Today's child is the future of tomorrow. Children are the artisans of building the country. Children constitute 45 per cent of the total population of Bangladesh. But they are crushed on the threshing floor of labour, children's mischievous childhood and bright future are lost in the abyss of darkness.
Child labour is a serious problem in South Asian countries. At the age when a child is supposed to spend his childhood in school with a book in his hand, he has to toil hard at a brick field or an industrial factory.
Although child labour is prohibited in all cases, the tragic picture of child labour can be seen when one leaves the house. In hotels, motels, launches, buses, brick kilns, stone quarries, garages, aluminum factories, mills, homes, sweets and biscuit factories, tobacco industry, leather industry, tea industry and any other heavy industry, the true picture of child labour is found there.
The children of the families afflicted by the cruel scourge of poverty cannot but engage in child labour to give them a handful of rice.
In the context of Bangladesh, the first and foremost cause of child labour is 'economic hardship'. There have been various studies on child age and child labour.
In 1974, the Children's Act set the age limit of a child at 16 years. In 1989, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child stated that 18 years would be the maximum period for a child. The National Child Policy formulated in 1994 set the age limit of children at 14 years. On June 1, 2003, the children's age limit was set at 16 years. In 2006, under Section 2 (63) of the Bangladesh Labour Act, 'child' means a person who has not reached the age of 14 years. Sections 2-1 of the National Children's Policy in 2011 refers to a person under the age of 18.
The International Labour Organization and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child say in the context of child labour: "When a labour or work environment becomes dangerous and detrimental to the physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development of a child, it shall be deemed to be child labour." UNICEF defines child labor as "the kind of work that interferes with a child's health and education."
The International Labour Organization (ILO) has been observing World Child Labour Day since June 12, 2002 to protect the rights of children and eliminate risky child labour. This day is celebrated in 80 countries of the world including Bangladesh every year.
Article 17 of the Constitution of Bangladesh provides clear guidelines on compulsory unpaid education for children, Article 18 on nutrition and health protection, Article 28 on enactment of special welfare and development laws, and Article 34 on forcible prohibition of child labour. There are numerous policies at the national and international levels to stop child labour.
According to the National Child Policy formulated in 2011, risky work cannot be done by any child aged between 5-18 years. The Children's Act 2013 states that any person who injures, abuses or neglects a child in his charge shall be liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years.
A survey conducted by the International Labour Organization and UNICEF has found that child labour is currently employed in about 310 types of economic activities in urban Bangladesh.
Inhumane torture of child labourers is constantly happening around us-child domestic workers brutally tortured by owners for breaking plates while working, hotel child waiters tortured for breaking glass, child labourers tortured for doing anything wrong at work. We often see in the media how children engaged in such risky occupations are constantly subjected to brutal abuse.
What we need to do to stop child labour:
1) Child labour is called the harvest of poverty. Poverty is at the root of child labour. In order to stop child labour, poverty must be eradicated first.
2) To stop inhuman child labour, we have to change our mental attitude, we have to think of other people's children as our own children.
3) The problems of children below 14 years of age should be identified and solved at the district level.
4) Village and town-based rehabilitation projects should be taken to stop child labour. Make a list of children who are being employed due to scarcity of funds and pay child allowance.
5) The government has to implement the existing laws to eliminate child labour and adopt short, medium and long-term plans. It is possible to eliminate child labour with the joint initiative of all.
6) In order to eliminate child labour, it is necessary to find out where child labour is taking place and to spread more and more information about it in the media.
7) It is seen that there are many owners who have to pay more, so they do not employ adults. Because of working with children, these owners need to be punished.
8) Child labour should be given priority in the national social security strategy.
9) Every working child must ensure education.
10) Public awareness about child labour and children's rights should be created.
Children are the future leaders of the country and the nation. Today's children will take the noble responsibility of running the country and leading the nation of tomorrow. Therefore, it is essential to groom children as worthy citizens. In the developed countries of the world, various types of care systems have been developed for the physical, mental and intellectual development of children. But in our country children are being deprived of their basic rights in many ways due to illiteracy and poverty. They have to engage in various occupations from the very beginning of their lives because of poverty.
Since children will take the helm of the country and lead the nation in the days to come, it is necessary to free children from the scourge of labour and enlighten them in the light of education. Above all, we all must come forward to stop child labour and protect the rights of children.
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