*Mohammad Mainuddin Mollah
“The child is the beginning without end. The end of the child is the beginning of the end. When a society allows its children to be killed, it is because it has begun its own suicide as a society. When it does not love the child it is because it has failed to recognize its humanity”- this was the realization of Herbert de Souza, in 1992. Hazardous child labour constitutes one of the most vulnerable and marginal groups in Bangladesh. Child laborers are the victims of thousands of problems; e.g., poverty, scarcity, deprivation, torture, sickness, violation of child rights etc. At present, total working children between 5 to 17 years old is estimated at 7.9 million and maximum of them are involved with various types of hazardous work. Their health status is not good enough to survive as normal human beings. There are child welfare policy, laws, ordinances and rules to provide social security and other services to the children for their well being, especially vulnerable children like child labor, street children, trafficked children etc. Bangladesh also has rectified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Child, 1989. Regrettably, not all government and non-government organizations follow these rules with sincerity. Findings of this study indicate that most of the time the hazardous child laborers suffer from various health related problems (physical, social and mental health) and are deprived from the required rights and facilities as they are supposed to have as citizens of Bangladesh. As a result, the situations of malnutrition, insecurity, illiteracy, unskilled labor, social crime and violation of human rights persist. The present paper is an attempt to understand the health status of hazardous child labor followed by suggestions to overcome these situations.
Key Words: Hazardous Child Labor, Health Status, Leather Industry, Child Rights, Deprivations, Conventions, Development, International Labor Organization, Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, Non-Government Organization.
1. Background of the Study
Bangladesh is a country with over 153 million people (UNDP, 2008) and is considered to be one of the most densely populated countries of the world. The majority of the people are considered to be extremely poor by world standards and about 35 percent of the population lives on less than one U.S. dollar per day (Islam et. al., 2007). Of the 153 million people in the population of Bangladesh, about 37 million people are children between the ages of 5 to 14 years and make up approximately 24 percent of the total country’s population (SIMPOC, 2006).
*Lecturer, Institute of Social Work and Research, University of Dhaka, Dhaka.
** Lecturer, Department of English, ASA University of Bangladesh, Dhaka.
The National Child Labor Survey (2002-03), conducted by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, estimated the number of working children from 5 to 17 years of age at 7.9 million. The NCLS of 2002-03 referred to children who worked at least one hour per week in either paid or unpaid labor and children younger than the minimum age required for the work they were engaged to perform. The BBS (2003) showed that the majority of children engaged in labor were male. In contradiction to the NCLS study, the Save the Children study claimed the national statistics by the BBS grossly underestimated the actual numbers of children working primarily because the NCLS did not include figures from various parts of the informal sectors, such as house servant labor, which accounts for a large number of child laborers (Islam et. al., 2007).
The last ten years has seen a world-wide decline in the use of children in the labor force (ILO, 2006). However, the incidence of child labor in Bangladesh...