Uzbekistan Weekly Roundup

by Catherine A. Fitzpatrick [From Eurasia.Net]

The annual meeting of the International Labour Conference of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) proved to be a forum for a serious and methodical condemnation of Uzbekistan’s failure to eliminate the use of forced child labor in the cotton industry. Prior to the meeting, the ILO’s Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations prepared a exhaustive report based on the testimony of non-governmental groups as well as UN agencies, notably UNICEF, detailing the state-sponsored practice of removing students from school to work in the fields, and threatening them and their parents for failure to comply with orders of local administrators to meet quotas. The Committee noted that Uzbekistan had failed to submit reports about compliance and failed to implement the two conventions signed on the worst forms of child labor.

On June 6, the ILO’s Committee on Application of Standards then discussed the Experts’ report. As a result of ongoing concerns about forced child labor in Uzbekistan, the ILO Committee was set to include a paragraph in its conclusions that would flag Uzbekistan as an egregious case of violations of ILO conventions. Uzbekistan sent Botir Alimukhamedov, first deputy minister of labour and social protection to the ILO meeting, along with the smooth-talking Akmal Saidov, director of the National Human Rights Centre, who is dispatched to every international meeting to refute criticism of Uzbekistan’s human rights record. Read more


Child Labor – A Non-negotiable Evil

Despite several Constitutional provisions and laws that safeguard the rights of all children, India has the dubious distinction of having the largest number of child labourers in the world. If one were to believe Government’s estimates, there are about 1.20 crore economically active children below the age of fourteen. However Non-Governmental sources estimate a staggering 6 crore children engaged as labourers across the country. Almost 70 percent of these children work in the agricultural sector, while the rest continue to languish in the informal & unorganized sectors like garment, embroidery, carpet weaving, glass bangles, brass ware, shellac jewelry, sporting goods, leather, plastic goods, stone quarries, mica & coal mining, tea plantation, brick kilns, construction sites, roadside restaurants and domestic work.
India is the breeding ground for the worst forms of child labour. At least one crore or one out of every six child labourers is trapped in slavery as bonded labourer. Tens of thousands of children are trafficked from one state to another on tall claims and false hopes of a decent life. Several others are trafficked across the national borders. India is known to be a destination for large number of Nepalese and Bangladeshi children. Child prostitution, child marriages, “Devdasis”, forced amputation and beggary, children misused or abused by militant groups are some of the many forms of contemporary slavery that widely persist.
The push factors behind this social evil include abject poverty, illiteracy, lack of awareness, gullibility of parents, child un-friendly mindset prevailing in the communities, socio-cultural discrimination, gender bias, poor outreach of legal safeguarding & ensuing development, absence of or poor education facilities, State’s incapability to effectively handle natural disasters like flood, earthquakes droughts & famines, development disasters like deforestation, mining and displacement are largely responsible for children falling prey to child labour. On the other hand, the insatiable greed on the part of employers who always scout for vulnerable, docile and cheap workforce, prevalence of corruption and apathy among the law enforcement agencies coupled with connivance between traffickers and employers are some of the key pull factors resulting in child labour.
Children are preferred over adults because they are unable to unionize, they do not demand decent work and never do they retort to strikes despite all sorts of abuses and exploitation. We should remember that each child is employed at the cost of an adult’s job. India has 6 crore child labourers and about 6.5 crore unemployed adults. Several studies have revealed that most of the jobless adults are the very parents of full time child labourers. This is a vicious circle. No country could ever possibly solve the problem of poverty, unemployment and illiteracy without eliminating child labour.
Globalization, privatization and liberalization have fuelled the massive demand for cheap and docile labour in production supply chains. Similarly the ever-expanding middle class is always on a watch out for a poor and docile child to employ them as domestic help for looking after their own children besides performing the usual household chores without a whimper.
A common notion that prevails is that poverty is the root cause of child labour, but it is a half baked truth because the fact of the matter is, that child labour creates and perpetuates intergenerational poverty. Child labourers are cursed to reel under poverty for the rest of their lives. In most cases, inhuman working conditions severely affect children’s tender organs thereby drifting them towards occupational diseases. Children engaged in agriculture are exposed to pesticides, insecticides and heavy machinery. Such children gradually acquire incurable ailments and often meet with accidents that render them physically crippled. Many children handling toxic chemicals in factories and workshops are susceptible to similar risks. Children producing fire crackers to amuse and entertain others more often than not meet with devastating accidents. Sivakasi, Virudhunagar and Sattur are infamous for such accidents. Similarly, children working in stone quarries and mines are diagnosed with tuberculosis and silicosis. Thousands others are compelled to work under inhuman conditions in glass bangle factories of Firozabad and brass & metal workshops in Moradabad, Aligarh & Delhi only to burn their lungs and little fingers.
I have personally come across thousands of cases where children weaving carpets in Mirzapur – Bhadohi belt were diagnosed with chronic lung diseases that cut their lives short, unfulfilling their dream to sit on the plush carpets that they produce. Children stitching foot balls and other sporting goods seldom get an opportunity to play with them. Those slogging endlessly in garment sweatshops never get to see their mothers and sisters adorning the beautifully and intricately embellished ensembles produced by them. What a shame!!!
Prevalence of child labour is nothing short of utter disrespect not only towards the Constitution but also towards all the International Declarations, Treaties and Conventions that have been promulgated in the past. Child labour and slavery are worst of human rights’ violation. It is a crime and a social stigma. Child labour is the biggest obstacle in the way of education and development. It is a slap across the face of civilizations, cultures and religions. Child labour is an evidence of serious lack of political will and social concern. Child labour denies freedom, justice, dignity, equal opportunities and fulfilled childhood simultaneously endangering child’s present and future.
India has several legislative provisions aimed towards the children. There is a specific law; Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 which is objectionable and incomplete. It does not prohibit all forms of child labour thereby posing serious contradiction to the recently passed Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 which calls for compulsory schooling for all children up to the age of 14 years. How can one law be in contravention to the other law that allows children to remain at work places instead of classrooms???Kailash Satyarthi
* Author is the founder of Bachpan Bachao Andolan, founding President of Global Campaign for Education and Chairperson of Global March Against Child Labour. He is world’s foremost leader in the fight against child and bonded labour. He is a distinguished social activist and has freed thousands of bonded and child labourers.

Summer Homework: Plow the Field

from the American Prospect

By: Marie O’Reilly

From age 12, López, who is now 26, worked 12-hour days, seven days a week on farms during peak season. Children must be at least 16 years old to work in most industries in the United States, and generally do so with strict limitations on the number of hours they work. For hazardous work such as manufacturing and mining, the minimum age is 18.After another spring break spent lugging 50-pound buckets of vegetables and using sharp shears to cut onions, Norma Flores López returned to school with her hands too swollen to hold her pencil. She fell behind in her schoolwork. It wasn’t the first time

But an exemption for agriculture in U.S. law means employers can hire children as young as 12 , and sometimes younger, to work in the fields. Restrictions on the number of hours children can work outside of school in other industries don’t apply here and work deemed particularly hazardous can begin as young as age 16. A low minimum age for farmworkers may have made sense when the Fair Labor Standards Act was enacted in 1938, when family farms needed extra hands to bring in harvests, but agricultural enterprises today are different from those in that era.

There are 400,000 to 500,000 child farmworkers in the United States, according to the Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs (AFOP), the majority of whom are U.S. citizens. But since many children do not get paid themselves — their salary is often rolled into their parents’ paycheck — tracking them can be difficult.

When this happens, “they’re not even counted as a head that’s working, or as a warm body on the farm,” explains Kyle Knight from Human Rights Watch’s Children’s Rights Division.

With school ending in most states now, Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard of California plans to reintroduce the Children’s Act for Responsible Employment (CARE) in Congress, to close the loophole. The act would bring age and work-hour standards for children in agriculture in line with existing standards in other industries. “It levels the playing field,” says Roybal-Allard, so that children working on farms “would have the same rights and protections as all other children who work in this country.”

For years, children’s rights advocates have documented the vulnerability of children working in commercial agriculture in the United States. “In terms of fatalities, this is the most dangerous occupation open to kids in the U.S.,” Knight says. “These conditions are not what Americans would expect to find in their own country.”

Farmworkers are frequently exposed to dangerous pesticides, heavy machinery, and sharp tools, and children are much more vulnerable to the bad effects of these than their older colleagues, according to Levy Schroeder, director of health and safety programs at the AFOP. Deaths from heat exposure and tractor rollovers, and lifelong repetitive strain injuries from stooping for hours on end are just some of the risks that young children face in farm work. “They are not little adults; their bodies have not yet developed,” Schroeder says. Children’s young immune systems are also particularly susceptible to pesticide exposure, which has been associated with cancer and respiratory and reproductive problems over the long term.

Maria Mandujano, now 20, started working on farms in her home state of Idaho at age 11. “It was just something you had to do to put food on the table,” she says, but now she laments the experience. “I wish my parents would have said no, or somebody would have been there to say no,” she adds. Mandujano is now studying in college and is trying to lure her younger brother away from the fields. “I always try to explain to him how he can benefit from not working the fields right now, what he could do in exchange,” she says. “For example, learning from my own mistakes and not growing up as quickly as I did.”

One thing that frequently gets sacrificed is education — Mandujano is a rarity for making it to college. In fact, young farmworkers are four times more likely to drop out of school than their peers, according to government estimates. López moved around the country for work during her summers and often found herself months behind in school when she returned to her home in Texas in late October. Despite the odds, she graduated with a bachelor’s in communications and now works at AFOP to advocate for those less fortunate. “More than half of these kids don’t complete high school,” she says, “and we continue to allow that to happen.”

Members of Congress have been introducing draft legislation like Roybal-Allard’s for more than 10 years, but no bill has ever reached a vote. “When we first started … many of my colleagues were not even aware that there was this double standard when it came to child labor laws,” Roybal-Allard says. Support rose to 107 co-sponsors after the bill was last introduced in 2009, but the bill went nowhere.

Farmers’ representatives continue to oppose the legislation, arguing that farmwork is “safe, wholesome work for kids,” in the words of Frank Gasperini of the National Council of Agricultural Employers. “In towns and suburbs, children can go and work at McDonalds or bus tables in a restaurant, but in rural areas, those opportunities tend not to be there,” he says. And besides, he adds, “some of those migrant families need the money that their children help produce.”

But the CARE Act would not deny children the experience of working on farms, says Roybal-Allard. By raising the minimum age and increasing protection mechanisms, it would simply allow them to have that experience under the same laws governing every other industry. It also leaves in place an exemption for family farmers, since parents are more likely to look after the health and safety of their own kids on their own farm.

Reflecting on the growth in support for the CARE Act in recent years, Roybal-Allard remains optimistic. “I’m very hopeful that if we start getting the truth out about what is happening in the country with children in agriculture … we will be able to pass the bill.”

Marie O’Reilly is a freelance journalist based in New York City.