DO WORKING CHILDREN KNOW THEIR RIGHTS?
Authored by - Dr. C. Balaramalingam
Assistant Professor in Sociology,
The Central Law College, Salem.
Every society can make sustainable progress and development by investing in its children. Yet, poverty has worsened and social services have been undermined as a result of global apartheid. Child work is a glaring example of how poverty affects children (UNICEF, 2001). Due of their vulnerability, they require attention and protection. Child rights emphasize individual freedom and liberties, as well as protection from discrimination. Child labour is a physical manifestation of the denial of rights to survival, development, education, leisure, and play. In order to understand the issue in detail the present paper attempts to a) to examine the knowledge of rights and the relationship with child labor, b) to study the knowledge flow or mode of knowledge regarding child rights among child labors. Data for the paper is from an intensive study conducted among 32 working children in hosiery units of Tirupur. Study findings indicate very minimal knowledge among the children regarding their rights and there is no evidence indicating the exercise of rights. Social cultural context and work environments are major constraining forces.
Key Words: Child labour, Child rights, Hosiery units, Tiruppur.
Child labour is a concrete manifestation of the denial of children's rights. Working children are denied the right to survival and development, education, leisure and play, opportunities for physical and mental development, and protection from abuse and neglect. Decisions about the employment of children are frequently made by adults who have authority over them, and not always with the consent of the children themselves, who have basic rights and freedoms comparable to adults under human rights canons, taking into account their age, maturity, and parental responsibility. Children must grow up in an environment that allows them to live a free and dignified life. Education and training opportunities will be provided to help them grow into responsible citizens. Unfortunately, many children are denied their fundamental rights. They can be found working in a variety of economic sectors, particularly in the unorganized sector. Some are imprisoned and beaten, reduced to slavery, or denied their freedom of movement, making child labour a human rights and development issue. The close links between child labour and poverty, illiteracy, poor health, and gender inequalities highlight the need for broad-based social and economic progress. The exploitation of working men, women, and children is deeply entrenched in our society. But we must be careful not to imitate the logic of the state, which both legitimizes and condemns exploitation. The issue of rights cannot be resolved as long as the capitalist system is vicious and violent. Children are valuable assets for any country’s long-term progress and development. However, as a result of global segregation, poverty has increased and social services have been decimated. Child labour is a clear manifestation of how poverty affects children (UNICEF, 2001). The fact that they are vulnerable, they need to be cared for and protected.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child is the result of the regional and global community’s effort to establish a standard for all countries to follow in child-related matters. According to the Convention, “the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration in all actions concerning children.” It emphasizes the individual’s fundamental freedoms and liberties, as well as protection from discrimination, violence, abuse, neglect, and exploitation, as well as positive indicators such as upbringing within the family and under parental care, access to health care, social security, education, and rest and leisure. Childhood must be a time where a child’s personality, talents, and mental and physical abilities are developed to the utmost extent possible, primarily through education. A child has the right “to an appropriate standard of life for the child’s physical, mental, spiritual, moral, and social development” during this time.
In accordance with the Convention, children have the right to participate in their own development, to voice their ideas, and to have their opinions taken into consideration when making decisions that will affect their daily lives. The Settlement goes far beyond current legal norms and practices in a number of areas. These include its provisions on
It addresses the issue of children from minority and indigenous communities, as well as the issues of drug addiction and neglect. It also protects children from all sorts of exploitation. Children who grow up in families with parents who did not or only acquire a limited education are more likely to leave school earlier and start working while they are young. Particularly if they don’t exhibit academic promise, this is the case. The amount of discretionary family resources is a root cause of this issue. If a family is experiencing hardship, children are frequently expected to get involved in gathering resources for the family at a young age. Without a proper development stage, children are more apt to fail in school and join the labor force earlier, thus repeating cycle in next generation (Andrea, et al, 2005). Moreover, research indicates that maternal mortality and nutritional inadequacies may both play a significant role in the prevalence of child labour.
Programs to protect child workers’ rights need to be taken into consideration when it is particularly difficult to eliminate child labour due to economic conditions, social structures or both. The fundamental tenets of the convention bring up some significant debating points. The most challenging problem is ensuring the survival of children. According to the research on child labour, a kid’s survival is based on the standard of living in the home. According to the poverty strategy, a youngster must labour in order to survive as long as the family’s income cannot provide for his needs. (Basu 2008). Hence, Child labour becomes a necessity for the survival of the household. Such a principle’s policy application entails raising household income, especially that of the parents, while downplaying the issue of street children who must work to survive. If this goal is simple to achieve in industrialised nations and in households with more wealth, it is not the case in emerging nations. Hence, economics rather than culture is the main barrier to using this convention. Several research address this problem, for instance the papers of Ray examine cases of several single countries (Ghana, India) but also comparative analyses studies (Peru and Pakistan, Pakistan and Nepal). According to empirical studies, depending on the economic systems, child labour is both directly and indirectly associated to poverty.
Role Of the National Human Rights Commission in Protecting and Promoting Children’s Rights
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has continually attempted to concentrate on the “Rights of Children” since it was established in October 1993. It was noted right away that children all over the nation, particularly those from weaker social groups, were found to be vulnerable and that their dignity and human rights were frequently violated despite the fact that the Indian Constitution contains significant provisions for the survival, development, and protection of children as well as laws to protect their interests. Though the Commission’s first few months were spent making an overall assessment of the range of issues affecting children, after completing this task, the Commission concentrated its efforts on preventing and eradicating the problems of child labour, child marriage, child trafficking and prostitution, child sexual violence, female foeticide and infanticide, child rape, HIV/AIDS in children, and the problem of juveniles.
Role of Non-Governmental Organizations
NGOs alone cannot be the solution to the problem of child labour due to the fact that the causes of child labour, including economic factors, education shortcomings, migration, population explosion, armed conflicts, etc. are very serious and complex. However, NGOs can play an important role in several ways, namely raising public awareness, campaign for public opinion and providing immediate assistance to child workers. There is a real need to raise awareness of people, adults and children, as well as political leaders at national and international level. Nowadays, there are advanced media to disseminate information, e.g., television, radio, newspapers, etc. Through this media (if they are allowed to be used), NGOs can inform the public of the nature and degree of the child labour problem which is existing as part and parcel of other social problems, namely poverty, unemployment, underemployment, malnutrition, violation of child and human rights, etc. Raising awareness is a collective action which cannot be completed in one day or weeks but needs months and years.
Right to Health
The Commission has also considered the issue of health when it comes to child rights violations. The Commission held a workshop on human rights and HIV/AIDS in 2000 and 2001. This workshop was followed by a consultation on public health and human rights. Both of them were directly related to children’s rights. Later, in 2004, the Chairperson of the Commission wrote letters to the Chief Ministers of all States and Union Territories, the Union Ministers for Human Resources Development and Health, urging them to take action to stop discrimination against children with HIV/AIDS in terms of access to education and healthcare. The Commission specifically requested that they pass and enforce legislation to stop discrimination against children living with HIV/AIDS, including school exclusion.
An overview of literature suggests that only limited research has been carried out in understanding the rights of the working children sin the informal sector, especially in the hosiery units of Tirupur, Tamil Nadu, India. The recent opportunities as well as constraints have brought about several changes in the structure and characteristics of Textile and Garments Industries in India. Broadly two ways have been adopted by the industry to face the global competition. One way is to reduce labour cost by reducing wages and lowering labour standards and to reduce other costs by lowering environmental standards in the race to the bottom. The other way is to achieve competitive advantage, which can achieve through innovation and up gradations. As a result of this there is a segment of industries (low) medium value-added products that is getting more in to the unorganized/informal sector by subcontracting and out sourcing. This segment is dominated by home workers, home based workers and contract/casual workers. This segment is relatively low skilled with low productivity of labour, low wages and over all low quality of employment.
Methods and Analysis
In this context there is an increasing participation of child labour, especially in the sub contracting. Therefore, an attempt is made in the present paper to a) to examine the knowledge of rights and the relationship with child labor, b) to study the knowledge flow or mode of knowledge regarding child rights among child labors. The data for the study paper is based on an intensive study through interview technique conducted among 32 working children for the study range between 11-20 years of age and the purposive sample method and snow-ball sampling techniques used for identifying the respondents in the hosiery units of Tirupur.
Findings and Conclusion
A child labour is defined as those between the ages of 6-14 and work for payment for the past one year. Respondents for this study range between 11-20 years of age. As the intention of study is to examine child rights consequences, slightly higher age group respondents were also included for the study. A greater proportion of the respondents were males and significantly all respondents in the study are migrants in family as whole had migrated. It has also set in sequencing migration. They have migrated largely from the adjoining districts of Tirupur. Especially from south and east, migrants were forced to migrate due to extreme indebtedness at the nature. The family the elders enter into the labour force first, followed by the children.
Majority of the respondents are first born. Many have completed only up to middle school and joined the labour force. Majority of the respondents are aware of their basic rights namely Rights to Education, Right to Nutrition, Right to Health and Care but they don’t aware of some rights namely Right to Protection from Exploitation and Neglect, Right to Development and Right to Survival. These basic rights they learned from their school education and through media like television, radio and news papers.
Those children work in the packing, shifting, and tailoring section. While girls are active in the folding, labelling, and tailoring sections, boys are required to perform hard labour, such as moving packages. They claim that gender-based pay disparities exist because boys and girls perform different types of work. During the busy season, they work in a number of shifts at irregular hours. They go without sleep nonstop for two to three days. The order deadline is drawing near, so they are under pressure to complete the work quickly. People are not free to take vacations whenever they choose.
They claim that while living expenses are higher than in their hometown, overtime is also more expensive. Job availability and high income is the major reason that motivating the respondents to stay back. Individual earnings amount to Rs.3000/- per month. Educational attainment also revolves around the high school. Majority are from backward communities, followed by SCs, and minorities. From this study, it was found that the aware of their rights but still they are working due poverty, family burdens, migration and lack of education and there is no evidence indicating the exercise of rights. Social cultural context and work environments are major constraining forces.
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