KARACHI: Any child under the age of 14 years will not be allowed to work as the Sindh Assembly passed a law prohibiting child labour on Wednesday.
The 'Sindh Prohibition of Employment of Children Bill, 2017' was moved by parliamentary affairs minister Nisar Ahmed Khuhro during the session presided over by deputy speaker Shehla Raza. "Due to appalling socio-economic conditions, children under the age of 14 are forced to work in factories, industries, fields and other hazardous areas," said Khuhro. "This act is meant to discourage this practice of exploitation."
After the 18th Constitutional Amendment, the labour department was devolved to the provinces, making it necessary for provincial governments to make this law.
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Once the law gets the acting governor's approval, the government will constitute a committee, called 'Sindh Coordination Committee on Child Labour' to advise the government on appropriate legislation, administrative and other measures to eradicate child labour practices as per international standards. The committee will comprise a chairperson and nine other members representing government, employers, workers and civil society.
The act defines a child as someone who is younger than 14 years. As for boys and girls older than 14 and younger than 18, the act allows them to work with their parents for up to three hours a day. However, adolescents will not be permitted to work between 7pm and 8am. "No adolescent shall work for more than three hours," clarified Khuhro.
For employers violating this law, the punishment includes imprisonment for up to six months or a fine of up to Rs50,000, or both. "If a child is employed in hazardous work, such as stone crushing or carpet weaving, the fine will be extended to Rs100,000 and three-year imprisonment," stated Clause 13 of the law.
In case of slavery, such as trafficking of children, or offering a child for prostitution or pornography, the punishment will be extended to 10 years and a fine of Rs1 million, said Khuhro.
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During the debate on the law, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah pointed out that the same law was passed by the federal government in 1991. He proposed an amendment to allow children under the age of 12 to work with their parents for two to three hours but his proposal was not considered.
Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) parliamentary leader Syed Sardar Ahmed asked for the inclusion of minor children working as domestic help in the list of hazardous work but Khuhro told him that the law can be amended for this later. An amendment proposed by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf's (PTI) Dr Seema Zia to include beggary in the list of hazardous work was also turned down.
Traffic congestion and other issues
PTI MPA Khurrum Sher Zaman demanded the government explain why there is severe traffic congestion in the city. Khuhro responded that there are more than 22 development schemes going on which has caused problem.
MQM's Kamran Akhtar diverted the attention of the house towards one-wheeling and motorcycle racing in Clifton. "Despite the ban, this practice continues to make many children disabled," he said.
Earlier, health minister Dr Sikandar Mandhro said the health department has nine medico-legal centres in Sindh. "Four of them are in Karachi and are perfectly functional with proper facilities of post-mortem examination for rape survivors," he said, adding that the remaining ones lack post-mortem facilities as mortuaries have yet to be established.
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz MPA Sorath Thebo mentioned the security threats facing women's rights activist and classical dancer Sheema Kermani. The chief minister assured her that he will ensure security for Kermani but also encouraged Thebo to ask 'her government' to take action against militant groups that the Sindh government pointed out.
The session was adjourned till today.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 26th, 2017.
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