Photo: MAHMUD HOSSAIN OPU

It is time for the government to live up to its commitment to eradicate child labour

Childhood is time for education -- for mental, physical, and spiritual growth; it is a time for the nurturance that prepares a person for a successful adulthood.

Certainly, childhood is not a time to be plunged into the hard responsibilities of adulthood, when one is expected to earn a living or a support a family; all developed nations recognize this fact, which is why child labour, especially in potentially hazardous fields, is not allowed in most nations.

Bangladesh too has the right law in place -- the Labour Act prohibits employing children under the age of 14 for hazardous labour, and the law says employers or parents can be fined for forcing a child to work, but because this law does not apply to the informal sector, such as transportation, the government has been notoriously ineffective at significantly curbing child labour in reality.

It is estimated that a quarter of children engaged in labour are working in transportation, and are employed in workshops, three-wheelers, and as helpers on buses.

This kind of work not only presents an immediate physical danger to the child, but it also opens them up to various other dangers, like economic or sexual exploitation.

It is time for the government to live up to its commitment to eradicate child labour, and not only strictly implement the laws we already have, but expand the scope of the law so that there are no loopholes.

A country is not judged merely by its economic numbers, but by how it treats its most vulnerable citizens; and if we wish to be seen as a developed nation, it is time we made the protection of children a priority in our policy.



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