Child labour refers to the employment of children in any work that deprives children of their childhood, interferes with their ability to attend regular school, and that is mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous and harmful. This practice is considered exploitative by many international organisations. Legislation across the world prohibit child labour. These laws do not consider all work by children as child labour; exceptions include work by child artists, family duties, supervised training, certain categories of work such as those by Amish children, some forms of child work common among indigenous American children, and others.
Child labour has existed to varying extents, through most of history. During the 19th and early 20th centuries, many children aged 5–14 from poorer families still worked in Europe, the United States and various colonies of European powers. These children mainly worked in agriculture, home-based assembly operations, factories, mining and in services such as news boys. Some worked night shifts lasting 12 hours. With the rise of household income, availability of schools and passage of child labour laws, the incidence rates of child labour fell.
In developing countries, with high poverty and poor schooling opportunities, child labour is still prevalent. In 2010, sub-saharan Africa had the highest incidence rates of child labour, with several African nations witnessing over 50 percent of children aged 5–14 working. Worldwide agriculture is the largest employer of child labour. Vast majority of child labour is found in rural settings and informal urban economy; children are predominantly employed by their parents, rather than factories. Poverty and lack of schools are considered as the primary cause of child labour.
Globally the incidence of child labour decreased from 25% to 10% between 1960 and 2003, according to the World Bank. Nevertheless, the total number of child labourers remains high, with UNICEF and ILO acknowledging an estimated 168 million children aged 5–17 worldwide, were involved in child labour in 2013.
Child labour in preindustrial societies
Child labour forms an intrinsic part of pre-industrial economies. In pre-industrial societies, there is rarely a concept of childhood in the modern sense. Children often begin to actively participate in activities such as child rearing, hunting and farming as soon as they are competent. In many societies, children as young as 13 are seen as adults and engage in the same activities as adults.
The work of children was important in pre-industrial societies, as children needed to provide their labour for their survival and that of their group. Pre-industrial societies were characterised by low productivity and short life expectancy, preventing children from participating in productive work would be more harmful to their welfare and that of their group in the long run. In pre-industrial societies, there was little need for children to attend school. This is especially the case in non literate societies. Most pre-industrial skill and knowledge were amenable to being passed down through direct mentoring or apprenticing by competent adults.
The Industrial Revolution
With the onset of the Industrial Revolution in Britain in the late 18th century, there was a rapid increase in the industrial exploitation of labour, including child labour. Industrial cities such as Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool rapidly grew from small villages into large cities and improving child mortality rates. These cities drew in the population that was rapidly growing due to increased agricultural output. This process was replicated in other industrialising counties.
The Victorian era in particular became notorious for the conditions under which children were employed. Children as young as four were employed in production factories and mines working long hours in dangerous, often fatal, working conditions. In coal mines, children would crawl through tunnels too narrow and low for adults. Children also worked as errand boys, crossing sweepers, shoe blacks, or selling matches, flowers and other cheap goods. Some children undertook work as apprentices to respectable trades, such as building or as domestic servants (there were over 120,000 domestic servants in London in the mid-18th century). Working hours were long: builders worked 64 hours a week in summer and 52 in winter, while domestic servants worked 80-hour weeks.
Child labour played an important role in the Industrial Revolution from its outset, often brought about by economic hardship. The children of the poor were expected to contribute to their family income. In 19th-century Great Britain, one-third of poor families were without a breadwinner, as a result of death or abandonment, obliging many children to work from a young age. In England and Scotland in 1788, two-thirds of the workers in 143 water-powered cotton mills were described as children. A high number of children also worked as prostitutes. The author Charles Dickens worked at the age of 12 in a blacking factory, with his family in debtor's prison.
Child wages were often low; as little as 10–20% of an adult male's wage.Karl Marx was an outspoken opponent of child labour, saying British industries, "could but live by sucking blood, and children’s blood too," and that U.S. capital was financed by the "capitalized blood of children".
Throughout the second half of the 19th century, child labour began to decline in industrialised societies due to regulation and economic factors because of the Growth of Trade Unions . The regulation of child labour began from the earliest days of the Industrial revolution. The first act to regulate child labour in Britain was passed in 1803. As early as 1802 and 1819 Factory Acts were passed to regulate the working hours of workhouse children in factories and cotton mills to 12 hours per day. These acts were largely ineffective and after radical agitation, by for example the "Short Time Committees" in 1831, a Royal Commission recommended in 1833 that children aged 11–18 should work a maximum of 12 hours per day, children aged 9–11 a maximum of eight hours, and children under the age of nine were no longer permitted to work. This act however only applied to the textile industry, and further agitation led to another act in 1847 limiting both adults and children to 10-hour working days. Lord Shaftesbury was an outspoken advocate of regulating child labour.
As technology improved and proliferated, there was a greater need for educated employees. This saw an increase in schooling, with the eventual introduction of compulsory schooling. Improved technology and automation also made child labour redundant.
Early 20th century
In the early 20th century, thousands of boys were employed in glass making industries. Glass making was a dangerous and tough job especially without the current technologies. The process of making glass includes intense heat to melt glass (3133 °F). When the boys are at work, they are exposed to this heat. This could cause eye trouble, lung ailments, heat exhaustion, cut, and burns. Since workers were paid by the piece, they had to work productively for hours without a break. Since furnaces had to be constantly burning, there were night shifts from 5:00 pm to 3:00 am. Many factory owners preferred boys under 16 years of age.
An estimated 1.7 million children under the age of fifteen were employed in American industry by 1900.
In 1910, over 2 million children in the same age group were employed in the United States. This included children who rolled cigarettes, engaged in factory work, worked as bobbin doffers in textile mills, worked in coal mines and were employed in canneries.Lewis Hine's photographs of child labourers in the 1910s powerfully evoked the plight of working children in the American south. Hine took these photographs between 1908 and 1917 as the staff photographer for the National Child Labor Committee.
Factories and mines were not the only places where child labour was prevalent in the early 20th century. Home-based manufacturing across the United States and Europe employed children as well. Governments and reformers argued that labour in factories must be regulated and the state had an obligation to provide welfare for poor. Legislation that followed had the effect of moving work out of factories into urban homes. Families and women, in particular, preferred it because it allowed them to generate income while taking care of household duties.
Home-based manufacturing operations were active year-round. Families willingly deployed their children in these income generating home enterprises. In many cases, men worked from home. In France, over 58 percent of garment workers operated out of their homes; in Germany, the number of full-time home operations nearly doubled between 1882 and 1907; and in the United States, millions of families operated out of home seven days a week, year round to produce garments, shoes, artificial flowers, feathers, match boxes, toys, umbrellas and other products. Children aged 5–14 worked alongside the parents. Home-based operations and child labour in Australia, Britain, Austria and other parts of the world was common. Rural areas similarly saw families deploying their children in agriculture. In 1946, Frieda S. Miller - then Director of United States Department of Labour - told the International Labour Organisation that these home-based operations offered, "low wages, long hours, child labour, unhealthy and insanitary working conditions."
|Census Year|| % Boys aged 10–14|
as child labour
|Note: These are averages; child labour in|
Lancashire was 80%
|Source: Census of England and Wales|
See also: Children's rights
Child labour is still common in many parts of the world. Estimates for child labour vary. It ranges between 250 and 304 million, if children aged 5–17 involved in any economic activity are counted. If light occasional work is excluded, ILO estimates there were 153 million child labourers aged 5–14 worldwide in 2008. This is about 20 million less than ILO estimate for child labourers in 2004. Some 60 percent of the child labour was involved in agricultural activities such as farming, dairy, fisheries and forestry. Another 25 percent of child labourers were in service activities such as retail, hawking goods, restaurants, load and transfer of goods, storage, picking and recycling trash, polishing shoes, domestic help, and other services. The remaining 15 percent laboured in assembly and manufacturing in informal economy, home-based enterprises, factories, mines, packaging salt, operating machinery, and such operations. Two out of three child workers work alongside their parents, in unpaid family work situations. Some children work as guides for tourists, sometimes combined with bringing in business for shops and restaurants. Child labour predominantly occurs in the rural areas (70%) and informal urban sector (26%).
Contrary to popular beliefs, most child labourers are employed by their parents rather than in manufacturing or formal economy. Children who work for pay or in-kind compensation are usually found in rural settings, then urban centres. Less than 3 percent of child labour aged 5–14 across the world work outside their household, or away from their parents.
Child labour accounts for 22% of the workforce in Asia, 32% in Africa, 17% in Latin America, 1% in the US, Canada, Europe and other wealthy nations. The proportion of child labourers varies greatly among countries and even regions inside those countries. Africa has the highest percentage of children aged 5–17 employed as child labour, and a total of over 65 million. Asia, with its larger population, has the largest number of children employed as child labour at about 114 million. Latin America and Caribbean region have lower overall population density, but at 14 million child labourers has high incidence rates too.
Accurate present day child labour information is difficult to obtain because of disagreements between data sources as to what constitutes child labour. In some countries, government policy contributes to this difficulty. For example, the overall extent of child labour in China is unclear due to the government categorizing child labour data as “highly secret”. China has enacted regulations to prevent child labour; still, the practice of child labour is reported to be a persistent problem within China, generally in agriculture and low-skill service sectors as well as small workshops and manufacturing enterprises.
In 2014, the U.S. Department of Labor issued a List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor where China was attributed 12 goods the majority of which were produced by both underage children and indentured labourers. The report listed electronics, garments, toys and coal among other goods.
Maplecroft Child Labour Index 2012 survey reports 76 countries pose extreme child labour complicity risks for companies operating worldwide. The ten highest risk countries in 2012, ranked in decreasing order, were: Myanmar, North Korea, Somalia, Sudan, DR Congo, Zimbabwe, Afghanistan, Burundi, Pakistan and Ethiopia. Of the major growth economies, Maplecroft ranked Philippines 25th riskiest, India 27th, China 36th, Viet Nam 37th, Indonesia 46th, and Brazil 54th - all of them rated to involve extreme risks of child labour uncertainties, to corporations seeking to invest in developing world and import products from emerging markets.
Causes of child labour
International Labour Organisation (ILO) suggests poverty is the greatest single cause behind child labour. For impoverished households, income from a child's work is usually crucial for his or her own survival or for that of the household. Income from working children, even if small, may be between 25 and 40% of the household income. Other scholars such as Harsch on African child labour, and Edmonds and Pavcnik on global child labour have reached the same conclusion.
Lack of meaningful alternatives, such as affordable schools and quality education, according to ILO, is another major factor driving children to harmful labour. Children work because they have nothing better to do. Many communities, particularly rural areas where between 60–70% of child labour is prevalent, do not possess adequate school facilities. Even when schools are sometimes available, they are too far away, difficult to reach, unaffordable or the quality of education is so poor that parents wonder if going to school is really worth it.
In European history when child labour was common, as well as in contemporary child labour of modern world, certain cultural beliefs have rationalised child labour and thereby encouraged it. Some view that work is good for the character-building and skill development of children. In many cultures, particular where the informal economy and small household businesses thrive, the cultural tradition is that children follow in their parents' footsteps; child labour then is a means to learn and practice that trade from a very early age. Similarly, in many cultures the education of girls is less valued or girls are simply not expected to need formal schooling, and these girls pushed into child labour such as providing domestic services.
Biggeri and Mehrotra have studied the macroeconomic factors that encourage child labour. They focus their study on five Asian nations including India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Thailand and Philippines. They suggest that child labour is a serious problem in all five, but it is not a new problem. Macroeconomic causes encouraged widespread child labour across the world, over most of human history. They suggest that the causes for child labour include both the demand and the supply side. While poverty and unavailability of good schools explain the child labour supply side, they suggest that the growth of low-paying informal economy rather than higher paying formal economy is amongst the causes of the demand side. Other scholars too suggest that inflexible labour market, sise of informal economy, inability of industries to scale up and lack of modern manufacturing technologies are major macroeconomic factors affecting demand and acceptability of child labour.
Child labour by country
Systematic use of child labour was common place in the colonies of European powers between 1650 and 1950. In Africa, colonial administrators encouraged traditional kin-ordered modes of production, that is hiring a household for work not just the adults. Millions of children worked in colonial agricultural plantations, mines and domestic service industries. Sophisticated schemes were promulgated where children in these colonies between the ages of 5–14 were hired as an apprentice without pay in exchange for learning a craft. A system of Pauper Apprenticeship came into practice in the 19th century where the colonial master neither needed the native parents' nor child's approval to assign a child to labour, away from parents, at a distant farm owned by a different colonial master. Other schemes included 'earn-and-learn' programs where children would work and thereby learn. Britain for example passed a law, the so-called Masters and Servants Act of 1899, followed by Tax and Pass Law, to encourage child labour in colonies particularly in Africa. These laws offered the native people the legal ownership to some of the native land in exchange for making labour of wife and children available to colonial government's needs such as in farms and as picannins.
Beyond laws, new taxes were imposed on colonies. One of these taxes was the Head Tax in the British and French colonial empires. The tax was imposed on everyone older than 8 years, in some colonies. To pay these taxes and cover living expenses, children in colonial households had to work.
In southeast Asian colonies, such as Hong Kong, child labour such as the Mui Tsai (妹仔), was rationalised as a cultural tradition and ignored by British authorities. The Dutch East India Company officials rationalised their child labour abuses with, "it is a way to save these children from a worse fate." Christian mission schools in regions stretching from Zambia to Nigeria too required work from children, and in exchange provided religious education, not secular education. Elsewhere, the Canadian Dominion Statutes in form of so-called Breaches of Contract Act, stipulated jail terms for uncooperative child workers.
Proposals to regulate child labour began as early as 1786.
Main article: Child labour in Africa
Children working at a young age has been a consistent theme throughout Africa. Many children began first working in the home to help their parents run the family farm. Children in Africa today are often forced into exploitative labour due to family debt and other financial factors, leading to ongoing poverty. Other types of domestic child labour include working in commercial plantations, begging, and other sales such as boot shining. In total, there is an estimated five million children who are currently working in the field of agriculture which steadily increases during the time of harvest. Along with 30 percent of children who are picking coffee, there are an estimated 25,000 school age children who work year round.
What industries children work in depends on if they grew up in a rural area or an urban area. Children who were born in urban areas often found themselves working for street vendors, washing cars, helping in construction sites, weaving clothing, and sometimes even working as exotic dancers. While children who grew up in rural areas would work on farms doing physical labour, working with animals, and selling crops. Of all the child workers, the most serious cases involved street children and trafficked children due to the physical and emotional abuse they endured by their employers. To address the issue of child labour, the United Nations Conventions on the Rights of the Child Act was implemented in 1959. Yet due to poverty, lack of education and ignorance, the legal actions were not/are not wholly enforced or accepted in Africa.
Other legal factors that have been implemented to end and reduce child labour includes the global response that came into force in 1979 by the declaration of the International Year of the Child. Along with the Human Rights Committee of the United Nations, these two declarations worked on many levels to eliminate child labour. Although many actions have been taken to end this epidemic, child labour in Africa is still an issue today due to the unclear definition of adolescence and how much time is needed for children to engage in activities that are crucial for their development. Another issue that often comes into play is the link between what constitutes as child labour within the household due to the cultural acceptance of children helping run the family business. In the end, there is a consistent challenge for the national government to strengthen its grip politically on child labour, and to increase education and awareness on the issue of children working below the legal age limit. With children playing an important role in the African economy, child labour still plays an important role for many in the 20th century.
From European settlement in 1788, child convicts were occasionally sent to Australia where they were made to work. Child labour was not as excessive in Australia as in Britain. With a low population, agricultural productivity was higher and families did not face starvation as in established industrialised countries. Australia also did not have significant industry until the later part of the 20th century when child labour laws, and compulsory schooling had developed under the influence of Britain. From the 1870s Child labour was restricted by compulsory schooling.
Child labour laws in Australia differ from state to state. Generally, children are allowed to work at any age, but restrictions exist for children under 15 years of age. These restrictions apply to work hours and the type of work that children can perform. In all states, children are obliged to attend school until a minimum leaving age, 15 years of age in all states except Tasmania and Queensland where the leaving age is 17.
Child labour has been a consistent struggle for children in Brazil ever since the country was colonised on April 22, 1500 by Pedro Álvares Cabral. Work that many children took part in was not always visible, legal, or paid. Free or slave labour was a common occurrence for many youths and was a part of their everyday lives as they grew into adulthood. Yet due to there being no clear definition of how to classify what a child or youth is, there has been little historical documentation of child labour during the colonial period. Due to this lack of documentation, it is hard to determine just how many children were used for what kinds of work before the nineteenth century. The first documentation of child labour in Brazil occurred during the time of indigenous societies and slave labour where it was found that children were forcibly working on tasks that exceeded their emotional and physical limits. Armando Dias, for example, died in November 1913 whilst still very young, a victim of an electric shock when entering the textile industry where he worked. Boys and girls were victims of industrial accidents on a daily basis.
In Brazil, the minimum working age has been identified as fourteen due to continuous constitutional amendments that occurred in 1934, 1937, and 1946. Yet due to a change in the dictatorship by the military in the 80’s, the minimum age restriction was reduced to the age of twelve but was reviewed due to reports of dangerous and hazardous working conditions in 1988. This led to the minimum age being raised once again to 14. Another set of restrictions was passed in 1998 that restricted the kinds of work youth could partake in, such as work that was considered hazardous like running construction equipment, or certain kinds of factory work. Although many steps were taken to reduce the risk and occurrence of child labour, there is still a high number of children and adolescents working under the age of fourteen in Brazil. It was not until recently in the 80’s that it was discovered that almost nine million children in Brazil were working illegally and not partaking in traditional childhood activities that help to develop important life experiences.
Brazilian census data (PNAD, 1999) indicate that 2.55 million 10-14 year-olds were illegally holding jobs. They were joined by 3.7 million 15-17 year-olds and about 375,000 5-9 year-olds. Due to the raised age restriction of 14, at least half of the recorded young workers had been employed illegally which lead to many not being protect by important labour laws. Although substantial time has passed since the time of regulated child labour, there is still a large number of children working illegally in Brazil. Many children are used by drug cartels to sell and carry drugs, guns, and other illegal substances because of their perception of innocence. This type of work that youth are taking part in is very dangerous due to the physical and psychological implications that come with these jobs. Yet despite the hazards that come with working with drug dealers, there has been an increase in this area of employment throughout the country.
Many factors played a role in Britain’s long-term economic growth, such as the industrial revolution in the late 1700s and the prominent presence of child labour during the industrial age. Children who worked at an early age were often not forced; but did so because they needed to help their family survive financially. Due to poor employment opportunities for many parents, sending their children to work on farms and in factories was a way to help feed and support the family. Child Labour first started to occur in England when household businesses were turned into local labour markets that mass-produced the once homemade goods. Because children often helped produce the goods out of their homes, working in a factory to make those same goods was a simple change for many of these youths. Although there are many counts of children under the age of ten working for factories, the majority of children workers were between the ages of ten and fourteen. This age range was an important time for many youths as they were first helping to provide for their families; while also transitioning to save for their own future families.
Besides the obligation, many children had to help support their families financially; another factor that influenced child labour was the demographic changes that occurred in the eighteenth century. By the end of the eighteenth century, 20 percent of the population was made up of children between the ages of 5 and 14. Due to this substantial shift in available workers, and the development of the industrial revolution, children began to work earlier in life in companies outside of the home. Yet, even though there was an increase of child labour in factories such as cotton textiles, there consistently was large numbers of children working in the field of agriculture and domestic production.
With such a high percentage of children working, the rising of illiteracy, and the lack of a formal education became a widespread issue for many children who worked to provide for their families. Due to this problematic trend, many parents developed a change of opinion when deciding whether or not to send their children to work. Other factors that lead to the decline of child labour included financial changes in the economy, changes in the development of technology, raised wages, and continuous regulations on factory legislation.
The first legal steps taken to end the occurrence of child labour was enacted more than fifty years ago. In 1966, the nation adopted the UN General Assembly of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. This act legally limited the minimum age for when children could start work at the age of 14. But 23 years later in 1989 the Convention on the Rights of Children was adopted and helped to reduce the exploitation of children and demanded safe working environments. They all worked towards the goal of ending the most problematic forms of child labour.
An Ecuadorean study published in 2006 found child labour to be one of the main environmental problems affecting children's health. It reported that over 800,000 children are working in Ecuador, where they are exposed to heavy metals and toxic chemicals and are subject to mental and physical stress and the insecurity caused by being at risk of work-related accidents. Minors performing agricultural work along with their parents help apply pesticides without wearing protective equipment.
Main article: Child labour in India
In 2015, the country of India is home to the largest number of children who are working illegally in various industrial industries. Agriculture in India is the largest sector where many children work at early ages to help support their family. Many of these children are forced to work at young ages due to many family factors such as unemployment, a large number of family members, poverty, and lack of parental education. This is often the major cause of the high rate of child labour in India.
On 23 June 1757, the English East India Company defeated Siraj-ud-Daula, the Nawab of Bengal, in the Battle of Plassey. The British thus became masters of east India (Bengal, Bihar, Orissa) – a prosperous region with a flourishing agriculture, industry and trade. This led to a large number of children being forced into labour due to the increasing need of cheap labour to produce large numbers of goods. Many multinationals often employed children because that they can be recruited for less pay, and have more endurance to utilise in factory environments. Another reason many Indian children were hired was because they lack knowledge of their basic rights, they did not cause trouble or complain, and they were often more trustworthy. The innocence that comes with childhood was utilised to make a profit by many and was encouraged by the need for family income.
A variety of Indian social scientists as well as the non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have done extensive research on the numeric figures of child labour found in India and determined that India contributes to one-third of Asia’s child labour and one-fourth of the world's child labour. Due to a large number of children being illegally employed, the Indian government began to take extensive actions to reduce the number of children working, and to focus on the importance of facilitating the proper growth and development of children. International influences help to encourage legal actions to be taken in India, such as the Geneva Declaration of the Right of Children Act was passed in 1924. This act was followed by The Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 to which incorporated the basic human rights and needs of children for proper progression and growth in their younger years. These international acts encouraged major changes to the workforce in India which occurred in 1986 when the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act was put into place. This act prohibited hiring children younger than the age of 14, and from working in hazardous conditions.
Due to the increase of regulations and legal restrictions on child labour, there has been a 64 percent decline in child labour from 1993-2005. Although this is a great decrease in the country of India, there is still high numbers of children working in the rural areas of India. With 85 percent of the child labour occurring in rural areas, and 15 percent occurring in urban areas, there are still substantial areas of concern in the country of India.
India has legislation since 1986 which allows work by children in non-hazardous industry. In 2013, the Punjab and Haryana High Court gave a landmark order that directed that there shall be a total ban on the employment of children up to the age of 14 years, be it hazardous or non-hazardous industries. However, the Court ruled that a child can work with his or her family in family based trades/occupations, for the purpose of learning a new trade/craftsmanship or vocation.
In post-colonial Ireland, the rate of child exploitation was extremely high as children were used as farm labourers once they were able to walk, these children were never paid for the labour that they carried out on the family farm. Children were wanted and desired in Ireland for the use of their labour on the family farm. Irish parents felt that it was the children's duty to carry out chores on the family farm 
Though banned in modern Japan, shonenko (child labourers) were a feature of the Imperial era until its end in 1945. During World War 2 labour recruiting efforts targeted youths from Taiwan (Formosa), then a Japanese territory, with promises of educational opportunity. Though the target of 25,000 recruits was never reached, over 8,400 Taiwanese youths aged 12 to 14 relocated to Japan to help manufacture the Mitsubishi J2M Raiden aircraft.
Child labour existed in the Netherlands up to and through the Industrial Revolution. Laws governing child labour in factories were first passed in 1874, but child labour on farms continued to be the norm up until the 20th century.
Soviet Union and Russia
Although formally banned since 1922, child labour was widespread in the Soviet Union, mostly in the form of mandatory, unpaid work
A succession of laws on child labour, the so-called Factory Acts, were passed in the UK in the 19th century. Children younger than nine were not allowed to work, those aged 9–16 could work 16 hours per day per Cotton Mills Act. In 1856, the law permitted child labour past age 9, for 60 hours per week, night or day. In 1901, the permissible child labour age was raised to 12.
Child trafficking, according to UNICEF is defined as “any person under 18 who is recruited, transported, transferred, harboured or received for the purpose of exploitation, either within or outside a country”. There have been many cases where children just disappear overnight, as many as one every eight minutes, according to the National Crime Records Bureau. In some cases, children are taken from their homes to be bought and sold in the market. In other cases, children are tricked into the hands of traffickers by being presented an opportunity for a job, when in reality, upon arrival they become enslaved. In India, there is a large number of children trafficked for various reasons such as labour, begging, and sexual exploitation. Because of the nature of this crime; it is hard to track; and due to the poor enforcement of laws, it is difficult to prevent. Because of this, it is impossible to have exact figures regarding this issue. India is a prime area for child trafficking to occur, as many of those trafficked are from, travel through or destined to go to India. Though most of the trafficking occurs within the country, there is also a significant number of children trafficked from Nepal and Bangladesh. There are many different causes that lead to child trafficking, with the primary reason being poverty and weak law enforcement. The traffickers that take advantage of children can be from another area in India, or could even know the child personally. Children who return home after being trafficked often face shame from their communities, rather than being welcomed home.
A root cause of commercial sexual exploitation and child trafficking in India is due to poverty, lack of education, and the need to support their family. The unemployment rate in India is very high and there are not many financial opportunities. When children are offered work they are likely to be taken advantage of, or children in poverty have to trade sex for a place to live or food. In order to get out of poverty or debt, some parents have even sold their children to traffickers. Children are often trafficked by gangs and forced to beg on the streets. Another reason is that India shares an open and unregulated border with Nepal; Nepal is the country with the highest rates of human trafficking In some parts of India, young girls are forced into the system on Devadasi where they're "forced into a lifetime of ritual sex slavery" and given to an elder of the village to be their concubine. A lot of children have also been trafficked due to the demand by tourists. People will travel from countries where there are strict enforcements around Child Trafficking, as well as it being heavily frowned upon and socially unaccepted, to India to find child prostitutes.
Some types of Child trafficking include, but are not limited to,Involuntary Domestic Servitude, Forced child labor, Illegal activities, Child Soldiers, and Children Exploited for Commercial Sex.
Involuntary Domestic Servitude
Children are very vulnerable when it comes to Domestic servitude. Often children are told that they will be offered excellent wages to work as a maid in middle-class homes, but they usually end up being severely underpaid, abused, and sometimes sexually assaulted. This particular type of trafficking is hard to detect because it takes place inside private homes where there is no public enforcement. Every year hundreds of thousands of girls are trafficked from rural India to work as maids in the urban areas.
Forced Child Labor
Legally, children in India are allowed to do light work, but they are often trafficked for bonded labour, and domestic work, and are worked far beyond what is allowed in the country. Children are also forced to work as bonded laborers in brick randi and stone quarries to pay off family debts owed to moneylenders and employers. They are often forced to work, in the use of contraptions that bound them to be unable to escape and then forced to submit to control. Others may be bound by abuse whether physical, emotional, or sexual. Children from India’s rural areas migrate or are trafficked for employment in industries, such as spinning mills, cottonseed production, manual work,domestic work in family homes, stone quarrying, brick kilns and tea gardens amongst others, where they are forced to work in hazardous environments for little or no pay. Those forced into labor lose all freedom, being thrown into the workforce, essentially becoming slaves, and losing their childhood.
Children, over adults are often chosen to be trafficked for illegal activities such as begging and organ trade, as they are seen as more vulnerable. Not only are these children being forced to beg for money, but a significant number of those on the streets have had limbs forcibly amputated, or even acid poured into their eyes to blind them by gang masters. Those who are injured tend to make more money, which is why they are often abused in this way. Organ trade is also common, when traffickers trick or force children to give up an organ.
UNICEF estimates that more than 300,000 children under 18 are currently being exploited in more than 30 armed conflicts worldwide. While the majority of child soldiers are between the ages of 15 and 18, some are as young as 7 or 8 years of age. A large number of children are abducted to use as soldiers. Others are used to serve as porters, cooks, guards, servants, messengers, or spies. Many of these young soldiers are sexually abused which often ends with unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. Some children have been forced to commit atrocities against their families and communities. Child soldiers are often killed or wounded, with survivors often suffering multiple traumas and psychological scarring. Their personal development is usually irreparably damaged. Their home communities reject returning child soldiers. Reports indicate that children were coerced to join children’s units (“Bal Dasta”), where they were trained and used as couriers and informants, to plant improvised explosive devices and in front-line operations against national security forces.
Children Exploited for Commercial Sex
Sexual exploitation is an issue that is faced among many developing countries and is defined as “the sexual abuse of children and youth through the exchange of sex or sexual acts for drugs, food, shelter, protection, other basics of life, and/or money”. Children that are exploited for commercial sex are subject to transactions for child pornography and child prostitution. The Commercial Sexual Exploitation (CSE) of women and children generates approximately 400 million US Dollars annually in the city of Mumbai alone. Although it is hard to find accurate numbers for exactly how many children are trafficked, studies and surveys sponsored by the Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD) estimates that there are about three million prostitutes in the country, of which an estimated 40 percent are children, as there is a growing demand for very young girls to be inducted into prostitution on account of customer preferences. There are many horrible consequences these children face from being sexually exploited. Including but not limited to, STDs, unwanted pregnancy, abuse, and even death. Often Tourist will travel to impoverished or developing countries looking to partake in sexual acts with children and for available child prostitutes.
Child trafficking is an issue that is extremely prevalent in India, and is continuing to grow rapidly. The trafficking of young girls (under the age of 18) has grown 14 times over the last decade and has grown by 65% just in the year 2014 according to the National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB). There have been numerous reports from many areas about the increase of trafficking taking place in India. According to the US State Department, there are approximately 600,000 to 820,000 people trafficked a year across international borders, and up to 50% of those are children. This is definitely seen as a growing issue in Asia, with the many children that are and continue to be trafficked for many reasons as well as being exploited. In India specifically, it is estimated that there are around 135,000 children trafficked each year.
In 2005, a study was conducted by the National Human Rights Commission of India (NHRC) after they received an alarming number of reports from the press, police, and non-government organisations (NGOs) about the rise of human trafficking within India. They found that India was fast becoming a source, transit point and destination for traffickers of women and children for sexual and non-sexual purposes. This finding has only increased since being recognized in 2005, and is becoming a very large problem. Almost 20,000 children and women were subjected to human trafficking in 2016. This is a nearly a 25% rise from 2015, which is a large increase for one year to another. The areas of the greatest concern were poverty stricken areas such as Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Orissa and West Bengal. The state within India which has the most amount of child trafficking is Assam, holding 38% of the nation’s cases. While the issue of child trafficking is higher in some specific parts of India, it is a very widespread problem all over the nation. It is difficult to find exact numbers on the issue of child trafficking due to the fact that it is illegal, so the process is very secretive. From the information that is known, there is a very clear increase, not only over the past decade, but also from year to year. This is extremely concerning and the data seems to point to the assumption that it will continue to rise.
Figures in India
- In 1998, between 5,000 and 7,000 Nepalese girls, some barely 9–10 years old were trafficked into the red light districts in Indian cities, and 200,000 to over 250,000 Nepalese women and girls were already in Indian brothels.
- According to UNICEF, 12.6 million children are engaged in hazardous occupations.
- In 2009, it was estimated 1.2 million children are trafficked worldwide for sexual exploitation, including for prostitution or the production of sexually abusive images.
- Only 10% of human trafficking in India is international, while almost 90% is interstate.
- According to a report by the National Human Rights Commission of India, 40,000 children are abducted each year, leaving 11,000 untraced.
- NGO’s estimate that 12,000-50,000 women and children are trafficked into the country annually from neighbouring states for the sex trade.
- There is an estimated 300,000 child beggars in India.
- Every year, 44,000 children fall into the clutches of the gangs.
- In 2015, in India only 4,203 human trafficking cases were investigated.
- In 2014, 76% of people trafficked in India were women and girls.
- Children make up roughly 40% of prostitutes.
- It is estimated that over 2 million women and children are trafficked for sex into the red-light districts in India.
- The Indian Government estimates that girls make up the majority of children in sex trafficking.
Action against trafficking
India is viewed as a hub for human trafficking, while the issue is a low priority for Indian Government. The Immoral Traffic Prevention Act was first amended in 1956; the act was created to prevent trafficking and sexual exploitation of women and children but does the Act provide clear definition of "'trafficking'" In 2003, India enforced the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, which includes three protocols, specifically the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children. The protocol "provides an agreed upon definition of trafficking in persons. It aims at comprehensively addressing trafficking in persons through the so-called three P's - Prosecution of perpetrators, Protection of victims and Prevention of trafficking." The protocol defines trafficking as "the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or service, slavery or practice similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organ."
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