A CRIME THAT SHAMES US ALL

Child labour is any work that is likely to interfere with a child’s education or harmful to his/her health, physical, mental or social development. (Convention On The Rights of The Child. United Nations 1989, Article 32.11). According to ILO’s forced labour convention No.29, forced or compulsory labour is all work or service which is exacted from any person under the threat of a penalty and for which the person has not offered himself or herself voluntarily. Whilst Child Labour takes many different forms, we must eliminate without delay the worst forms of child labour as defined by Article 3 of ILO convention No: 182 which comprises;

a. All forms of slavery or practices similar to slavery, such as the sale of and trafficking of children, debt bondage and serfdom and forced or compulsory labour, including forced or compulsory recruitment of children for use in armed conflict;

b. The use, procuring or offering of a child for prostitution, for the production of pornography or pornographic performances;

c. The use, procuring or offering of a child for illicit activities, in particular for the production and trafficking of drugs as defined in the relevant international treaties;

d. Work which, by its nature or the circumstance in which it is carried out, is likely to harm the health, safety or morals of children.

Child labour remains a major source of concern in Nigeria in spite of legislative measures taken by the government at various levels. The Nigerian child is the direct victim of the low purchasing power of his/her parents, although not bizarre, there is no viable rationale that suggest poverty as the reason for child labour and child trafficking. In fact the functionalists believe child labour is as a result of the failure of poor families in their function and responsibilities as parents. Most of these parents consider it the duty of a child to cater for his/her family which is totally unacceptable.

Article 19 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child commits States parties to “take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical and mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse, while in the care of parent(s), legal guardian(s) or any other person who has the care of the child.” Article 32 recognizes children’s right to be protected from economic exploitation and hazardous work. Article 34 targets sexual exploitation and Article 35, trafficking.

Subsection 3, section 28 of the Child’s Rights Act, 2003 enacted in 23 of the 36 states of Nigeria, including the Federal Capital Territory( FCT) clearly states that; Any person who contravenes any provision of subsection (1) or (2) of section 28, which bans all forms of forced or exploitative labour and employment of children except by a member of his/her family on light work of an agricultural, horticultural or domestic character commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding fifty thousand naira or imprisonment for a term of five years or to both such fine and imprisonment.

A recent UNICEF survey of households in 25 Sub Saharan African countries indicated 31% of children aged 5-14 years are engaged in the various forms of child labour (Slavery, trafficking, forced recruitment for the purposes of armed conflicts, prostitution etc) and a large percentage work at least 43 hours per week in labour that threatened their health and well being. (Dantiya .S; Haruna A. Hawking, 2004).

Working children are the quintessence of abuse and exploitation. Childhood is earmarked by nature for fun and frolic, education and enlightenment, and should not be ruined by the craving for money. Some examples of child labour in Nigeria include; street trading, domestic service, kiosk operating, farming, hotel attendants, factory work, begging, vulcanizers and the fast growing global concern, Prostitution.

After much neglect and indifference, the world is waking up to the reality of a modern form of slavery. It is no longer news that humans prey on humans for money. Child Trafficking is the movement of children from their environment or homes to other places or environment (nationally or internationally) to work in exploitative conditions like domestic child labour, prostitution and other forms of exploitative work.

Children in the sex industry generally have to service their customers on an average of 3-7 customers a day. Some girls on high demand often have to service even more than 10 customers per day. Sexual practices engaged in are often unprotected sex, thus increasing the risk of HIV infection and reproductive health morbidity.

Prostitute girls encounter immeasurable health consequences. The vivid one is collapse of their physical health from STDs and HIV infections. Trafficked victims usually reported abnormal bleeding during sexual intercourse, malpractice of contraceptive methods and no access to health information and care. A trafficked girl once said she has used contraceptive injections since she was 14 years old when she had her first menstruation. As a result of such malpractice the girl can experience a potential incomplete development of breasts, uterus and other reproductive organs. Also, cervical cancer can result from early sexual coitus and contraceptive usage.

The UNODC’s mandate under the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons especially women and children is to improve the protection and assistance of survivors of human trafficking crime and also assist countries in implementing an effective response to human trafficking. National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons and other related matters (NAPTIP) is the federal body in Nigeria, established to prevent and punish trafficking in persons, and also provide rehabilitation for survivors. Civil society organisations or NGOs are also dogged vanguards in the fight to make the future of the trafficking company a bleak one.

As a community, we all are also obligated to come together and say ‘NO’ to trafficking in persons and all other forms of child labour/abuse. We all have roles to play as we can be on the lookout and report cases to NGOs and government agencies.

Imagine a child who has 3-10 sex customers per day, and 90-300 sex customers per month, think about the agony in a year. Now imagine, 5 year old girls as workers in this sex industry.

Join the Blue Heart Movement. Unite for Children.

Ajoke E. Adebisi

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