Removed from terror, removed from toil | Daily News


Aim of World Day Against Child Labour

Removed from terror, removed from toil

There are an estimated 152 million children across the world in child labour.
There are an estimated 152 million children across the world in child labour.

The World Day Against Child Labour is an International Labour Organization (ILO) sanctioned holiday, first launched in 2002, aiming to raise awareness and activism to prevent child labour. It was spurred by ratifications of ILO Convention No. 138 on the minimum age for employment and ILO Convention No. 182 on the worst forms of child labour. The World Day Against Child Labour, which is held every year on June 12, is intended to foster the worldwide movement against child labour in any of its forms.

The International Labour Organization (ILO), the United Nations body that regulates the world of work, launched the World Day Against Child Labour in 2002 to bring attention on and join the efforts to fight against child labour. This day brings together governments, local authorities, civil society and international workers and employers’ organizations to highlight the child labour problem and define the guidelines against child labour.

According to the ILO’s data, hundreds of millions of girls and boys throughout the world are involved in work that deprives them of receiving an adequate education, health, leisure and basic freedoms, violating their rights. Of these children, more than half are exposed to the worst forms of child labour. These worst forms of child labour include work in hazardous environments, slavery, or other forms of forced labour, illicit activities such as drug trafficking and prostitution, as well as involvement in armed conflict.

World Day Against Child Labour 2020 focuses on the impact of the problem of child labour. The COVID-19 health pandemic and the resulting economic downslide and labour market shock have made an enormous negative impact on people’s lives and livelihoods. Unfortunately, children are often the first to suffer. The crisis can push millions of vulnerable children into child labour. Already, there are an estimated 152 million children in child labour, 72 million of which are in hazardous work.

These children are now at a greater risk of facing circumstances that are even more difficult and of working longer hours. Almost one in ten of all children worldwide are in child labour. While the number of children in child labour has declined by 94 million since 2000, the rate of reduction has slowed by two-thirds in recent years. Target 8.7 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals calls for an end to child labour in all its forms by 2025. Next year - 2021- has been declared as the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour.

This year, the World Day Against Child Labour is conducted as a virtual campaign and is being organised jointly with the Global March Against Child Labour and the International Partnership for Cooperation on Child Labour in Agriculture (IPCCLA).

Of all forms of labour, the cruelest form is using children as child soldiers. A child’s whole life is destroyed once he or she becomes a child soldier. It is possible for such a child to die or become permanently disabled on the very day he or she is enlisted into a terror group. There is no childhood for them for the rest of their young lives. Unfortunately, Sri Lankan Tamil children faced this fate during the 30-year-long period of LTTE terrorism that existed in Sri Lanka until the terror group was vanquished on May 18, 2009. From the beginning, Sri Lankan Tamil children were forcibly made a part of the LTTE cadres. Child soldiers were originally recruited into the LTTE’s Baby Brigade, commandeered by Justin. But after 1987, they were integrated with adult units.

Militant use of children in Sri Lanka has been an internationally recognised problem since the inception of LTTE terrorism in 1983. At first, young individuals willingly joined the LTTE. 

According to an April 2000 estimate, there were some 2,000 children among the LTTE ranks. This is not unique to the LTTE or Sri Lanka, but is a global phenomenon. The number of child soldiers, some as young as seven, participating in various armed conflicts around the world is estimated to be about 300,000.

Serious recruitment of children (and women) into the LTTE began after the LTTE decided to take on the Indian Peace Keeping Force, which was sent to the country in 1987 as part of an agreement between Sri Lanka and India. A total of 26 LTTE child soldiers, including four girls who surrendered to the armed forces at Mankulam in early October 1998, disclosed that the LTTE kidnapped and recruited them into its fighting force. Some of them were picked up from their homes, while some others were hustled into a waiting vehicle.

Before 2007, the LTTE was accused of recruiting thousands of children into their ranks. The LTTE has been accused of knowingly recruiting and using child soldiers as frontline troops. By this time, young individuals and adults did not join the LTTE willingly because they had realised the real objectives and conduct of the LTTE.

Amid international pressure, the LTTE announced in July 2003 that it would stop conscripting child soldiers, but both UNICEF and HRW have accused it of reneging on its promises, and of conscripting Tamil children orphaned by the tsunami. UNICEF claimed that the LTTE recruited at least 40 children orphaned by the tsunami. However, from the beginning of 2007, the LTTE had agreed to release all of the recruits under the age of 18.

According to UNICEF, between November 1, 2006 and August 31, 2007, 262 children were recruited by the LTTE. This figure includes 32 children who were re-recruited after being released. This number shows a significant decrease in recruitment as compared to the previous 12-month period, which saw the LTTE recruit 756 children of whom 97 were re-recruits. The LTTE promised that it would release all of the recruits under the age of 18 before the end of the year. On October 22, 2007, UNICEF claimed that at least 506 child recruits (under the age of 18) still remained under the LTTE. In January 2008, the LTTE claimed that they had stopped child recruitment. Despite the LTTE claims, according to the UNICEF a total of 594 children aged between 12 and 18 years surrendered to armed forces during the end of the war.

The heroic Sri Lankan armed forces led by then President and current Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and then Defence Secretary and current President Gotabaya Rajapaksa saved the Sri Lankan Tamil children from the barbaric LTTE forever. The LTTE child soldiers were rescued, cared for and rehabilitated in order to give them a normal life like any other Sri Lankan child. The LTTE child soldiers are now young adults who are happily married, have their own families, are employed and lead ordinary lives just like other citizens in Sri Lanka. May be they still remember the dark days of their childhood spent in jungles without food, water, clothing, security and their loved ones. Now their children happily play with toys and not with bombs and machine guns.

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