The Punjab government has proven its mettle once again as it passed a historic ordinance banning the employment of children and restricting the recruitment of adolescents, 15 to 18 years of age, for hazardous occupations. Due to the absence of this law, millions of children of Pakistan remained unprotected by the state, and were made vulnerable to the worst kind of exploitation at the hands of the perpetrators; be it in the form of employers, slave masters, traffickers or sexual abusers. This law significantly protects children and adolescents against any form of slavery or practices such as their sale and trafficking, debt bondage and serfdom, prostitution or trafficking of drugs.

Child labour remains one of the most heart-breaking issues for Pakistan and its children. Laws have been passed earlier in an attempt to limit child labour and indentured servitude, but those laws leave room for ambiguity and hence are universally ignored. Some 11 million children aged four to fourteen; keep the country’s factories operating, mines excavated and fields ploughed for agriculture, more than often working in brutal and squalid conditions. In December 2014, the U.S. Department of Labour’s List of Goods Produced by Child Labour or Forced Labour, reported 9 goods of which 6 are produced by child labourers in Pakistan. These include the making of bricks, carpets, glass bangles, leather and surgical instruments, as well as coal mining.

Employing or permitting to work a child in an establishment will be punishable with up to six-month imprisonment which shall not be less than seven days, and with up to Rs50,000 fine which shall not be less than Rs10,000. There is up to six-month imprisonment, up to Rs75,000 fine for employing any adolescent to carry out any hazardous work. It is about time that stricter punishment is enforced upon those who view children as easy targets and mere tools for their aspirations. This law was a long time coming and it is hoped that it will be enforced in practice without further delay.