteracy are the reasons behind rising child labour.
 
In 2016, 12.9 percent of citizens of Bangladesh lived in extreme poverty. For survival, poor families send their children to work as an extra income source for the family because the parents have no stable income to sustain their household expenditure. Highly inequitable distribution of national income and the poverty rate of Bangladesh increase the probability of people sending their children to work.
 
The absence of legal safeguards against child labour is another major reason for the rising numbers child laborers in Bangladesh. Although there is a Child Labour Act 2006, a National Child Labour Elimination Policy 2010 and The Labour Act of 2013, all adopted to save our children from the dangers of child labour, it is regrettable that these Acts remain confined to books, papers or articles where the laws were written.
 
The dysfunction of laws not only helps to increase child labour but also encourages child labour exploitation.  The rate of child labour exploitation is higher in the domestic labour sector than other sectors. Types of exploitation on children include physical and mental torture, sexual abuse and also murder.
 
In Bangladesh, approximately 57 percent of child workera are being tortured physically. According to Ain o Shalish Kendro (ASK), between 2008 and 2011, 2709 reports have been published in newspapers about violence against domestic workers, among them 729 children.
 
According to Indian Nobel Laureate Kailash Satyarthy, “Child slavery is a crime against humanity. Humanity itself is at stake here.”  We as a society have lots more work to do to stop the menace of child labour from our society and also from our country.
 
Society can adopt the following measures to reduce the crime of child slavery; First, increase social awareness. Also, society has to change its beliefs and the socio-economic acceptance of child labour. The Bangladesh government should take more initiatives to raise social awareness against child labour.
 
Secondly, education is vital. The nation needs educated parents to nurture its future citizens correctly. An educated parent has the power to build an educated nation. To increased ratio of education in Bangladesh, government has to focus on ensuring a more inclusive education system.
 
Thirdly, Bangladesh needs an inclusive and sustainable economic growth rate, and reducing poverty rates, because poverty is one of the fundamental causes of increasing child labour. Inclusive and sustainable economic growth ensures equitable distribution of income and equal participation every citizen. Inclusive economic growth leads to reduced poverty and reduced child labour.
 
Finally, Bangladesh has many institutional laws to save the child but there have no proper application of child labour laws.  In three years ago, the government identified 38 child labour- prone sectors in the country and vowed to ensure that there would not be a single child in active labour in 2016.
 
This remains a distant dream. The authorities have failed to live up to their promise and reduce child labour. It is high time to save our children from the dangers of child labour by proper application child labour laws. It is high time to build a new and inclusive Bangladesh.
 
(The author is studying for a Bachelor in Social Sciences (BSS) degree in Development Studies at Dhaka University. Comments and suggestions on this article can be sent to editor@spsindia.in)

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