Child-labour issue

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Another incident of child abuse was reported on Saturday when a minor girl hailing from Toba Tek Singh was recovered by police after she was allegedly tortured by her employer. The abuse came to light after the family of the child visited her after over a year.

This is not the first such incident to be reported in recent months and years. Tayyaba torture case is still fresh in people’s mind and the landmark judgements by the courts in that regard. Unfortunately such judgements as well as the laws have failed to prevent children under the age of 14 from being employed in inhuman conditions. Surprisingly, these children are not covered under any official definition of a worker. As a result they are not entitled to the minimum wage set by the government.

Child workers are tortured to the extent that some even die of the brutal treatment and of starvation. This goes without saying that the perpetrators of such crimes against children and domestic workers are the rich people living in posh localities.

A couple of months ago, a 15-year old girl was tortured to death in Lahore’s rich neighbourhood. Not only that, after she died, the employers gave her electric shocks to bring her back to life. Upon failing to revive her, her emaciated body was thrown in a nearby sewer. When the same family was caught by the police, the alleged murderers were caught on camera saying ‘sorry’. Yes a mere sorry for the murder of a human being.

The Constitution of Pakistan guarantees that no child under the age of 14 years shall be engaged in any work. It rather guarantees that the state shall provide compulsory education to children. But the state has failed to fulfill its responsibility towards its citizens, more so towards the poorest of the poor who are in the most need. The annual budgetary allocations against health and education have over the decades been abysmally low. The incumbent government that has started an Ehsaas programme too has failed to raise the allocations.

Poverty is one major reason that compels parents from poor strata of life to send their children to rich neighbourhoods for work. But so is the lethargy and opportunism of the so called rich of our society who not only flout the law by employing children on minimal wages, they also treat them inhumanly. So while laws and their enforcement are important, the society at large needs some introspection.