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Forging civil society action against child domestic labour (CDL) to combat the gender disadvantage

There are 11.5 million child domestic labourers (CDLs) who undeniably are in worst forms of child labour. They are under the minimum age of employment, working in slavery like conditions. They work for long hours under unregulated working conditions with very little or no pay and are beyond the scrutiny of civil society organisations (CSOs) and law enforcement agencies (LEAs). Many are also very young, with 47 percent of child domestic workers under the age of 14 and 3.5 million no more than 5 to 11 years old. Of particular concern is the fact that 7.5 million of all these CDLs are girls and remain vulnerable to gender based violence (GBV) behind closed doors vulnerable to sexual, physical, psychological and economic exploitation.

South Asia has among the largest number of children engaged in child labour and other forms of exploitation. Article 11(3) of Pakistan’s Constitution expressly prohibits the employment of children below the age of fourteen years in any factory, mine or other hazardous employment. However, child domestic labour is not included in the list of banned occupations in the Employment of Children Act, 1991, leaving the child domestic workers extremely vulnerable and without any protection. In the last ten years in Bangladesh, 797 incidents of tortures on domestic workers took place of which 398 were fatal3. CDL is neither included in the Labour Code of Bangladesh, nor in the list of hazardous occupations for underage children.

Therefore Global March Against Child Labour with the support of the Commonwealth Foundation, is working to strengthen the capacity and knowledge of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in Bangladesh and Pakistan to undertake advocacy efforts in making policy and institutional linkages between trafficking and child labour, domestic labour and associated Gender Based Violence (GBV) using India as a resource. This would give impetus to participatory governance by the CSOs towards engagement with LEAs including judiciary through legal intervention & advocacy for implementation of existing child rights legislations, policy reforms and revisions particularly on Child Domestic Labour, slavery and associated GBV.

In Bangladesh, the activities are being carried out by Global March’s long standing partner, Bangladesh Shishu Adhikar Forum (BSAF). BSAF is an apex body of development organizations working for child rights in Bangladesh. It advocates a Child-Friendly world and works as a networking entity, bringing together and assisting child rights organizations to pursue common goals such as working with lawmakers and decision-makers to bring positive changes in national laws and policies relating to children, running vigorous campaigns at macro level to make the civil society aware of the provisions of CRC and playing a proactive role in promoting and upholding the rights of the child. 

In Pakistan, the activities are being carried out by Global March partner, Grassroot Organisation of Development of Human Being (GODH) is an active civil society in Pakistan working towards changing attitudes with regards to social political development, human rights, democracy and peace and social justice. GODH provides basic educational and health facilities to Gypsy children in different areas of Lahore and fights for their rights and advocates for the rights of children of Pakistan through influencing policy makers and Parliamentarians.