KARACHI - Speakers at a seminar on Wednesday demanded the Sindh government put an immediate ban on child domestic labour.

The event was organised by the Society for Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC) in its week-long celebration campaign under the theme of “No to Child Labour in Domestic Work” in connection with World Day against Child Labour.

PPP MPA Sharmila Farooqi while speaking as chief guest said there was no comprehensive law for dealing children employment in Pakistan that protect children under the age of 18 from all form of labour. She called all legislators to initiate legislation for child labourers on their respective province.

PILER Executive Director Karamat Ali said no child should be involved in labour and in domestic work otherwise its results would be very much horrible. He opined that there was no need to make new laws as numbers of laws were available which needed implementation.

Justice (r) Zafar Sherwani while putting light upon all previous laws said that laws were made but lack of implementation causing problem complicated in terms of exploitation of children. He opined that lawmakers were involved in law breaking.

SPARC Provincial Manager Nazra Jahan said it was important to note that in the absence of a national database on child labour, international NGOs and donor organisations provide estimates of underage employment in Pakistan. According to ILO, the number of child labourers in Pakistan exceeded 12 million in 2012.  UNICEF estimates state that there were around ten million underage workers in the country in 2012, she added.

Similarly, Child Rights Movement (CRM) points out that there were approximately 9.86 million children and adolescents between the ages of 10 and 19 years in Pakistan who were active in the labour force; 2.58 million of these children were between 10 and 14, while thousands more were even younger than the age of 10.  According to Pakistan Bureau of Statistics Labour Force Survey 2010-11, around 4.29 % of the children aged 10-14 years are active in the country’s labour force. This is a significant percentage considering that the survey fails to take into account the employment of children below ten years of age. It is estimated that 35.4% of 190 million Pakistanis are aged between 0-14 years. 

Furthermore, Pakistan has the second largest out of school population in the world with 7.26 million children out of school due to poverty. Of these, girl children account for 4.21 million of the total. Pakistan has the second largest out of school population in the world. In April 2012 UNICEF reported that around 7.3 million children of primary school age do not attend any school, she noted.

She opined that employment of children in domestic labour is hard to ascertain because of its highly informal or ‘hidden’ nature. Labour inspectors are unable to monitor households where underage employees may be subjected to physical violence, long working hours, dangerous working environments, insufficient food and inappropriate accommodation. According to the ILO, there were approximately 15.5 million child domestic workers (age 5 to 17 years) around the world. More than 7.4 million children in this number were aged 5-14 years. 

In Pakistan thousands of children working as domestic servants are deprived of their basic right to education and are often subjected to abuse and violence. Between January 2010 and December 2011 the media reported 18 cases of severe torture and abuse of child domestic labourers. Of these 18 children, 13 died as a direct result of the violence inflicted upon them at the hands of their employers, she added.

In 2012, a number of cases of violence against domestic workers were reported from across the country some resulted in the death of the victims. In past five months of 2013 total 9 cases of violence against child domestic workers were reported in media out of which 5 resulted in the death of victim child.

The participants of the seminar demanded of from the newly-elected government to put an immediate ban on child domestic labour by putting it in the list of banned occupations provided under the Employment of Child Act (ECA). Also increase the minimum age of employment under ECA from 14 years to 16 years to make it in line with Article 25-A of the Constitution of Pakistan; thereby allowing children to avail their fundamental right to free and compulsory education.

Rana Asif, Athar shah from Labour Department, Abdullah Langah, Nazra and Moula Bux Bhutto also spoke.

In Lahore, Child Rights Movement(CRM) hold a peaceful demonstration under the theme: “No to Child Labor in Domestic Work” to show the solidarity and demands from Government to put an immediate ban on child domestic labor.

It was shared by CRM that in the absence of a national database on child labor, international NGOs and donor organizations provide estimates of underage employment in Pakistan. According to ILO, the number of child laborers in Pakistan exceeded 12 million in 2012.  UNICEF estimates state that there were around ten million underage workers in the country in 2012.  Similarly, Child Rights Movement (CRM) points out that there were approximately 9.86 million children and adolescents between the ages of 10 and 19 years in Pakistan who were active in the labor force; 2.58 million of these children were between 10 and 14, while thousands more were even younger than the age of 10.  According to Pakistan Bureau of Statistics Labor Force Survey 2010-11, around 4.29 % of the children aged 10-14 years are active in the country’s labor force. This is a significant percentage considering that the survey fails to take into account the employment of children below ten years of age. It is estimated that 35.4% of 190 million Pakistanis are aged between 0-14 years. 

Furthermore, Pakistan has the second largest out of school population in the world with 7.26 million children out of school due to poverty. Of these, girl children account for 4.21 million of the total. Pakistan has the second largest out of school population in the world. In April 2012 Unicef reported that around 7.3 million children of primary school age do not attend any school.  Similar functions were held across the country to mark the day.