Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Focussing on children in need of care and protection

The handbook is useful for people working in the area of child rights

BANGALORE: There is still a long way to go for all children in India to dream of living a healthy, happy childhood free from abuse and exploitation. The protection and promotion of child rights in India vis-À-vis the juvenile justice system is an issue that needs to be addressed with much seriousness and concern.

“Justice for Children,” – a Handbook on Implementing The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2000 and the Juvenile Justice Care and Protection of Children) Amendment Act 2006, is an attempt to guide the statutory body under the Juvenile justice system, the child welfare committees while dealing with the web of legal maze of procedural and substantive laws.

Representatives of non-governmental organisations got a sneak preview of the handbook co-authored by Nina P. Nayak and Anuradha Saibaba Rajesh at an informal programme here recently. The venture is supported by Child Fund India and Karnataka State Council for Child Welfare.

According to the authors, the handbook focuses on children in need of care and protection, that is, children who are exploited or abused and abandoned. It is largely based on the provisions of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2000 and the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Amendment Act 2006 and the Karnataka Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Rules 2002. The Constitution of India, other laws relating to children and the international human rights instrument, the Convention on the Rights of the Children are also appropriately referred to.

The predominant aim of “Justice for Children” is to serve as a reference tool primarily for the Child Welfare Committee members in Karnataka and functionaries of the Department of Women and Child Development and itself draws from the experiences of the five-member committee here. Additionally as child protection issues gain increasing awareness amongst the public, the handbook can be useful for anyone working in the area of child rights and protection — be it academicians, activists, voluntary organisations, students, childlines and so on.


Disclosing rape victim's identity is punishable

6 Nov 2007, 0008 hrs IST,Dhananjay Mahapatra,TNN

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court has named a rape victim 11 times in a recent judgment, forgetting the self-imposed code put in place through its rulings in 2003 and 2006. Reversing a Rajasthan HC order acquitting a rape accused, the SC ordered the convict to undergo seven years' rigorous imprisonment instead of 10 years awarded by the trial court.

Both the 2003 and 2006 judgments, written on behalf of the benches by Justice Arijit Pasayat, had an identical paragraph exhorting trial courts, HCs and the Supreme Court not to mention names of rape victims in their judgments, given the ignominy they face in a conservative society like India.

Section 228-A of the Indian Penal Code makes disclosure of identity of a victim in sexual assault cases a punishable offence, which deters the media from making public the name of the rape victim.

However, Justice Pasayat recognised that the restriction did not bar the media from publishing names of the victims while publishing the judgments of high courts or the apex court. So, in both the judgments, he had said, "Keeping in view the objective of preventing social victimisation or ostracism of the victim of a sexual offence for which section 228-A has been enacted, it would be appropriate that in the judgments, be it of this court, high courts or lower courts, the name of the victim should not be indicated."

Section 228-A of Indian Penal Code is in sync with laws abroad, such as UK's Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act, 1976 which guarantees anonymity to women who complain of rape. These enactments are meant to encourage rape victims to complain against assaulters without having to facing public glare and the resulting humiliation.

The US, however, is an exception. The Supreme Court there has consistently struck down state laws which prohibit the media from revealing the name of the victim of sexual abuse. However, media organisations there have scrupulously observed a self-imposed code of not publishing the name of the rape victim.


Miles to go

The third National Family Health Survey has immense significance for policymaking in health, nutrition and gender issues.


The report of the third National Family Health Survey (NFHS-3), released in the second week of October, has immense significance for policymakers in health, nutrition, education and gender issues. The NFHS-3 (2005-06) is significant in that it has gone beyond the parameters set by the two preceding surveys, in 1998-99 and 1992-93. And for the first time, the survey interviewed all women (ever-married and never-married) in the 15-49 age group and all men in the 15-54 age group. In earlier surveys, only ever-married women were chosen for individual interviews. The NFHS-3 sample covered 109,041 households, 124,385 women and 74,369 men in the 29 States. According to G.C. Chaturvedi, Director of the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM), the findings of the NFHS-3 are an important benchmark for the NRHM.

The NFHS-3 included testing of the adult population in a community-based survey, the first of its kind, to estimate HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) prevalence in the general population. Surprisingly, the figures dipped sharply, forcing the government to revise its national figures.

The NFHS-3 essentially throws light on the state of India’s health, behavioural attitudes, fertility and mortality. In another first, it provides information on perinatal mortality (stillbirths and early infant deaths), male involvement in the use of health and family welfare services, adolescent reproductive health, family life, education, high-risk sexual behaviour and awareness of tuberculosis.

The shocking parts of the report contain implications for the girl child. India continues to be in the stranglehold of a very strong son preference; the presence or absence of a male child in the family dictates family planning. “Many women prefer not to use contraception and to continue childbearing until they have at least one son,” says the report.

The survey drew out responses of women to domestic violence. More than one-third of the women in the 15-49 age group had undergone physical violence; and 9 per cent of the women in the same age group, some form of sexual violence. Only 6 per cent of women were subjected to domestic violence in Himachal Pradesh, but the figure was 40 per cent or more in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh and 56 per cent in Bihar.

As much as 37 per cent of ever-married women had experienced violence at the hands of their spouses and 16 per cent, emotional violence. The survey found that 1 per cent of the women had initiated violence against their husbands; evidently, that was in reaction to violence perpetrated on them earlier.

Slapping was the most common form of violence from husbands; 62 per cent of the women reported physical or sexual violence in the first two years of their marriage. Only one out of four abused women sought help to end the violence. A large majority of them chose to bear it in silence. Alarmingly, the report said that more than half the women in India believed that it was justifiable for a husband to beat his wife. The acceptance of wife-beating was found to be high in Manipur and low in Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand.

The good news in the survey is that women waited longer to marry and fertility was on the decline. As a telling example, a domestic worker based in Delhi said she was married off at 15 in her village in Allahabad, conceived at the age of 16 and bore seven children in 14 years. But she was determined that none of her daughters were going to be married before 22. She got her eldest daughter married at 24 and ensured that at least one of her daughters completed college. Such instances are common in urban centres, particularly the metros.

But the bad news is that more than half the women were getting married off before the minimum age of 18. Urban women waited two years longer than their rural counterparts for marriage; the median age at marriage among urban women aged between 20 and 29 was 18.8 years while that of rural women in the same age group was 16.4 years. This, in turn, had an impact on maternal mortality as well as infant and perinatal mortality.

The survey has other revealing facts. For instance, the fertility rate has come down from 2.9 per woman in the NFHS-2 to 2.7 per woman. However, this is seldom appreciated by policymakers, who often speak of a population boom in the country.

Recently, the Supreme Court suggested that women with more than two children should be excluded from the Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY), or scheme for safe motherhood, which now covers all Below Poverty Line (BPL) mothers. Health Ministry sources told Frontline that they were yet to respond to the suggestion. Initially, the JSY was confined to families with only two children; but when sections among the Left and other health activists pointed out the inherent injustice in the scheme, it was made accessible to all BPL mothers.

Though the fertility rate has come down, replacement levels (two children for two parents) are yet to be reached. The NFHS-3 brings out the fact that the desire to stop childbearing has increased rapidly with the number of living children. Only 3 per cent of women with no living children said they did not want any more children, compared with 83 per cent of women with two children and 90 per cent of women with three children.

The desire to stop childbearing increased with education. The fertility rate decreased sharply by the household’s wealth index as well, from 3.9 children for women living in households in the lowest wealth quintile to 1.8 children for those living in households in the highest wealth quintile. Ninety per cent of women, the survey found, wanted to stop childbearing if both their children were sons, 87 per cent wanted to stop if they had one son and one daughter.

The proportion of women with two daughters and no sons and who wanted no additional children increased from 37 per cent in the NFHS-2 to 61 per cent in the NFHS-3. But this does not indicate that son preference has gone down or that the women themselves are in a position to decide the ideal family size or the number of sons or daughters they would like to have. The motivating reason for wanting a daughter is more religious – fulfilling of the obligation of kanyadaan (giving a daughter away in marriage), which is supposed to enable parents to acquire the highest level of merit or punya.

Knowledge of contraception was found to be almost universal, but more women and men knew about female sterilisation than male sterilisation though the latter is considered to be safer among the terminal methods of contraception. Ninety-three per cent of the men knew about condoms as opposed to 74 per cent of women.

Significantly, even the choice of contraception was influenced by son preference. At 67 per cent, the adoption rate of female sterilisation was the highest among women with two sons. Also, women who had more sons were found to be more likely to be persuaded to go in for contraception. Wealth also influenced contraceptive prevalence; it was almost 68 per cent among women in the highest wealth quintile and 42 per cent in the lowest wealth quintile.

For health activists and women’s organisations who have been crying hoarse regarding informed choices, the survey has dismal news. Only one-third of the women contraceptive users said they were aware of the side effects while only one quarter were informed about what to do in case of any side effects. It was only in Tamil Nadu and Delhi that more than half the women knew what to do in case of side effects.

The survey has also confirmed the worst suspicions of health activists regarding the safety of injectable contraceptives. The NFHS-3 found that among the spacing methods, the discontinuation rates were the highest for injectables (53 per cent), followed by pills and male condoms. For pills, intrauterine devices (IUDs) and injectables, the most common reason for discontinuation were concerns about side effects or health problems.

Another important aspect of the survey relates to child sex ratio, which has dipped since Census 2001. Though the NFHS does not do a head count unlike the Registrar General’s office, its findings regarding the child sex ratio from the sample population are not likely to be very different from the child sex ratio figures that will emerge in the Census 2011.

In the NFHS-3, the sex ratio of the population in the 0-6 age group is 918 girls for every 1,000 boys; this was 927 girls per 1,000 boys according to Census 2001. The under-seven sex ratio in urban areas is the same as in Census 2001, but a decline was seen in rural areas.

On nutritional, maternal and child health indicators, there has not been much improvement. Perinatal mortality, which was explored for the first time, turned out to be rather high at 49 deaths for every 1,000 pregnancies. Such mortality was very high for young mothers and in first pregnancies. It is highest for the rural poor uneducated mother.

While the infant mortality rate (IMR) has gone down from 68 deaths to 57 per 1,000 live births, it is still very high. It is estimated that one in 18 children dies within the first year of birth and more than one in 13 dies before the age of five.

Children of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes are at a greater risk. Even here, there is a gender bias: 79 girls under five die before the fifth birthday compared with 70 boys per 1,000 births. Uttar Pradesh has the highest IMR in the country while Kerala and Goa fall in the category of States with the lowest IMR.

As for maternal health, only 44 per cent of women started antenatal care in the first trimester of pregnancy. The percentage of women getting more than three antenatal visits by the auxiliary nurse midwife (ANM) ranged from 17 per cent in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh to 90 per cent in Kerala, Goa and Tamil Nadu.

The quality of antenatal care is also a major issue. The iron and folic acid coverage for expectant mothers was lower than the national average in Nagaland, Bihar, Arunachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh and Meghalaya. The percentage of women who received two or more tetanus toxoid injections ranged from 40 per cent in these States to 90 per cent or higher in Delhi, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu.

“The thrust of the NRHM is on the mother and child. The southern States are almost on the threshold of replacement level fertility while the northern States have still a long way to go. Our attempt is to get the IMR levels to 30 per 1,000 live births. There is a lot of demand for institutional deliveries but the supply side is weak,” said Chaturvedi. Of the 22,000 sub-centres in Uttar Pradesh, he said, only 7,000 had buildings.

Manpower is another concern. Between 1947 and 1997, there were only 47,000 doctors in Uttar Pradesh, in the private and public sectors taken together. The number of nurses was 30,000 less than what was recommended by the Bhore Committee. Chaturvedi felt that more than money, the motivating factor for the efficient functioning of the accredited social health activist (ASHA) was “recognition”. On the other hand, health activists argue that accredited social health activists need to be given a decent remuneration as most of them hail from poor families, and that there is need for more than just social appreciation.

The findings of the NFHS-3 underscore the need for more convergence among Ministries as it cannot be left to the Health Ministry alone to deal with what is primarily an economic issue. The survey brings out clearly which section of the population is desperately in need of health care. Health issues are not maternal health issues alone. The most commonly reported problem faced by women in terms of accessing health care was the distance to the health facility; 44 per cent of the Scheduled Tribe women reported “distance” to be a major problem.

The percentage of women who have at least one big problem in gaining access to health care declined rapidly with increasing wealth. On the other hand, the dependence on the private health sector continues to be quite high. According to the survey: “The private medical sector remains the primary source of health care for the majority of households in both urban areas (70 per cent) and rural areas (63 per cent) … overall, the private medical sector dominates health care delivery in the country and the use of private doctors and private clinics is the primary source of health care among the rich and poor alike.”

If the “Health for All” declaration, to which India was a signatory nearly 30 years ago at Alma Ata, must have any meaning, it cannot be with the majority of the population depending on the private sector, where health care is affordable to only a few. It cannot also be realisable in a situation of a declining child sex ratio, high IMR and rampant son preference.


Monday, November 05, 2007

Cambodian court charges German man with child sex abuse

The Associated Press
Published: November 5, 2007

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia: A 61-year-old German man was charged Monday with sexually abusing a 14-year-old Cambodian girl, the latest Westerner to be arrested in a growing crackdown on suspected pedophiles in Southeast Asia.

The man, identified as Jopen Reimund Hubert, was charged with debauchery, said Sok Kalyan, a prosecutor at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court. Debauchery is a Cambodian legal term for sexual abuse of children under the age of 16 and is punishable by up to 20 years in jail.

Hubert, of Cologne, Germany, was arrested last Thursday after police raided his Phnom Penh hotel room and found him in bed with the girl, police said.

He will be detained up to six months before his trial begins, the prosecutor said.

In a court appearance Sunday, Hubert covered his face as he was escorted inside, his wrists handcuffed. Reporters were not allowed to ask him questions.

A French child rights group, Action Pour Les Enfants, said it had kept the suspect under surveillance for some time. Investigators for the group saw the man spending time with two teenage girls, including the one who was with him at the time of his arrest, said Samleang Seila, the group's director in Cambodia.

The group said Hubert had given the girls expensive gifts and money in return for sexual relations.

German Embassy officials were not immediately available for comment.

The detention of the German is the latest in a string of arrests of Westerners for alleged child sex offenses in Cambodia.

In March, a court sentenced two German men to 12 and 28 years in prison for sexually abusing two girls, aged 10 and 14.

In April, Walter Muze of Germany was charged with sexually abusing a 13-year-old Cambodian girl. Last month, a Russian businessman was charged with debauchery for allegedly having sex with six girls. Both are in detention awaiting trial.

Thailand has also made several recent arrests of suspected pedophiles.


Police bust flourishing flesh trade in Gujarat

Gujarat Global News Network, Ahmedabad

Crime branch has swooped down on a gang, which forced young girls including minors into the flesh trade. The girls from the poverty stricken families from outside Gujarat were lured jobs and brought here.

The racket came to light when a 13-year-old girl tried to run away from the clutches of a couple which had bought her for Rs.30,000 and were using her as a prostitute. The girl was saved by three youth who drew the attention of social activist Shabnam Hashmi of Anhad. She took up the matter with the police and as a result crime branch was swung into operation.

The girl told newsmen that she was from Bengal and was brought here for a job in a drama company. She said that she was kept in a house in Viratnagar area of the city where many such girls lived. Then she was sent with one Vijay who lived with his wife and children in Chandlodiya.

Once Vijay raped her in the absence of his wife and then took her to Mehsana and left her in a hotel on highway. The girl was kept there for 10 days and everyday two to three people raped her. From there Vijay took her to Vadodara and kept her there for a week where she had to suffer the same ordeal.

She was brought back to Ahmedabad by Vijay and kept in his house. One evening when Vijay was not around she managed to run from the house.

On the basis of her information police raided all the places and arrested seven people including two women.

For news in Hindi see our Hindi daily Chaupal Chronicle


23 girls rescued from red-light district

30 Oct 2007, 0126 hrs IST,Bhuvaneshwar Prasad,TNN

PURNIA: In a major crackdown on the red-light area at Lakhanjhari alongside the NH-31 in the twin cities of Gulabbagh and Purnia, 23 girls, were rescued by the police on Monday morning. These 23 girls had either been trafficked or lured into the flesh trade rampant in the border areas.

Purnia SP Sudhanshu Kumar said that these girls were in the age group of 15 to 35. They had been trafficked from places like Saharsa, Kishanganj and Supaul and were lured or forced into the flesh trade. He said the girls who were immediately taken into police custody are being interrogated at Sadar Police Station to assess how they were pushed into this most heinous trade. "This interrogation is quite important and will facilitate the police in extending its arms and arresting pimps and traffickers," he added.

He said the rescued girls would be forwarded for counselling. Also, steps would be taken to rehabilitate and, if possible, to repatriate them to their parents and families.

The rescued girls revealed they were related to the brothel keepers, the SP said adding this is how they were tutored.

For the purpose, NGOs like Bhoomika Vihar functioning in Katihar and Kishanganj have already been requested to come over to Purnia to render help in their rehabilitation and repatriation, the SP said.

NGO Bhoomika Vihar director Arun Kumar said that while quite a few rescued girls were offsprings of the brothel keepers, some of them had been initiated into the dirty flesh trade since their early childhood. They could not even tell the names of their parents or the places from which they had been brought, he added. He said the counselling of the rescued girls was at the present in progress and it was difficult to say at the moment how many of them had been trafficked or how.

The NGO, Bhoomika Vihar has done a commendable job in rescuing and rehabilitating trafficked girls across several parts of Bihar. Arun Kumar said that the girls rescued from Lakhanjhari redlight area belonged to different communities. "Their identity was being established," he said.


Staying Alive


Nearly 8,000 aggrieved -- mostly married -- women have filed complaints since a law to protect them from domestic violence came into force in October, 2006. A national report on domestic violence titled 'Staying Alive' by Lawyers' Collective and supported by UNIFEM is the first monitoring and evaluation report of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 (PWDVA).

The PWDVA was conceived as a civil law whereas Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code falls under criminal law. The new law is more inclusive; it creates space for settlement of disputes and looks to providing relief to the aggrieved rather than just focusing on convicting the guilty.

The report states that the primary users of the new law are married women. There are also a number of cases where relief has been granted to widows and daughters. The law upholds the rights of women to reside in a shared household and to counselling and protection.

As a single-window clearance tool, it looks at physical, economic, mental and sexual aspects of violence. And it includes not just married women but those in live-in relationships as well as daughters and widows who are victims of domestic violence.

The PWDVA protects the right to reside in a shared household, yet finds it difficult to assure protection for want of institutional support. For instance, the law envisages the appointment of protection officers to record incidents and support distressed women, even giving them shelter in homes if necessary.

But state governments are making do with existing staff and homes instead of training and employing fresh candidates for that job and creating new infrastructure. States ought to assign funds in budgets for this provision so that women can take recourse to facilities afforded under the law.

Besides budgetary support and recruitment of special officers, state governments ought to give priority to education and poverty reduction programmes. The National Family Health Survey III revealed that violence against women is a serious problem in India.

Thirty-five per cent of women surveyed had experienced violence at home. But more women get abused in poorer and less educated households, which confirms the need to put education and poverty reduction on top of development agendas. Clearly, the law alone is not enough to protect a woman from abuse.

She needs economic independence that can free her from social prejudices and vulnerability. That kind of empowerment can come only with education, awareness and financial independence.


Govt plans new laws to curb rent-a-womb rackets

Sumit Pande / CNN-IBN

TimePublished on Monday , November 05, 2007 at 13:43 in Nation section

New Delhi: India has become the new hire-a-womb destination for clients from all over the world. There are no proper laws to regulate it and that’s why the Government is now preparing its first legislation on surrogate motherhood.

Pushpa, a surrogate mother in Anand district, Gujarat, is part of this fledging industry and says that she is realising her dreams through this motherhood of a different kind.

“I live in a rented house but once money comes in we could easily build our own house,” Pushpa said.

But there are only two laws in India that deal with infant and the mother. The first one bans advertisement of baby food to encourage breastfeeding and the second one deals with maternity leave of the mother. However, no statues regulate surrogate motherhood in India.

So the proposed legislation will deal broadly with three issues – pre- and post-natal health care for the surrogate mother and the child, legal and financial obligation of the client in case of death of either the child or the mother and issues related to organ donations in the future.

In another move the ambit of the law to protect women from domestic violence is being increased, the proposal is to protect children through the law.

"We are just trying to make it an all-inclusive law so that everybody can be protected under one umbrella,” Women and Child Development Minister, Renuka Chaudhary said.

Whether real or surrogate, rights of the mother have become a matter of concern for the ministry and this time no stones will be left unturned.


Mumbai cops step up crackdown on dance bars

Mumbai: It is been two years since dance bars were banned in Mumbai but many are still running, and the Mumbai Police is cracking down on them.

Recently, nine girls were arrested for soliciting customers at one such bar during a late night raid. A few days ago, six girls were arrested in a similar raid.

"Nine girls were arrested. They were soliciting customers,” says Inspector, Special Service Branch, R B Mane.

Many dance bars continue to thrive in some form or the other. Some feature live orchestras to entertain customers, and have women waiters.

Though it is legally allowed only up to 9: 30 pm, the bars generally close around 1:30 am.

Dance bar owners say the police crackdown is not justified, as the Supreme Court is still hearing their case.

"This is legal extortion,” says president, Dance Bars Association, Manjeet Singh Sethi.

While many of the dance bars still survive, reinvented as Orchestra Bars, fate hasn't been this kind to the dance bar girls themselves.

Thursday , November 01, 2007

Made famous by the film Chandni Bar, many dancers found themselves out of work after the ban, and have had no option but to turn to the flesh trade.

“Prostitution is up 10 fold. They have so many expenses and can only earn 100 -200 rupees a day as waiters,” says Singh.

NGOs demand that the girls should be treated as victims of the flesh trade. If caught by the police they face action under the Prevention of Immoral Trafficking Act.

And often the real culprits get away scott free.

In one case while the girls, orchestra members and the bar manager were arrested, the owner escaped.


Do Delhi’s child workers and Dubai’s labourers need these crocodile tears?

Natteri Adigal, 05 November 2007, Monday

The instigators, who nudge the construction labourers of Dubai to go on strike and the self-styled good Samaritans hyping their rescue operations to free child labourers in Indian cities are in fact the worst enemies of their supposed beneficiaries.

SAN FRANCISCO-BASED retailer Gap, more than 200 of whose 2000 suppliers of garments are from India, has given them a big Diwali bonus. But it is a cruel one.

Acting on an expose in the British newspaper, The Observer, about conditions in the tiny factories of its sub-vendors, Gap has decided to recall goods sourced from a Delhi-based supplier. The hand-stitched blouses intended for sale in GapKids stores across the United States and Europe, were allegedly produced by child labour. “As soon as we were alerted to this situation, we stopped the work order and prevented the product from being sold in stores," said Marka Hansen, president of Gap, North America.

A couple of weeks previously, Gap had pulled up another Indian supplier, Texport Overseas, based at Bangalore, after reports of the death of a woman worker on duty. Later, it was clarified that she had a brain tumour. With loud controversies in global media about its Indian vendors doing damage to its brand, the MNC is expected to rethink on doing business with India. It has already launched an investigation as to how work was being “parceled out to unauthorized sub-vendors.”

The British newspaper had printed pictures of youngsters making clothes for other children like themselves and revealed that they were employed in a "derelict industrial unit" with an overflowing toilet. It said such sweatshops were common in India and questioned the ethics of Gap. Obviously it was with the help of romantic homegrown social workers that the story was filed. Crusaders from the affluent West, who think it is “the white man’s burden” to protect the interests of poor Asians, have been often been joined by our own crusaders. But, do the impoverished children need their crocodile tears?

Activists and police, following the report, raided the “sweatshops” in Delhi, which were in full swing to execute heavy Christmas/New Year orders. They found 14 boys, aged up to as low as 10 years, embroidering sequins on saris. A majority of them were from the impoverished State of Bihar. In further raids, police caught another 77 child workers. “We are taking down their addresses, so that they can be sent to their parents," a police official said after a swoop.

After the rescue, what? That is too uncomfortable a question for romantic activists who “rescue” such children. For, the children are set free to go home to Bihar only to starve along with their family!

Laws are on paper in India prohibiting children under 14 from working in "hazardous" professions, covering 13 occupations and 57 processes. Garment, mining, hospitality and domestic sectors are in the list. However, these laws only help several thousand government inspectors to collect their pay and perks from the exchequer and the inevitable routine bribe from employers. It is open knowledge that Indian labour force includes between 75 and 90 million children. That is the inevitable result of stark reality of poverty in rural India, even as the media and political leaders go bonkers over India having more billionaires than China!

According to official figures, 12 million pre-teens work as domestic helps, in roadside eateries and in factories. According to anti-child labour activists, the figure is more than 60 million. The textile and garment industry itself employs about 44 million people. A high-profile good Samaritan of the Save the Childhood Foundation, Bhuwan Ribhu, basking in the glare of TV cameras, said that a few dozen children had already been “rescued” and claimed that his organisation works to rehabilitate child workers.

Activists and the media have a habit of going to town quite regularly to create a scare about the “appalling conditions” that the labourers work in. Apart from triggering shock and chest beating at the horror, all that these campaigns create is a scare that puts a temporary brake in the output of these factories. Yes, they also hike the bribe amount payable to inspectors!

In a separate development, the media in the West has gone to town about the “dark side of Dubai’s economic boom exacting harsh human toll.” Our own “conscientious” intellectuals and organisations have joined it. Any number of reports have been published that migrant labourers in the UAE live in squalid labour camps, work under poor safety standards and do forced overtime to eke out a living. The labourers are supposedly finding it all but impossible to send money home. A culmination of the campaign occurred at the Sonapur labor camp on the outskirts of Dubai this weekend.

Instigated by the good Samaritans, labourers in Jabel Ali project in Dubai resorted to what they are used to at home: demonstrate noisily. "We are on strike ... We want better salaries," said one Indian laborer as he stood at the gate of Sonapur labor camp on the outskirts of Dubai. He was part of a group of over 4000 labourers, who were detained for staging protest at Jebel Ali. A senior Labour Ministry official in Abu Dhabi had warned that all violent protestors would be booked and deported. The workers were so frustrated over pay and poor living conditions that they did not pay much heed.

Of course, it is not a pleasant experience to be a construction worker in the Gulf. Workers have to toil for long hours under the blazing sun in the desert emirate. Temperatures exceed 45 degree Celcius in the summers, and humidity is stifling for most of the year. Big crowds of laborers have to wait for long hours after work at the sites to get their turn to board buses that take them to far away camps. The distant accommodation is engulfed in dust and they get only a few hours of sleep before queuing up again for shuttling back to work.

But, has anybody stopped to ponder over the condition that construction workers back home live in? How much do they get, even during the current boom condition? It is common sight to see several families huddling together inside big concrete pipes by the roadsides. They have to cook their food in the open and cannot have a full meal more than once daily. Most of them even do not have this type of “roof” over their head.

Some 1.5 million Indians live in the UAE, more than half of them in Dubai. Abu Dhabi accounts for 300,000 and the rest live in the other five emirates. Most of them do manual labour in the booming construction industry. Quite a lot of them had entered the country illegally because of the penury and lack of opportunities back home. In June, the UAE government had announced an amnesty scheme for all foreign workers. They could either regularise their status or could leave the country without serving a jail term, according to the law, or paying penalty. The government even offered a free one-way ticket. Except for workers, who had been there long enough to remit substantial money back home, not many availed it.

Political elements among these veterans have been inciting the labourers that UAE has been prospering only by underpaying them. Illiterates, hailing mostly from Rajasthan, Punjab and Andhra Pradesh, were encouraged by these “good Samaritans” to go on strike to bring work projects that includes world’s tallest building to a grinding halt.

After the protest and the indignation raised by the international media, the construction company has posted a notice at the entrance of Sonapur camp – a three-storey concrete structure rented by it. The company promises that two doctors will start visiting the accommodation regularly. It has also undertaken to pay for the cost of air conditioning and cooking gas. "There is no mention of hike in salaries,” fumes an Indian worker. “We only want Dh 900 for unskilled workers and Dh 1200 from Dh 500 and Dh 700.” In neighboring building housing workers from another company, 24-year-old Bangladeshi laborer Mahmud Jaui complains that his Dh 500 monthly wage is barely enough to live on. He says, "Company does not provide us with food or water. We drink tap water."

Dubai Police chief, Dhahi Khalfan Tamim finds the charges amusing. He wants to know if these labourers had ever entered an air-conditioned space back home, where womenfolk trek several miles daily to fill their pots from open water bodies. He is keen to throw out the 4000 protestors out of the country.

Talmiz Ahmed, Indian ambassador to UAE, has managed to defuse the situation. Khaleej Times quoted him, "The matter is being resolved amicably." He clarified that only those workers against whom the police had firm evidence of having indulged in violence and causing damage to public and private properties would be prosecuted by the authorities. Other Indian workers would have the option to either stay on in Dubai and continue to work for the local contracting company, or else leave their job voluntarily and return to India.

According to the ambassador’s formula, labourers not desiring to quit have to furnish an affidavit and swear that they will not indulge in any such illegal activities and will fulfill all their contractual obligations. However, Dhahi Khalfan Tamim is categorical, "We have firm evidence against those workers who indulged in violence and they will all have to face legal action." The police reportedly had filmed some of the workers inciting violence, and those workers would be deported even if they gave an affidavit.

Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has urged the authorities to ensure that the right of protest of the workers be acknowledged. Deporting the workers trying to protect their rights by themselves is unacceptable, it said. But such statements are only for the consumption of desk-bound officials at meetings. While one Dubai official said 4000 strikers would be deported, another denied any move to a mass deportation.

Politicians back in India have started looking for obtaining mileage out of the plight of the Dubai labourers, caught between the devil and deep sea. Chandrababu Naidu, reputed to have made a Cyberabad out of Hyderabad, proved that basically he is a politician. He criticised the UPA Government that it has no humanitarian outlook and has been behaving irresponsibly in respect of rescuing the Gulf returnees, victims and their families. Naidu wants a special package for the returnees. As for the victims of Andhites, who committed suicide after falling prey to the allurements of Gulf agents, Naidu wants Rs 3 lakh to be paid ex-gratia to the next of kin, government employment to their children and allotment of ‘pucca’ houses! Interestingly, several MPs of his Party are facing charges of involvement in human trafficking!

Let us face it. Why are the labourers so keen to go to the desert, knowing fully well the conditions there? Is it not because they have no opportunities back home even to get basic necessities of life? Can “humanitarian outlook” alone ensure that the children of these unfortunate labourers be fed and educated and not made to land up as child labourers in sweatshops? The only alternative to prevent the tragedy is to dump all sorts of ideologies that come in the way of job creation. Till then, people will pay lakh of rupees to agents, MLAs and MPs to get them smuggled out of the country.

Let us face it yet again. It is indeed appalling to visualise the nimble fingers of a 10-year-old handling needles for hours together. But, does it make sense to see him/her digging on garbage heaps for food or begging on the streets? In all probability, soon after being sent back to their parents in Bihar, the lads will end up in another sweatshop, perhaps for a lesser wage because they will have to learn the work all over again.

Dignitaries like Kailash Satyarthi and Bhuwan Ribhu, who derive immense satisfaction after their rescue operations under media glare, may answer that it would be better to die than having to subsist on labour as a child! The question is, are they doing any good to their supposed beneficiaries.


Gap Inc. Acts on Child Labor Charges

Bay Area apparel giant ends relationship with New Delhi, India contractor

SAN FRANCISCO – 11/01/07 – Multinational apparel giant Gap Inc. has severed ties with a major contractor in New Delhi, India after learning that the company employed children in its manufacturing operations.

“We strictly prohibit the use of child labor. This is non-negotiable for us…and we are deeply concerned and upset by this allegation,” said Gap North America President Marka Hansen after making the announcement of the Bay Area-headquartered company’s decision.

The statement followed revelations in a British newspaper, The Observer, that quoted child workers’ accounts of being sold by their parents, forced to work 16-hour days without pay and being beaten.

Children as young as 10 years old were held “in conditions of abject slavery,” the paper reported in a recent edition.

Hansen said the Gap Inc. “is committed to fighting for workers’ rights in cooperation with governments, nongovernmental organizations, trade unions and other interested parties.”

She added that “lapses exposed several years ago caused Gap to make serious efforts to monitor and prevent sweatshop and child labor in countries where its products are made.”

Social responsibility “is now part of [the company’s] mission,” she said.

“As soon as we were alerted to this situation, we stopped the work order and prevented the product from being sold in stores,” Hansen said, citing Gap’s “strict prohibition on child labor.”

Gap called an emergency meeting with regional suppliers to reinforce the policy.

Gap spokesman Bill Chandler told the Associated Press, “Under no circumstances is it acceptable for children to produce or work on garments,” saying the company is grateful “that the media identified this subcontractor.”

Indian lawyer and workers advocate Bhuwan Ribhu said that while he appreciated Gap’s actions, “Instead of canceling the order the [company] should make sure that wherever their production is going on, the manufacturing units shouldn’t employ children and also [should] regularly monitor their contractors and subcontractors.”

Sudhanshu Joshi, executive director of the Washington, DC-based International Center on Child Labor and Education (ICCLE), was “not surprised” by Gap's decision.

“There have been complaints for a long time about Gap,” said Joshi, who has worked on the issue for United Nations agencies, the International Labor Organization (ILO) and the World Bank, added that child labor is “endemic” in India.

“Gap has to prove that it is not going to thrive in business on the strength of the very cheap child labor that is available,” he said, recommending “stronger involvement of businesses with governments and civil society to monitor industries prone to using child labor.”

The US Department of Labor’s 2006 International Child Labor Report stated that approximately 4.1% of boys and 4.0% of girls ages 5 to 14 are forced to work in India with most working in agriculture, but children are employed in many other, often hazardous, industries.

Living conditions for the children are routinely sub-standard and abuse is common, the report said.

According to the Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA), India’s most active anti-child labor organization, children may be purchased for labor in impoverished villages of India for as little as $12.50.

A day after the The Observer story ran, the BBA, in cooperation with law enforcement, rescued 14 bonded child laborers in New Delhi.

The children, the youngest only 8 years old, embroidered fabric in the same Shahpur Jaat neighborhood and under conditions similar to those the children making clothes for Gap have been subjected to.

BBA co-founder Kailash Satyarthi said, “We are glad that after so many years the situation has changed a little as the international brands like Gap have admitted that there is child labor involved in their supply chain, and we also appreciate their immediate response to the situation.”

However, stronger steps are needed, he said, adding that he advocates the creation of a certifying body such as Rugmark, which prevents child labor through strict guidelines and regular monitoring.

India has progressed in curbing child labor, Joshi said, but it still has a long way to go.

“The government of India has been very, very bold and proactive,” he said, but the country should sign the International Labour Organization’s 1999 Convention No. 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labor, which has been ratified by 165 nations.

“It would have huge value,” and send “a strong message.”

The 2006 Trafficking in Persons Report, compiled by the US State Department, found that Indian law enforcement insufficient for the scope of the problem, and is frequently hampered by corruption.

In addition, numerous “factories” employing child laborers are small units operating from small homes in crowded residential areas, the report said.

The US Department of Labor currently partners with the government of India on the INDUS Project, which has the goal of liberating 80,000 Indian children from hazardous work by September 2008.

To the ICCLE’s Joshi, education is critical, and he said good education can be given to all “in the new resurgent India, which has the means to do that, and show to the world it can do it.”


ndia’s child labourers - they don’t go to school

Mon, 29 Oct 2007.
Twelve million children aged between 5 and 14 work in various occupations including hazardous occupations

Florence Samuel, New Socialist Alternative (CWI India)CHINA WORKER

India is known for its rich variety in culture and also diversity in places and religions. Taj Mahal, Himalayas, Qutub Minar, Golden Temple, Kashmir& Khajuraho attract everyone’s admiration. In modern times India is making news for its unprecedented growth in the macro economy as well, it is also said that India is emerging as a knowledge society.

But is it enough to pat our own backs and feel contented when millions in this country go hungry everyday? Do we have the knowledge to understand the intractable problems faced by the vast majority of our population? Any objective viewer would certainly notice the evils of our society such as the discrimination of women, daliths & religious minorities. Above all the class-divide between the rich and the poor is so stark that it makes any conscious human being sit-up and think.

The children are the future…..!

Have you heard this oft repeated jargon somewhere?

India’s Government estimates (Census 2001) that over 12 million children aged between 5 and 14 continue to work in various occupations including many hazardous occupations. This includes about 1, 85,595 children who are estimated to be engaged in domestic work and roadside eateries.

Yes, child labour is a serious issue as serious as trafficking. The powers that be at the top claim that India is the largest democracy but the question is, is it being governed for the benefit of the majority? The rulers of this country irrespective of the ideology or the name of their party would like to showcase India @ 60 as a success story, but is it true?

Since independence the picture of India has been changing for the worse. Now-a-days you can find children from the age of 8-14 do such a laborious work that even the actual adult labourer would not have done. Instead of studying, playing and eating properly, they are working to get few rupees to their home. You can find children working in every possible area, for instance starting from household, garbage lifting, hotels, brick kilns , stone quarries and construction works, not only that you can see then very hard working, sitting under the scorching sun from 6 am – 8pm more than 8 hours of work.

The Child Labour Prevention Act which was amended on 10th of October 2006 banned children under 14 working as domestic servants and in dhabas, restaurants, hotels, and other hospitality sectors, making employing the above groups a punishable offence.

One year on, how far has the act been implemented by the national and state governments? The Central government had asked state governments to develop action plans to rescue and rehabilitate children who are working as child labourers. So far only three State governments have published these plans - Maharashtra, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, and even today 74% of child domestic workers are under the age of 16.

Some of the recent findings of a study on Child Domestic work have been:

• 99% of child domestic workers in Delhi and 84% in Kolkata are girls.

• Most child domestic workers are young girls who come from poor families and are forced to work for up to 15 hours a day with no breaks and little or no pay.

• 68% of the children surveyed had faced physical abuse and 46.6% of the children had faced severe abuse that had led to injuries

• 32.2% have had their private parts touched by the abuser, 20% had been forced to have sexual intercourse

• 50% of children do not get any leave in a year, 37% never see their families

• 32% of families have no idea where their daughters are working, 27% admitted they know they were getting beaten and harassed.

• 78% of workers receive less than Rs. 500 per month.

• In Delhi, 49% earn 1000- 1500 in a month. 16.4% get less than that.

• 42.7% do not know or have not been given their present address.

• 35% are brought to Delhi by relatives, 2% through agents and 22% through known agents.

India retains the world record for the employment of child labour. Balai Data Bank of Manila puts the figure at 100 million. Asia Labour Monitor says every third household in India has working children and over 20% of India's GNP is contributed by child workers.

Eight million children from scheduled-caste or scheduled-tribe families, some as young as 7 years, work as bonded labourers in the villages. These statistics give a graphic picture of the horrors of capitalism. Children suffer accidents and disease and become prematurely old.

More than 416,000 children under the age of 18, of whom almost 225,000 are younger than 14, are involved in child labour in India's cottonseed production. Most of them are girls.

They work in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, which account for nearly 92 per cent of the cottonseed production in the country.

A recent report titled 'Child bondage continues in Indian cotton supply chain' reveals that the total number of working children in cotton fields has risen over 2003-04.

According to the report, more than 13 Indian companies and two multinationals, Monsanto and Bayer, are involved in this modern form of child slavery.

Child Labour is a scourge - it must end!

Child labour has serious socio-economic effects. First, child labourers face major health and physical risks. They often work long hours and are required to undertake tasks that they are physically and developmentally unprepared to do. Carpet weaving, for example, can damage children’s eyes. Leather tanning can result in physical deformity. The Children of Sivakasi in Tamilnadu where most of the fire cracker & Fire Match industry is situated, have been suffering from bone deformities because of the dangerous Phosphorous with which they are forced to work with.

These physical dangers are compounded, as children are more liable than adults to suffer occupational injuries, owing to inattention, fatigue, poor judgement and insufficient knowledge of work processes. These health and physical effects are not limited to industrial occupations. The introduction of advanced farming techniques, new technologies, and chemicals can cause the same physical hazards in agricultural labour.

Second, child labourers are often underpaid, if at all. Children receive a fraction of the wage adults earn, even when employed in the same type of work. Also, children do not receive employment benefits, insurance, or social security. Thus, the employment of children becomes a competitive advantage for employers and even whole industries.

Finally, it is difficult for children to attend school or receive vocational training. Obviously, children working long hours have trouble attending school on a regular basis. Even if children are not working long hours, stress and fatigue affects their attendance and participation in school activities.


Overwhelming poverty in India drives most child labourers into the workforce. In some cases, children work alongside their parents in an effort to raise their household income. This practice is prevalent in agricultural and domestic labour. Many children are forced into industrial labour. Some of these children have migrated to urban centres with their families to escape rural poverty. Others move to urban centres to look for work and send their families monthly income supplements.

The New Socialist Alternative will fight alongside the trade unions and the youth for an end to child labour slavery, as was done successfully in the past by the trade unions of Europe and America. Meanwhile we demand a limit of two to four hours work per day, at full adult wages agreed by trade union rates; education at the employer’s expense; reasonable access to a proper family life; and strict health and safety conditions in the workplaces; all under trade-union supervision.

As the government of the day has given full freedom to private sector this has lead to a monster called CAPITALISM which has ruined the life of all the classes. The profit driven capitalism is the root cause of all evils and it has to go. Make Capitalism history! Only then we will say THE CHILDREN GO TO SCHOOL


When will it be the children’s day?

5 Nov, 2007, 0000 hrs IST,Tina Edwin, TNN

For the rupee-hit textile exporters, the expose in the western media about use of child labour could not have come at a worse time. Cancellation of orders by retailers overseas and closure of units will primarily hurt the poor families who were forced to send their children to work in conditions which most adults would abhor. The truth is that child labour cannot be wished away in India and other developing nations with vast population living below the poverty line.

In India, the situation may only get worse, rather than improve, as people get displaced from their natural habitation to make way for special economic zones, power plants and factories. The activism of the non-governmental organisation whereby children are ‘rescued’ and sent home does nothing to improve their lot. In doing so, NGOs may be pushing the children live a more difficult life, perhaps on the streets, begging for a living or taking to petty crimes. In many other cases, the parents may once again hand over the child to another contractor to work in another factory in a different part of the country.

Social activists based overseas and in India need to take cognizance of realities that drive people to send their children out to work. And accordingly, they need to realign their activism to ensure that children get a better deal at workplace - shorter hours of work, better and timely wages, decent boarding and nutritious food. That apart, it should be ensured that children are able to continue with their education at least till the age of 14, like all others, along with work. But that is not to say that child labour is acceptable. In an ideal world, every child should go through school, without worrying whether they would get their next meal.

But we don’t live in an ideal world and hunger is a reality for more than a third of the country’s population. Child labour cannot be scrapped by legislation or NGO activism. Poverty needs to be tackled with responsibility and accountability by the political and administrative establishment if child labour has to be abolished. That would require, among other things, more honest and efficient implementation of the poverty reduction and employment generation programmes funded by the central and state governments.

As it stands now, a sizeable proportion of the funds allocated for these programmes are spent on establishment cost and salaries of those put in charge of the project. More often than not, a significant portion is siphoned away by the contractors given the charge of the project. Thus, a very small portion actually reach the beneficiaries.

Again, poverty alleviation programmes are meant to be short term and thus have limited impact. A longer-term solution to reducing poverty requires expansion of economic activity, particularly in the rural areas, whereby jobs are initially created for unskilled work. Alongside, it is necessary to create opportunities for workers to acquire some skills that will enable them to take up better quality work and earn higher wages. Improved earnings can act to encourage people to send their children to school rather than work. And for that, it is important to ensure schools function with teachers who take their responsibility to educate the young seriously.