LOME (31 May 2019) – Many children in Togo remain victims of the worst forms of child labour as domestic servants in private homes, in agricultural fields or in the mining sector, the UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery said today.
Urmila Bhoola, speaking at a news conference in Lomé after a week-long visit to Togo, said she was concerned that many children are being left behind in the country’s development efforts, despite progress achieved over the years.
The Special Rapporteur was told by many during her visit that child labour continues to be accepted by governmental and non-governmental actors based on cultural norms and practices. However, Togo has committed to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals which urge States to “leave no one behind” and, as one of those targets, end the worst forms of child labour by 2025.
“Currently, the government of Togo is not doing enough to prevent and address child labour by ensuring that children have full access to quality education. Poor families continue to struggle sending their children to school due to the indirect costs of education which makes them vulnerable to child labour,” Bhoola told reporters.
“Development needs to be sustainable and inclusive for the future generations to benefit from it. If children are left out, the society will bear the cost by paying a high price,” the independent expert said.
The cultural practice of confiage,in which children are placed with family members to work in exchange for the chance of an education, often leads to abuse and exploitation – the worst forms of child labour. Child marriages and children being accused of witchcraft also cause horrendous harm, Bhoola said. “The government needs to end such practices without further delay by ensuring that children have real perspectives.”
The independent expert noted that Togo has made substantial commitments to comply with its international human rights obligations and has passed domestic laws prohibiting forced labour, child labour, forced begging and abusive working and living conditions in its 2015 penal law reforms. It has also increased the number of labour inspectors monitoring compliance with labour rights violations under the Labour Code, although there are still not enough. Also, labour inspectors cannot access private homes, where domestic servitude remains an invisible problem, and they do not have the power to issue administrative penalties.
During her visit, the independent expert met government officials, civil society organisations and trade unions, as well as victims of child labour. She visited Lomé, Sokodé and Tabligbo and noted the presence of international agencies in partnering with government and building capacity to address human rights issues.
The Special Rapporteur’s report on the country visit and recommendations will be presented to the UN Human Rights Council in September 2020.
Ms Urmila Bhoola (South Africa) was appointed as the UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, including its causes and consequences, in June 2014. She is independent from any government and serves in her individual capacity. Ms. Bhoola is a former Judge of the Labour Court of South Africa. Her judicial appointment followed twenty years of work as a labour and human rights lawyer in South Africa, and she has received many awards for her human rights and gender equality work. She has also been a technical advisor to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) on labour rights in the Asia Pacific region and was Chief Legal Drafter of South Africa's Employment Equity Act, designed to redress disadvantages caused by apartheid. The Special Rapporteur’s thematic reports can be accessed here: https://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Slavery/SRSlavery/Pages/AnnualReports.aspx.
The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.
UN Human Rights country page: Togo
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