In July 2019, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) unanimously adopted a resolution declaring 2021 as the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour, and has asked the International Labour Organization (ILO) to take the lead in its implementation. The resolution highlights the commitments of the Member States “to take immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour, including recruitment and use of child soldiers, and by 2025 end child labour in all its forms.”… This is the exact wording of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goal 8, Target 7 which gives rise to Alliance 8.7, an inclusive global partnership committeed to achieving SDG 8.7 with the objectives of (i) accelerating action, (ii) conducting research and knowledge sharings,(iii) driving innovaton and (iv) leveraging resources. There are 4 years remaining to 2025 so how are we doing? ILO reports ‘child labour has decreased by 38 per cent in the last decade … the COVID-19 pandemic has considerably worsened the situation, but joint and decisive action can reverse this trend.’ Will we see zero child labour in 2025? For the World Day to End Child Labour, (June 12) the ILO and UNICEF will release new global estimates and trends on child labour (2016-2020), under the aegis of Alliance 8.7. I wonder what the number will be like compared to the 2016 estimates?
Well, to start only 22 of 192 countries have signed up to be ‘pathfinder countries in ending child labour – Albania, Cameroon, Chile, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Fiji, Ghana, Guatemala, Honduras, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritania, Mexico, Morocco, Nepal, Nigeria, Peru, Sri Lanka, Tunisia, Uganda, Vietnam Good Shepherd has a presence in 10 of these countries – 6 are in Latin America and the Carribean, 3 in Asia Pacific and I in Africa. Only 6 (Chile, Mexico, Peru, Madagascar, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Vietnam) of the of the 10 countries where we are present have posted materials under the following headings – Challenges, Milestones, Priorities, Progress and Updates.
In the above statistics there is no mention of human trafficking or prostitution, yet it is referenced either directly or indirectly in three counties. In Chile “70.6% of children in child labour aged 5 to 17 are engaged in hazardous child labour. Children are also involved in other worst forms of child labour, including commercial sexual exploitation, sometimes as a result of human trafficking. Indigenous children and adolescents from Ecuador are especially vulnerable to human trafficking for labour exploitation in Chile. Commonly, children are forced to steal, produce, sell, and transport drugs near the border with Peru and Bolivia.”
For Madagascar we read ‘the worst forms of child labour include commercial exploitation and trafficking. In 2007 4.5% of Malagasy children were trafficked, often for domestic work. Trafficking, both transnational and internal, is not uncommon in Madagascar. Though data is scant, evidence indicates that victims are trafficked for sexual exploitation, forces labour, domestic work, and forced begging.”
For Nepal “More than 31,000 people were estimated to be in forced labour in 2017, out of which 17% were children. Practices of forced labour and trafficking have been documented both in the country (for example, in the adult entertainment sector) and across borders.”
The ILO Convention No. 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labour achieved universal ratification in August 2020 when the last of the 187 member States of the ILO formally deposited their ratification insturments. The Convention was adopted in 1999 and has taken 21 years to achieve universal ratification. That is one measure of success, but has the Convention been domesticated and is it being implemented?
Reading ILO Convention 182 in the light of our Position Paper on the Girl Child sheds more light on the girls’ vulnerability to ‘the worst form of child labour.’ Our paper references sexual abuse, use as objects in protstitution and child labor. Article 2 of the Convention defines the term ‘the worst forms of child labour:’
- (a) all forms of slavery or practices similar to slavery, such as the sale 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 for 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 circumstances in which it is carried out, is likely to harm the health, safety or morals of children.
Snippets from the Pathfinder Countries in the Alliance 8.7 contain only three referrence to commercial sexual exploitation of children. Why is this? Will the updated global estimates that will be released on June 12th highlight the new criminal phonomenon of ‘Online Sexual Exploitation of Children’ (OSEC)? The International Justice Mission published a study in 2020 Online Sexual Exploitation of Children in the Philippines: Analysis and Recommendations for Governments, Industry, and Civil Society in which they noted that OSEC is a complex, hidden crime that is particularly challenging for the global community to measure and address. The lack of global OSEC data, inconsistencies in collecting, sharing and analysing data, across countries and agencies is one thing. This difficulty is further complicated by the complexity of internet-facilitated crimes which has made it almost impossible to accurately track, study and understand this crime. The estimated number/prevalence rate of IP addresses used for Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) each year more than tripled from 23,333 in 2014 to 81, 723 in 2017. This corresponds to a growth in the prevalence rate from about 43 out of every 10,000 IP addresses being used for CSE in 2014 to 149 out of every 10,000 IP addresses being used for CSE in 2017. Due to limitations in the data, it is not clear if this increase was reflective of an actual rise in the occurrence of the crime, a rise in the reporting of the crime, or both.
Another study conducted by Associate Professors Michael Salter and Tim Wong, and funded by the Australian eSafety Commissioner (2021) highlights the way COVID-19 has placed children at risk of online sexual exploitation and abuse – and how across the world, those put in place to protect children from such violence are facing unprecedented challenges.
The Internet Watch Foundation published in May 2018 ‘Trends in Online Child Sexual Exploitation: Examining the Distribution of Captures of Live-streamed Child Sexual Abuse. 2,082 images and videos were assessed as meeting the research criteria. I picked out these key findings:
• 96% depicted children on their own, typically in a home setting such as their own bedroom.
• 98% of imagery depicted children assessed as 13 years or younger.
• 96% of the imagery featured girls.
These statistics shows which how easy it is to contact children within their own homes in this age of technology, the age of the children and how girls are disproportionalely targeted and exploited. Will this aspect of the exploitation of children be mentioned? Our position papers on Human Trafficking, Prostitution and the Girl Child reflect and focus these issues very clearly for us. There is a week of Action June 10 – 17 2021 with various events. During the 109th International Labour Conference, a high level panel on June 10th will mark the World Day against Child Labour. The first part of the event will focus on a conversation on the new ILO-UNICEF global estimates and trends on child labour 2016 – 2021. Please ask question or put comments in the comments box.