Strong statements have been made by ILO’s country director in Pakistan that officials should take serious steps to respect international conventions and eradicate the scourge of child labour from this country. Pakistan has long ratified international ILO conventions, yet the worst forms of child labour persist even today. The issue requires specific attention as it is deeply tied to the overall socio-economic and literacy strength of the country.
Legislative gaps, weak policies, and lack of implementation seem to be the order of the day; and according to Unicef, a staggering 3.3 million children have been subjected to some form of child labour during their lives. In rural areas, children are forced to work on agricultural fields and farms while in urban areas child and bonded labour is rampant in factories, especially in the textile manufacturing sector. They are forced to work in hazardous conditions, which takes a serious mental and physical toll on them later in life. The only way to end this culture of modern-day slavery is by cracking down against it. Labour inspection teams must be brutal in their assessment and mete out strict punishment, including lengthy jail time, to those who continue to adopt this heinous practice. It must be unequivocally stated by law and by the government that there is a blanket ban on child labour as children cannot be treated like commodities. It is the responsibility of the state to uphold their rights and their dignity.
To do so, child protection units must be established and empowered in all provinces so that implementation and accountability are kept as top-most priority. Officials must actively be seeking out instances of child labour rather than waiting for society to report cases. Children are the future of this nation and unfortunately the future for Pakistan is not looking too bright at the moment.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 16th, 2022.
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