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Labour and sexual exploitation: two things to keep in mind today on World Day Against Child Labour

A day against child labour

12 June 2012

GENEVA (12 June 2012) – Two United Nations experts on contemporary forms of slavery and sale of children stressed today that more than 215 million children are working throughout the world over half of whom are subjected to the worst forms of child labour, including sexual and labour exploitation.

“One of the most abhorrent forms of child slavery is that found in mining and quarrying, in which children start work from the age of three,” said the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, Gulnara Shahinian. “Children, the majority of whom is boys, working in this sector are treated as commodities and face particular, and in some cases a combination of, physical, psychological, economic and sexual exploitation not found in other areas where children work.”

The human rights expert noted that recent reports show that with the current economic crises there is more reliance on commodities such as gold. “This demand has increased the numbers of boys and girls working in slavery like conditions within mines and quarries.”

“The combined elements of coercion, fear, restriction on freedom of movement and complete dependence on the employer exhibit characteristics which amount to contemporary forms of slavery,” the Special Rapporteur said. The impact of these forms of abuses is not only immediate, but has long-term harmful repercussions on the children and the children’s children.

“During my country visits, I have seen how unscrupulous employers take advantage of children’s small physique for artisanal mining which results in their stunted growth. In artisanal mining, both boys and girls handle highly toxic chemicals to extract minerals exposing them to irreversible health damages,” she noted.

“They also endure physically demanding work where they have to carry heavy loads and stand, dive or squat for long hours in order to extract mineral ore. In quarries, children dig out stones, transport them on their heads and backs and spend long hours crushing stones into smaller pieces to be used in the construction industry,” Ms. Shahinian said.

For the Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, Najat Maalla M’jid, “the sexual exploitation of children is a serious human rights violation which gravely compromises the integrity, health and development of children, as well as the full enjoyment of their rights. Sexual exploitation of children has a long-lasting impact on the victims.”

“Although States and the whole international community have undertaken, via the ratification of international and regional instruments and other initiatives, to combat this phenomenon, the sexual exploitation of children in countries of all regions persists and reaches sometimes alarming levels,” Ms. Maalla M’jid made clear.

In her view, States should fulfill their responsibility to protect, rehabilitate and reintegrate victims, provide reparation for damage caused to children, to penalize those responsible, to change certain social norms, and to ultimately prevent this phenomenon.

On World Day Against Child Labour, 12 June 2012, Ms. Shahinian and Ms. Maalla M’jid shared the International Labour Organization concerns that efforts to eliminate the worst forms of child labour are slowing down, and called for a boosted global campaign to end the practice. They also reiterated their support to the various initiatives undertaken in view of achieving the effective abolition of child labour.

Ms. Gulnara Shahinian was appointed as the first Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, its causes and consequences in May 2008. She is a lawyer with extensive experience as an expert consultant for various UN, EU, Council of Europe, OSCE and government bodies on children’s rights, gender, migration and trafficking. Ms Shahinian is also a former trustee of the UN Voluntary Trust Fund on Contemporary forms of Slavery. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Slavery/SRSlavery/Pages/SRSlaveryIndex.aspxMs. Najat Maalla M’jid (Morocco) was appointed Special Rapporteur on the sale of children in May 2008. She is independent from any government or organization. Ms. Maalla M’jid is paediatrician and member of the Commission on the Rights of the Child of the Moroccan National Consultative Council on Human Rights, and the founder of the non-governmental organization BAYTI, the first programme addressing the situation of children living in the street in Morocco. Learn more, visit: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Children/Pages/ChildrenIndex.aspx

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For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
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