Indian children work despite ban

When I mentioned India’s child labor ban last year, I had many obvious questions about the implementation. One year on, this BBC report highlights on findings by Save the Children that the ban has not had much effect.

BBC NEWS | South Asia | Indian children work despite ban

A year after India banned children under 14 from working as domestic servants or in food stalls, millions continue to be employed, a study says.

The study released by Save the Children says these children are routinely subjected to different forms of abuse and a lot still needs of be done.

Many of the child workers are denied food, and are beaten up, burnt or sexually abused, the study says.

According to official estimates, India has more than 12 million child workers.

Of these, about 200,000 are estimated to be working as domestic servants and in teashops, restaurants, spas, hotels, resorts and other recreational centres – the areas from where they were banned last year.

Well, one can’t legislate away decades of a widespread and prevalent practice with one law. This law was always going to be a beginning, a marker that improving social and economic conditions will eventually catch up to (one hopes). So, color me as not surprised at all. The point is to label something as legally unacceptable, work towards making it socially unacceptable, then finally, unnecessary.

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One Comment

  1. I am afraid there are some socio-economic leverages at work behind the scene which will prove your optimism unjustified. Your post of last year raised a number of questions which were pretty much on point then, and are still relevant today: “who will enforce? will they selectively enforce? Will this be just another extortion excuse? Will people complain if they see any child labor in their local tea shop? What will poor parents make their kids do to earn extra income for the family?”

    Merely labeling something as unacceptable does not work in a two-step process like to suggest: “making it socially unacceptable, then finally, unnecessary”. I think it does, indeed, issue a clear message to the citizens that child labor is unacceptable. But what follows this clear message is not invariably behavioral change, which makes the law unnecessary.

    Take homosexuality for example: Some believe it to be illegal, relying on section 377 of the Indian Penal Code. I do not intend to give legal advice on whether or not Indian law criminalizes homosexuality per se, but it is clear that even though a “clear message” is sent to the citizens, it will not have the effect of modifying significantly behavior. Rather, it will render the object of the law more taboo, and modify social codes and conventions as a consequence. Then, insofar as the “necessity” of the law is concerned, I believe that the “clear message” conveyed by the law contains some highly moral content (like the interdiction to kill somebody for example). Whatever behavioral change is achieved by the effect of the law, I think the law should remain provided its moral content is just.

    Bruno Héroux

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