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Child domestic labour prohibited under Child Employment Act 1991

By Myra Imran
August 06, 2020

ISLAMABAD: For the first time in the country’s history, child domestic labor has finally been proscribed under Child Employment Act 1991 through a Gazette notification issued on July 30. Child rights organisations have appreciated the step while side by side demanding effective implementation of the new amendment and urging provincial governments to pass the same amendment for provincial laws on child labour. The decision will be enforced in the capital territory but the provinces can adopt the amendment through a simple Provincial Assembly resolution.

In a tweet regarding the notification, the Federal Minister for Human Rights Dr Shireen Mazari said that “Finally Cabinet decision enforced through Gazette notification. Child Domestic Labour proscribed under 1991 Child Employment Act – valid for ICT but provinces can adopt through a simple prov Assembly resolution of the same. First time child domestic labor proscribed in Pakistan.”

The notification also includes prohibition of other hazardous labor under the Child Employment Act 1991 such as transport of passengers goods or mails by railway, cinder picking/cleaning of an ash pit, building operations in the railway premises, work in catering establishment at railway stations involving the movement of a vender or any other employee of the establishment from one platform to another into or out of moving train, work relating to construction of a railway station or with any other work where such work is done in close proximity to or between the railway lines, a port authority within the limits of any port and work relating to selling of crackers and fireworks in shops with temporary licenses. Now the new addition in the list is long demanded prohibition of child domestic labor.

The incidents of torturing and even killing child domestic workers kept surfacing time and again. In a recent case of the murder of 8 year old Zohra Shah, a child domestic labour, it was revealed that she was tortured to death for releasing expensive parrots of her owners. Zohra’s father had made a deal for a sum of Rs 50,000 with Hassan Siddique for Zohra to babysit their one year old infant. The civil society welcomed the decision of federal government and expected the provincial governments to pass the same amendment in provincial assemblies. “Child domestic labour is a bigger issues in big cities such as Lahore, Karachi and Hyderabad etc. The federal government has set an example and we believe that provincial governments are equally sensitive towards this issue and soon same amendment will be made in all provinces to prohibit child domestic labor,” said National Coordinator Child Rights Movement in Pakistan Mamtaz Gohar.

He appreciated the federal government for fulfilling a long awaited demand of child right organizations. “We are glad that Federal Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari is sensitive towards this issue and many pending laws have been passed during her tenure. Our next demand is the effective implementation and appropriate budgetary allocation for the implementation of the law in all parts of the country,” he said. Executive Director SPARC Sajjad Cheema said that Employment of Children Act 1991 is a law to regulate Child Labor and it is applicable in ICT and the province of Balochistan. He said that under Section 3 of the Act, children (defined as under 18) are prohibited to be employed in the occupations listed in schedule 1. “SPARC was demanding amendment in the schedule to add child domestic labour in the list of prohibit occupations,” he said. Cheema appreciated the federal government amending the schedule and adding child domestic labour under prohibited occupations.

He further demanded increase in the age of child from 14 to 18 and prohibit all forms of child labor. He said that that the age of 14 is in contradiction with the article 25-A of the constitution and the Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act 2012 in which a child till the age of 16 must attend school.