Child labor in Pakistan continues to be a reality faced by many Pakistani children. Deprived of the opportunity to study like most other children, many are forced into work from an early age. Although Pakistan’s Employment of Children Act 1991 addresses this issue, the country continues to have difficulties implementing the legislation.
Child Labor in Pakistan
According to a 2018 report by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), Pakistan has a big problem with child labor: an estimated 12 million children work in the country. Many of these children have limited educational opportunities. One of the most common jobs that these children are forced to do is domestic servitude, which requires children to serve the owners of the house. These child laborers may be forced to work from dawn to dusk, fed with leftovers and allowed to be punished in different ways. As a result of this form of labor, children are deprived of healthcare and education.
Since 2016, a project called Pakistan Decent Work Country Programme has operated in Pakistan. The organization assists the Pakistani government in eliminating the worst forms of forced labor for children. However, a new campaign is targeting attention on domestic child labor in Pakistan.
End Child Domestic Labor Campaign
In Pakistan, it is illegal to employ children under the age of 18 in factories. Until recently, the country lacked a law prohibiting children from working at home in most states. However, in June, a campaign was launched by Idare-e-Taleem-o-Asgahi (ITA) called End Child Domestic Labor. The campaign consists of 20 rights-based Pakistani organizations and suggests that children between 10 and 18 years of age belonging to any economic stratum be treated the same. In short, it argues that child abuse occurring through domestic labor must end. Accordingly, the campaign proposed a constitutional amendment that would prohibit all children under the age of 16 from engaging in any type of work.
Along with the campaign, the International Labor Organization (ILO) has developed the following strategies to address child labor in Pakistan:
- Strengthen the capacity of tripartite constituents to address child and bonded labor in the rural economy.
- Raise awareness in rural communities about the importance of ending child labor and bonded labor.
- Support federal and provincial authorities to improve their capacities in data collection and analysis.
- Promote inter-agency cooperation, partnership and learning to improve knowledge sharing and advocacy.
- Support ILO constituents to develop a community system for monitoring children and bonded labor.
New Law Bans Child Labor in Pakistan
On Aug. 6, 2020, Pakistan banned child domestic labor for the first time, passing an amendment that makes it illegal for children to participate in domestic labor. The government recognized the consequences of this labor, such as trauma and abuse, among young domestic workers.
The new law was implemented in response to the death of Zohra Shah, an 8-year-old girl and domestic worker who was brutally beaten and died. At the same time, Shah is not the only victim of abuse as a result of child labor in Pakistan. Among the other victims is 16-year-old Uzma Bibi, who was beaten. In addition, 10-year-old Tayyaba Quein was abused, making this a serious problem for the country. Accordingly, the Federal Minister of Human Rights announced that the cabinet’s decision will now include child domestic labor under the Employment of Children Act 1991.
The new law marks a change in Pakistan, where children will have access to education and a better life, without mistreatment or abuse. At the same time, it takes a step toward a better quality of life for all minors who are forced to work. This is and will be a great step for children’s rights and an example for other countries.
– Juliet Quintero