Child labour: Legislation sought to recognise all under 18 as children

Activists have called for the repeal of the Child and Adolescent Labour Act 1986 and its amendments, including the 2016 Amendment Act.
Image used for representational purposes only
Image used for representational purposes only(Express illustration)

CHENNAI: On World Day Against Child Labour, Tamil Nadu Child Rights Watch (TNCRW) and Campaign against Child Labour - Tamil Nadu (CACL-TN) have appealed to the union government to enact legislative reforms, ensuring that all individuals under the age of 18 are uniformly recognised as children across all laws to prevent their employment as labourers.

Activists have called for the repeal of the Child and Adolescent Labour Act 1986 and its amendments, including the 2016 Amendment Act. “The Act and its amendments permit children to be employed in family enterprises and certain forms of work, and differentiate between children and adolescents, thus allowing adolescent labour. However, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) clearly defines every person under 18 as a child,” their statement said.

They urged the government to enact comprehensive legislation that criminalises all forms of child labour up to 18 years of age and includes a holistic reintegration plan from the victim’s perspective, aiming to reintegrate every child into academic or vocational learning.

The activists noted that CACL, in consultation with various stakeholders, has already drafted an alternative law - The Child Labour System (Abolition, Prevention, and Rehabilitation) Bill - which was submitted in Parliament in 2017 and should be considered.

“While Indian government has acceded to the UNCRC, acknowledging every person under 18 as a child, a constitutional amendment is necessary to implement this uniformly, as different laws currently have varying criteria. For example, the Right to Education Act considers children as persons only up to the age of 14 years. Following a constitutional amendment, all related laws should be revised for consistency,” said A Devaneyan of TNCRW.

Additionally, they called for adequate financial and human resources to meet the sustainable development goals target of ending all forms of child labour by 2025. They have written to MPs from Tamil Nadu, urging them to highlight these issues in Parliament. They plan to meet MPs in person to discuss the cause until July 30.

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