According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), poverty in Afghanistan forces one in three school-age children to work.

Afghanistan vows to “set standards” on Child Labor in Mines

By Michelle Nichols

KABUL

(Reuters) – For around $2 a day some Afghan children as young as 10 work long hours in the country’s coal mines with no safety gear and, until now, no government mining policy to protect them.

While national law allows Afghan children to work up to 35 hours a week from the age of 14, they are not allowed to do hazardous jobs such as mining. But after 30 years of conflict and with many children the sole family breadwinners, aid and rights groups say the laws are flouted and not enforced.

As Afghanistan tries to attract foreign investors to develop an estimated $3 trillion worth of untapped mineral deposits, Mines Minister Wahidullah Shahrani has been working to expand and clean up the industry and has drafted a policy officially setting the minimum age for coal mine workers at 18.

“We drafted the first-ever social policy guidelines to make sure that when it comes to the labor force, and when it comes to health and safety, and most importantly on the issue of child labor, we will have some type of standards,” he told Reuters.

“Previously we did not have any official policy at the Ministry of Mines.”

The guidelines are due to be implemented in the next few months and mining inspectors would be employed to ensure the rules are upheld, Shahrani said. But critics have questioned the government’s capacity to manage the mining industry.

Since Shahrani became minister at the start of 2010, he has drawn up the ministry’s first business plan and signed Afghanistan to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) as a candidate country.… Read the rest

UN Secretary General Calls for Greater Efforts to Tackle Child Rights Violations in Afghanistan



Greater efforts are needed to end grave violations against children in Afghanistan, including their use as child soldiers, sexual violence, killing and maiming, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says in a new report to the Security Council.

In his report on children and armed conflict in Afghanistan, covering the period from 1 September 2008 to 30 August 2010, Mr. Ban acknowledges that progress has been made since his last report, especially in terms of dialogue with the Government on the protection of children.

Last month the UN and the Afghan Government signed an agreement in which the country made a commitment to protect children affected by armed conflict and to prevent the recruitment of minors into the national armed forces.

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Afghans Plan to Stop Recruiting Children as Police & Protect Sex Slaves

[From the New York Times:}

By ROD NORDLAND

KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghanistan is expected to sign a formal agreement with the United Nations on Sunday to stop the recruitment of children into its police forces and ban the common practice of boys being used as sex slaves by military commanders, according to Afghan and United Nations officials.

The effort by Afghanistan’s international backers to rapidly expand the country’s police and military forces has had the unintended consequence of drawing many under-age boys into service, the officials conceded.

Stung by Afghanistan’s inclusion on the United Nations’ blacklist of countries where child soldiers are commonly used, like the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda, government leaders are expected to sign an undertaking with Radhika Coomaraswamy, the secretary general’s special representative for children and armed conflict, during her visit to Kabul on Sunday, the officials said.

With the agreement on an action plan to combat the problem, the government will for the first time officially acknowledge the problem of child sex slaves. As part of the Afghan tradition of bacha bazi, literally “boy play,” boys as young as 9 are dressed as girls and trained to dance for male audiences, then prostituted in an auction to the highest bidder. Many powerful men, particularly commanders in the military and the police, keep such boys, often dressed in uniforms, as constant companions for sexual purposes.

United Nations officials say they believe that there are hundreds of cases of under-age boys in the police, “mostly because of falsification of papers, also bribes, and there’s been a big push to get the numbers up,” one official said.… Read the rest

Afghan Bacha Bazi Action

There is currently an active petition at change.org to prevent the trafficking of Afghan boys into a form of prostitution:
Tell the UN to Stop Child Trafficking via Bacha Bazi in Afghanistan
Targeting: UN Mission to Afghanistan
Started by: Amanda Kloer

The bacha bazi tradition, which literally means “boy play” has deep roots in Afghan culture. For centuries, wealthy men have been buying orphans or boys from poor families, dressing them in women’s clothing, and paying them to sing and dance for entertainment. After the bacha party, the boy is auctioned off to the highest bidder or shared by several men for sex. When the Taliban came to power in Afghanistan, they banned the practice, and it remains illegal today. But since the Taliban was ousted, the tradition has been revived and is growing.

Bacha bazi boys are usually teens, but many are as young as 11. Most of them come from very poor families or are orphans from the war. Boys are lured off the street or bought from family members by businessmen. Then, they are usually kept in a house with other boys, trained sing, dance, and play musical instruments. They are also introduced to the commercial sex industry, ususally by being raped by the men who train them or sold for sex out of the backseat of cars.

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