In an ideal world, childhood should be reserved for play, learning, and the exploration of a growing mind and body. Sadly, in many places around the world children are forced to work in order to help sustain themselves and their families. On Thursday, 200 children and 100 hundred adults convened in Central Delhi, India to demand the passage of the Child and Adolescent Labor (Prohibition and Regulation) Bill. The legislation would outlaw employment of children up to age 14 in any industry, and ensure that anyone younger than 18 would not be allowed to participate in hazardous labor.
Those who do not comply with the proposed law would receive a maximum sentence of three years in jail. According to the United Nations, only 4,000 successful prosecutions against employers have made it through the courts in the past 25 years, and the bill would work towards setting a standard for those who violate the law. A 1986 child labor law already exists on the books, but an amendment introduced in August of last year is still waiting for approval.
Organizations fighting for child safety, including Walk Free, Bachpan Bachao Andolan, and Avaaz, were in attendance on Thursday, collecting signatures to push the bill through the parliament. As reported by The Wall Street Journal, over a million people from 183 countries have signed the petition, which was submitted to the Prime Minister late on Thursday.
Passage of the law may find opposition and lack of political will. India has yet to accept two International Labor Organization treaties on child labor, and many see corruption and the adherence to the status quo as hindering progress. With support from both domestic and international communities, it is hoped that India will soon take an important step towards protecting the welfare of its children.