Essay question 3: Critically analyse why some children are more vulnerable to exploitation and its impact on their attainment of rights. You can illustrate your answer with example(s). This assignment focuses on the exploitation through Child labour in India and reflects on the political and legal context for children’s rights. Furthermore considering the theoretical perspectives on the constructions of childhood and the needs and rights of all children. The 2001 national census of India estimated the total number of child labourers, aged 5 years to 14 years to be at 12. million. However, Child labour issues are not unique to India; worldwide, approximately 215 million children work, many of which are full-time (Ministry of Labour and Employment 2011). The statistics are alarming, displaying that millions of children across the world are victims of exploitation and abuse, subjected to appalling working conditions for very little or no money. There is also an analysis of why some children are more vulnerable to exploitation through labour than others.
This can be linked to poverty and globalisation, child labour markets and a link to the lack of education, affecting the rights of children. It is important to explore and evaluate the works of non-governmental organisations such as Pratham and RIDE India, and the work of the international Labour Organisation, who are a united nations agency dealing with labour issues worldwide. Furthermore, analysing why critics challenge being able to help certain communities and why critics believe children’s rights occur in a context and are conditional, not absolute.
The practice of rights for children has emerged in recent years as a powerful force in changing children’s lives. Child exploitation across the world suggests there are significant injustices and children’s rights are being ignored. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) adopted by 193 United Nations members is an important instrument to protecting and addressing the rights and needs of the world’s children. Article 32 states that the government should protect children from work that is dangerous or may harm their health or their education.
Additionally, Children's work should not jeopardize any of their other rights, including the right to education, or the right to relaxation and play (UNCRC, cited in UNICEF 2001). This would suggest that all children, regardless of location, have basic human rights. Sharing the right to safety, love of their families, adequate food and rest, and an education (Farrell, 2010). Child exploitation and labour shows the failure to meet children’s most basic needs which is identified in the works of Maslow and the hierarchy of needs.
Maslow states that there are stages of human development that humans pass through in order to ultimately move towards the pinnacle of achievement. At the physiological level is the need for air, water, nourishment, good health, activity, rest, and avoidance of pain (Huitt 2007). These conditions are being threatened by child labour and its affects. For example, alarming facts from Save the Children (2007) indicate that two thirds of children are victims of physical abuse, with over half having to work seven days a week.
Although the UNCRC adopts the right for all children to be free from abuse and exploitation, it is clearly evident that some children are more vulnerable to being exploited than others. The past two decades have underscored the fact that progress on a child’s well-being and rights is not automatic or inevitable, even with economic growth. According to Adamson (2008) progress on all child-related issues is slowest in South Asia than anywhere else. For instance, Children trafficked into one form of labour in India may be later sold into another, from work in a carpet factory to sex trafficking (IPEC, 2004).
There are a number of global, national and local issues as to why some children are more vulnerable to exploitation than others. On a global level, sceptics of globalization argue that increased trade openness and foreign direct investment induce developing countries to keep labour costs low, for example by letting children work (Neumayer and Soysa 2005). Caesar-Leo (1999) argues that multinational companies have drawn third world countries into the global market where labour is cheap and regulations more relaxed. In turn, providing ample opportunity for child exploitation to occur.
However advocates of globalisation would argue that developing countries can turn globalisation into an opportunity to reduce child labour by spending more on education and public health. Moreover, arguing that the global market is a fact of life and developing countries should strive for higher standards (Penn, 2005). Globally, The ILO’s response to child labour is the International Program on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC), the ILO strives to strengthen the capacity of countries to deal with the problem and promote a worldwide movement. The International Labour organization (2007) eported that the results of the project show a decline from 8. 7% to 6. 6% in the proportion of children aged 10-14 who are economically active. The success of the project is faced with mixed reviews. Regardless of the decline, evidence shows that progress in the income generation segment has been relatively slow. Financial benefits only reached pockets of a few targeted mothers in Tamil Nadu, only one of 28 states in India (International Labour Organization 2007). Nevertheless, poverty is not measured solely on international affairs. Money is the root cause of a violation in children’s rights locally.
Poverty inevitably creates desperation for families. With not many options, hopeless parents sell their children into the labour industry to survive (Farrell, 2010). Within economically developing societies such as India, pressures on children and families are less likely to be as a result of the growing consumer society, and much more likely to be in relation to absolute poverty, children being seen as economic assets and political oppression. The difficulty in earning enough money for food and shelter means that children engage in paid work where it is likely they will be exploited.
This has an effect on their access to education and play, as even the most basics of life are difficult to obtain (Jones and Welch, 2010). Furthermore, if adult wages were higher in developing countries, parents may see an economic advantage in investing their children in education (Cunningham 2003). One of the solutions to child labour at a local level is the set up and actions of non-governmental organizations. NGOs vary in their methods. Some act primarily as lobbyists, while others primarily conduct programs and activities.
For instance, an NGO such as Save the Children, concerned with child protection, might remove children from exploitative conditions (Save the Children 2012). NGOs were intended to fill a gap in government services, but in countries like India, NGOs are gaining a powerful stronghold in decision making (Willets 2012). One NGO active in India is Pratham, whose mission is to ensure that every child is in school and learning well. This suggests and directly links to the idea that child labour prevents a basic education and the opportunity to flourish as an educated individual. Non-governmental organizations are not without scrutiny.
It is important to consider that in 2003, India’s home ministry blacklisted more than 800 NGOs only in the north-eastern region of the country for links with extremist groups, especially those that receive foreign contributions, have been used as conduits for money laundering and sponsoring terrorist/extremist activities (Sonal 2010). Although this is not considered a major problem of NGO’s, it is evident that there is a need to improve governance practices and regulations. The use of NGO’s for other purposes besides fighting good causes, can be seen as deflecting away from the real issues, for example child labour and exploitation.
In addition, Nieuwenenhuys (2009) argues that the NGOs of India are categorising Indian children as in need of ‘outside intervention and research’. She also maintains that this view is overly negative and suggests that Indian children have a non-existent childhood. Wadia (2011) agrees that children who are seen as requiring state intervention in their lives get broken down into their ‘needs’, which fit within the UNCRC format, and are then addressed by various policies, programmes and schemes.
Nieuwenenhuys (2009) argues that this is wrong and that all children find time to play in some manner or the other, so this aspect of a child’s life is rarely seen as a feature of NGO programming. Moss and Petrie (2002) have argued that, though childhood is a biological fact, the way it is understood and lived varies considerably. Suggesting that there is never only one version of what a child is: different professions, disciplines and communities create particular versions of what children are, or can be, shaped by politics, history and culture.
Therefore these perceptions will determine the way in which cultures think about childhood and the ideas attached to it. According to Archard (2004) a criticism on the UNCRC is that it ‘codifies a Western, urban, middleclass ideal of childhood’. He argues that a culture or countries perceptions of when a childhood is deemed to start and finish, affect the relationship between children’s rights and what is understood as acceptable and unacceptable. This ideology is linked to why some children are more vulnerable to exploitation than others, as it can be argued that the UNCRC are determining their rights for children based on a western society.
Boyden (1990) refers to the UNCRC as creating a global model of an acceptable childhood which takes precedence over local understanding. For example, Kehily (2004) found that working with agencies amongst the UNCRC were likely to criticise the conditions in which Indian children lived and worked but these criticisms were often based on fragmented knowledge of the countries and culturally insensitive ideas on how the children should be treated. This ethnocentrism can lead to cultural misinterpretation and can create a barrier of communication between societies.
In conclusion, whilst the UNCRC focus efforts to explore child exploitation and the right to be protected from dangerous labour, it is legitimate to ask whether expectations will ever be fulfilled. Critics would argue, whether the CRC, both regional and universal, actually give voice to the concern for the well-being of children and for their rights. It is questionable whether the protocol will ever be effectively implemented or they will continue to be ignored or marginalised.
It is evident that children continue to be exploited all over the world and their emotional, physical and mental health compromised by harsh working conditions. In my opinion, the on-going presence and changes caused by neo-liberal globalisation have contributed to some of the problems of the world’s children such as lack of education, hunger and being forced to work. It is concerning that the UNCRC was the first binding international instrument that established an almost complete global consensus; however some children are still exposed to extreme exploitation in comparison to others.
The hard work of the ILO and various non-governmental organizations cannot be disputed, however some would argue that we cannot try to ‘help’ children of India, based on western notions. Moreover, it is of great importance that each individual that witnesses Child labour should take responsibility to report these crimes. However, considering the magnitude and extent of the problem, effort from society as a whole is needed to make a dent. Measures need to be taken not only to stop this crime against children, but also to slowly, steadily and surely provide every child a well-deserved healthy and normal childhood.
Word Count: 1867. References: Adamson, P. , 2008. The Child Care Transition: A League Table of Early Childhood Education and Care in Economically Advanced Countries. Florence: UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre. Archard, D. , 2004. Children: Rights and Childhood. London: Routledge. Boyden, J. , 1990. ‘Comparative Perspective on the Globalization of Childhood. Basingstoke: Falmer Press. Caesar Leo, 1999. Child labour: the most visible type of Child Abuse and neglect in India. [online] Available at: <