Child labour: Abolition still a far cry
According to a number of latest media reports some industrial units at Narayanganj are abundantly employing poor underage children by violating the law. This has been continuing unimpeded for some time. In any civilized society these tender faces were supposed to lead a decent life, along with proper schooling. This unfortunate phenomenon of children's right is widely prevalent in other parts of the country including the capital. No matter how carefree and full of joy childhood resembles, not every child's life in Bangladesh is colourful.
Many of our children experience a very different and cruel childhood. They go through child abuse at a very young age, they are discriminated against and they have no protection from society. It is indeed, a reality that the state of child rights in the country is still deplorable, to say the least.
Many child labourers work in the open under the scorching heat where they are not even allowed to take a brief respite from their hard work. The practice is also driven by economic necessity and the disincentive provided by a wholly inadequate schooling system, a situation that remains unchanged. The solution lies in setting up of more and more schools with free education for poor children and orphans. Drastic measures need to be taken. There should be a governmental mechanism in place to ensure that parents get their children admitted in schools.
A rough number suggests that some two million children in the country are engaged in child labour. And this is despite Bangladesh being a signatory to a number of international instruments that aim to protect the rights of children and having passed domestic laws and policies that prohibit child labour.
The Labour Act 2006 specifies that the minimum age of employment is 14 and the government has even declared a number of sectors as unsafe for children. But countless children far below 14 are engaged in some of the worst forms of child labour in many of the aforementioned sectors, leaving them exposed to physical, economic and sexual exploitation.
With a major percentage of the population in Bangladesh being aged 15 or below, the government must take the issue of child rights seriously. The concerned authorities must ensure that existing laws are fully implemented. Not only at Naraynganj , we believe, other than enforcing the law throughout the entire country - it has become mandatory to adopt a zero-tolerance policy against child labour in Bangladesh. We must stop the illegitimate exploitation of our children.