Miners, tea pickers, brides: these children are slaves, not labourers

Author: Aidan McQuade, Director of Anti-Slavery Intl., in Guardian (UK), Published on: 10 February 2016

We’re only just into the new year but 2016 has already been marked by two particularly distressing UK media reports of child exploitation. On 5 January, the BBC reported on the exploitation of children in tea plantations linked to the Catholic church in Uganda. Then the Guardian reported on an Amnesty International-African Resources Watch investigation into children forced to work in cobalt mines in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. However, both pieces were marred by the same small but significant detail: they failed to properly identify the phenomenon that they exposed as child slavery, as opposed to child labour. The distinction is not mere semantics. Child slavery is defined in the 1956 supplementary convention on slavery as the delivery by parents or guardian of a child to a third party for the purposes of exploitation...The particular features of child slavery have further implications. When we encounter child labour, however hazardous, it tends to be undertaken while the child is still under parental care...In 2012, the International Labour Organisation estimated that there were 5.5 million children in slavery. This was exactly the same as the ILO’s estimate for 2005...The struggle to eradicate child slavery will be long and difficult. It shouldn’t be made harder by being overlooked every time it is encountered.

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