Anti-slavery society for the protection of human rights: Child labour programme

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  • Chrld Abuse ond,Nr~lecr. Vol 1. pp 119- 121. 1983 Pnnred ,n the U.S.A. All righk mewed

    BRIEF COMMUNICATION

    n145-2134~83~lOll9-03$3.00/O

    Copynehr 0 1983 Pcr~amon Press Ltd

    ANTI-SLAVERY SOCIETY FOR THE PROTECTION OF HUMAN RIGHTS: CHILD LABOUR PRO~~E

    LEAH LEVIN

    Anti-Slavery Society for the Protection of Human I%$~, 180 Brixton Road, London SW. 9, England

    CHILD LABOUR PRISMS

    THE EXPLOITATION of child labour is an issue which falls directly within the mandate of the Society in its commitment to eliminate all forms of slavery, as defined in the Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery (1956). This convention extended the narrow definition of slavery (in terms of the 1926 Slavery Convention) to include those institutions, which although they did not involve ownership in the strict sense, nevertheless were often more oppressive than traditional chattel slavery, and could be regarded as contemporary slavery, The aims of the Society are to promote human rights in accordance with the relevant United Nations Human Rights Instruments and Standards. It is in consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council and reports regularly to the Commission on Human Rights and its subsidiary bodies.

    The abuse of children has for many years been of concern to the Society. As far back as 1918 to 1930 it fought bureaucratic opposition in London to secure protection for children from enforced prostitution in Hong Kong. The current programme in respect to children began in 1975 and is concerned with the exploitation of child labour. In that year it came to the Societys notice that very young children were working long hours in bad conditions in privately owned carpet factories in Morocco. In 1977 an intensive study was made of both state-run and private factories and a report published and submitted to the United Nations in 1978. This investigation revealed that children as young as seven were working up to 72 hours a week in Moroccan carpet factories for minimal pay, often under appalling conditions.

    The Anti-Slavery Society is the only non-governmental organisation with a consistent pro- gramme in respect of child labour and, with the International Labour Organization, has been the major source of info~atio~ on this topic. To mark the ~tematio~ Year of the Child, the Society expanded its activities in this field and undertook a world-wide programme of research on child labour and its exploitation.

    For the purpose of the programme, the Anti-Slavery Society is concerned mainly with children under twelve who are working and those under fifteen who are working in conditions harmful to their physical, emotional and mental health and their moral welfare. Children working in editions agriculture and pastorahsm, or in domestic work in their own homes are not included.

    The principal objectives of the programme for this period have been to: 1. research and disseminate information on the subject of child labour;

    Presented at the Third international Congress OR Child Abuse and Neglect, Amstehm, The Netherlands, April 1981.

    119

  • I-20 Leah Levm

    2. create an informed public opinion and generate pressure for control of child labour; 3. provide information to international bodies and institutions; il. stimulate action at international levels whereby national governments could be encouraged

    to improve measures for the protection of children; and 5. identify and alert organisations and institutions worldwide and seek their cooperation on

    this programme.

    RESEARCH AND PUBLICATIONS

    A series of country monographs have been published in the form of reports based on field research. The programme embraces studies in South America, the Caribbean, Western Europe, Africa and Asia, and the reports form the backbone of the Societys campaign to inform public opinion and promote action at all levels. During 1979 the Society sponsored the publication of Child Workers Today which provided an overall view of child labour throughout the world; since then country reports have been published on India, Spain, Thailand and Italy and a further seven country situations researched, i.e., Colombia, Hong Kong, Malaysia, South Africa. Brazil, Turkey and the Philippines. It should be noted that conditions of child labour in the countries studied do not necessarily represent the worst situations of exploitation. We have tried to show that the problem is widespread and that it has many common features, despite wide cultural divergences.

    Apart from the material collected through our own research, a great deal of other material has been obtained through follow-up. A bibliography on child labour has also been compiled.

    Informing Public Opinion

    Extensive press and publicity coverage has been generated both in the international press and through national media and the Society has cooperated in the preparation of television films on child labour. The programme so far has aimed at providing information and creating greater awareness of the problem and has attempted to establish the relevance of child labour issues in the context of related concerns of community and professional groups. It has also endeavoured to link its findings to action at both national and international levels. This will continue to be a major aspect of future work.

    Action at International Level

    The Society submitted eight reports on child labour to the Working Group on Slavery during its 1979 and 1980 Sessions which were discussed at the subsequent Sessions of the Sub-Commission on the Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities. The UN transmits these reports to the governments concerned and relevant UN Agencies. Regrettably, however, all governments do not reply and some replies are often defensive. To date, a rather limited response has been forthcoming from UN Agencies. In 1978 the Sub-Commission decided to formally include the subject of child labour on its agenda every year. A Rapporteur was appointed in 1979 to prepare a report on the exploitation of child labour which will be presented to the 1981 Session of the Sub-Commission.

    Council of Europe

    The Society provides information on child labour to the Council of Europe which is concerned with the implementation of the European Social Charter, Article 7 of which related to the right of children and young persons to protection.

  • Anti-slavery society for the protection oi human rtghts 121

    International Labour Organisation

    Collaboration is maintained with the IL0 which receives the child labour reports of the Anti- Slavery Society, both directly (for information) and through the UN thus enabling the IL0 to make use of the information on its formal procedures.

    Seminar

    The Society organised an international seminar on child labour in cooperation with the Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex, in January 1981. This provided a unique opportunity for the subject to be examined by a large range of people with different cultural and disciplinary perspectives. A report is available.

    FUTURE PROGRAMME

    The programme carried out thus far has established the Society as a focal point in respect of work on child labour and it is hoped to build on this by developing the following activities.

    Research

    Further economic and social research on the functions, causes and consequences of child labour will be sponsored and undertaken wherever possible through Third World research institutes. A research programme of this nature has already been carried out by the Society in Jamaica and another is under discussion with a research institute in India.

    Lobbying International Organisations

    In order to encourage the implementation of existing measures against exploitation of child labour and assist in developing further measures, an intensified programme of lobbying intema- tional governmental and non-governmental organisations will be undertaken. In pursuing this task it will seek to broaden the institutional areas where child labour should be considered.

    Project Development

    Over the past two years some commitment relating to the issue of child labour has emerged within the UN system which needs to.be followed up, particularly in the case of WHO, UNESCO and UNICEF which is currently extending its field of activity to include wider areas of child abuse. Cooperation with these Agencies will be fostered with particular emphasis on promoting project development. The Society could fulfill a role in providing information and assisting in the identification and preparation of projects.

    Promotion of Activities at Local Level

    Alongside the research and lobbying components of the programme the campaigning aspect of the work will also be extended, particularly with respect to activities at national and local levels. It is hoped to find support for the translation of the Societys child labour reports in the national languages and local groups will be encouraged to do their own research, gather information, promote publicity and lobby their own governments.

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