LAHORE: The provincial government has banned employment of children and restricted the recruitment of those between 15 and 18 years of age for hazardous occupations and processes under the Punjab Restriction on Employment of Children Ordinance, 2016, promulgated by the governor on Thursday.
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The ordinance is meant to protect children and adolescents from trafficking, debt bondage and serfdom, forced or compulsory labour, including forced or compulsory recruitment for use in armed conflicts.
It bans the use, procuring or offering of a child or adolescent for prostitution, production of pornography or for pornographic performances, and illicit activities, particularly the production and trafficking of drugs. One of its major aspects is the regulation of the work of adolescents at occupations and processes which are not hazardous to guard against their exploitation.
The ordinance regulates the employment of adolescents for work that is not hazardous, also fixing their working hours. It states that an occupier (employer) shall not require or permit an adolescent to work in the establishment in excess of the prescribed number of hours. The occupier shall fix the period of work of an adolescent on each day which shall not exceed three hours. If an adolescent is required to work for more than three hours in a day, the occupier shall provide a mandatory interval of at least one hour for rest after three hours of work. The period of work of an adolescent in a day, including mandatory interval for rest, shall not exceed seven hours. The ordinance disallows adolescent work between 7pm and 8am. It says the working hours should not clash with the school or educational institution timings of the adolescent, and they must be allowed a weekly holiday. Under the ordinance, employing or permitting a child to work in an establishment is punishable with imprisonment up to six months (not less than seven days), and with a fine up to Rs50,000 (not less than Rs10,000). For employing or permitting any adolescent to indulge in hazardous work, the punishment will be up to six months imprisonment, up to Rs75,000 fine or both.
A repeat conviction will be punished with imprisonment up to five years (not less than three months). Enslaving children and adolescents or using them for immoral activities, prostitution, drug production or trafficking shall be punished with a fine up to Rs1 million (not less than Rs200,000) or imprisonment up to five years, or with both. The guardians or parents in whose immediate presence the children and adolescents are found working in contravention of the ordinance shall be punished along with the employer. Presence of a child or an adolescent within the working premises of an establishment shall be presumed evidence of employment.
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The ordinance defines hazardous work as transport of passengers, goods or mail, catering establishment at a railway station involving the movement of a vendor or any other employee of the establishment from one platform to another or into or out of a moving train, construction of a railway station or any other work in close proximity to or between railway lines, a port authority within the limits of any port, inside underground mines and above-ground quarries including blasting and assisting in blasting, power-driven cutting machinery like saws, shears, guillotines and agricultural machines, threshers, fodder-cutting machines, live electrical wires over 50 volts. Other hazardous occupations include all operations related to leather tanning, mixing and manufacture of pesticides and insecticides, and fumigation, sandblasting and other work involving exposure to free silica, exposure to toxic, explosive and carcinogenic chemicals, cement dust in cement industry and coal dust, manufacture and sale of fireworks and explosives, work at sites where liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and compressed natural gas (CNG) are filled in cylinders, work on glass and metal furnaces, glass bangles manufacturing, cloth weaving, printing, work inside sewer pipelines, pits and storage tanks, stone crushing, lifting and carrying of heavy weight (15kg and above) specially in transport industry, carpet weaving, working two metres or more above the floor, scavenging including hospital waste, tobacco processing and manufacturing including niswar and biri making, commercial fishing and processing of fish and sea-food, sheep casing and wool industry, surgical instruments manufacture specially at vendors’ workshops, spice grinding, work in boiler house, work in cinemas, mini-cinemas and cyber clubs, soap manufacturing, building and construction industry.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 15th, 2016.
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