Uzbekistan Govt. takes measures to avoid child labour in cotton industry - activists say problem may persist
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Eighth-form pupils from secondary schools were sent to pick cotton in Jizak Region today, while high-school pupils went to cotton fields two days earlier. Local residents said that schoolchildren had been sent to cotton fields despite government pledges not to force children to pick cotton this year and the country’s ratification of the Convention on the Prohibition and Immediate Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour...[S]choolchildren…had not been provided [with] basic living conditions…[T]here were no safe sources of drinking water…[T]eachers and elder schoolchildren beat up younger ones for failing to produce good cotton-harvesting results.
The governor of Samarkand Region, Uktam Barnoyev, has issued orders not to involve schoolchildren under 15 in cotton picking, while students of colleges and lyceums of this age may be called up to pick cotton. As a rule, 15-year-olds should study in school, but the Uzbek government abolished 11-year schooling two years ago and many 15-year-olds study in colleges and lyceums after ninth form now…An anonymous official of the Samarkand Region administration…thinks that the authorities will attract college and lyceum students from rural areas to picking cotton at a peak of the season…[S]tudents of the Pastdargom District, many of whom are 15, were taken to cotton fields on 15 September…Journalist from Samarkand Yermuhhamad Rustamov said that child labour had become an issue of survival for the Uzbek government and of the country’s economic prosperity.
The Uzbek authorities, fearing the global boycott of Uzbek cotton, are taking measures to reap a new cotton harvest without child labour, but will they manage it fully?...A human rights activist...said that schoolchildren and students are continuing their studies at the moment, but, he said, rumours are spreading that at least college and university students may be taken to cotton fields within 10 days…A campaign launched by NGOs against forced child labour in the Uzbek cotton industry has forced the Uzbek government to respect child rights. The authorities had been exploiting child labour on a large scale and ruthlessly in the past...Tesco, Wal-Mart, Gap, H&M, Marimeko, C&A and others, have declared a boycott against Uzbek cotton and warned their suppliers in Asia and other parts of the world.