Quoting UNICEF and ILO, NCPA reveals shocking statistics
Sri Lanka has 40,000 child prostitutes
By Gagani Weerakoon
@ The Island / 12 Jun 2006
The National Child Protection Authority revealed shocking statistics, quoting the UNICEF and ILO, that Sri Lanka has nearly 40,000 child prostitutes in the country while 5,000 to 30,000 Sri Lankan boys are used by Western paedophile sex tourists, as the world celebrates day against child labour today.
Nearly 10,000 to 12,000 children from rural areas are trafficked and prostituted to paedophiles by organised crime groups, according to the statistics of UNICEF and the ILO.
Though exact numbers are not available with any of the local organisations which function for the protection of child rights, ILO indicates that Sri Lanka has more than 100,000 children working as domestic aids.
The government celebrating the Day on June 7, five days in advance, admitted that no nationwide surveys on child labour had been done in Sri Lanka since 1999 and said some qualitative research points to the fact that there are children trapped in hazardous forms of child labour such as child domestic labour, the fireworks industry, in the informal sector construction industry, motor garages, small business establishments, shops, etc.
“Parliament has passed legislation to give effect to immediately eliminate the worst forms of child labour in keeping with commitments made to implement ILO Convention 182 on the elimination of the worst forms of child labour,” it said in the message issued on June 7 marking the World Day Against Child Labour.
Chairperson of the National Child Protection Authority (NCPA), Padmini Wetthawa, said the plight of Sri Lankan children was in a dire situation as the number of children being trafficked and being forcibly recruited as child soldiers to the LTTE was rising rapidly despite having various awareness programmes.
“This year which was marked as the Children’s Year by President Mahinda Rajapaksa, both Governmental and Non Governmental Organisations should genuinely pay their attention to address the child soldiers’ issue when the whole world is concentrating on combating child labour,” she noted.
“Children are often employed and exploited because, compared to adults, they are more vulnerable, cheaper to hire and are less likely to demand higher wages or better working conditions. Some employers falsely argue that children are particularly suited to certain types of work because of their small size and "nimble fingers",” said Ms. Wetthawa.
The use of children for alcohol and drug trafficking is a serious problem while the authorities are yet to crack the countrywide network, which deals with child trafficking and prostitution.
"No one actually knows the correct number of child prostitutes and children involved in trafficking," said NCPA official adding that ground research was yet to be done on these subjects.
The NCPA records a reduction in child labour of 10 to 15 fold following the intensified action by authorities and a wide media campaign against domestic child labour.
"Using children as domestic servants has become a taboo today following the media awareness campaign," he added.
Accordingly, an unofficial survey conducted by the ILO, showed that nearly 35,000 children were now employed mainly at shops and small factories.
The situation has reached a climax today where the world identifies Sri Lanka as a paedophiles' paradise. Although the government estimates that there are 2,000 active child prostitutes in the country, private groups claim the number is as high as 40,000.
Most of these children, 80% of whom are boys, are sexually exploited in tourist centres and are trafficked around the country to serve the tourists.
According to the NCPA, many steps such as improvement of public awareness, poverty elimination among sensitive social groups, strict implementation of legal regulations and training of officials and police officers are essential to eliminate sexual exploitation of children.
‘The End of Child Labour: Together We Can Make It’, the International Labour Organisation made it the theme of this year as the World Day Against Child Labour, 2006 falls today, as a part of the International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC) despite having more than 200 million child labourers all over the world.
The World Day against Child Labour was established by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in 2002 to pay more attention to global and local efforts against child labour and highlight the global movement to eliminate the practice, particularly its worst forms. According to the latest report the actual number of child labourers worldwide fell by 11 per cent between 2000 and 2004, from 246 million to 218 million. The report attributed the reduction in child labour to increased political will and awareness and concrete action, particularly in the field of poverty reduction and mass education that has led to a "worldwide movement against child labour".
Sri Lanka has ratified all eight human rights conventions of the ILO, including the two-core conventions on Child Labour.
The main aim of Convention 182 is to eliminate the worst forms of child labour. It stresses that immediate action is needed to tackle the worst exploitation of children, and that measures taken by the authorities should start as soon as the government is able to follow the ratification.
some of the circumstances faced by child labourers are full time work at a very early age, dangerous workplaces, excessive working hours, subjection to psychological, verbal, physical and sexual abuse, obliged to work by circumstances or individuals, limited or no pay, work and life on the streets in bad conditions and inability to escape from the poverty cycle with no access to education.
The ILO says that most children work because their families are poor and their labour is necessary for their survival. Discrimination on grounds including gender, race or religion also plays its part in why some children work.
Ethnic conflicts too have left many children displaced and abandoned. They are easy prey for 'job placement agents' who pick them up on the streets in villages or even from within the refugee camps, and then sell them for employment, most commonly for domestic work.
As well as being a result of poverty, child labour also perpetuates poverty. Many working children do not have the opportunity to go to school and often grow up to be unskilled adults trapped in poorly paid jobs, and in turn will look to their own children to supplement the family's income, the ILO says.