Pakistan wants to ban child work under 14 – is this progress sufficient?

Pakistan is set to propose 14 years as the minimum age of employment in the draft of the Prohibition of the Employment of Children Act: http://bit.ly/JPSmgm. We asked Zarina Jillani, Director of our local partner organisation Sparc, if this progress is sufficient. Here’s her answer:

The proposed amendment seeks to ban all child labor under 14 years of age as a step towards compliance with ILO Convention 138 (minimum age): This would be a step forward as the previous law allowed child labor in certain sectors, regulated them in other sectors and banned them in certain occupations and processes considered hazardous.

However, in view of Article 25 A, which makes education compulsory for all children between ages 5 to 16 years, it is in adequate and does not fulfill this fundamental right of children. There is a conflict there and the new amendment should therefore raise the age of child from 14 to 16 years.

With regard to child domestic labor (CDL) the decision not to include it in banned occupations is due lack of political will, rather than the inability to regulate CDL and non-availability of home surveys and staff to count and monitor child workers. The excuse for not including CDL into the list of banned occupations for lack of monitoring mechanism holds no ground because the question here is to prohibit the work of children in this occupation and not regulation of CDL. And it is not a question of penalizing parents but those who employ them.

A combination of banning child domestic labor and ensuring free and compulsory education for all children would be the best way forward.

I would like to add that other provinces are also considering a law on the same lines. It would be a pity if the new amendments do not cover one of the biggest informal sectors employing children and do not support the fundamental right to education.

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