Where Have They Gone?

Child Slavery

What is Child Slavery?

Child Slavery is a term used to refer too the trafficking of children for enforced slave labour and work with little or no pay. Child Labour is often defined as work that deprives the child of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development. Child Slavery could possibly be as a result to parents that are poor or in desperate need of funds selling their children to labourers such as cocoa plantations for a small profit. They are then often cheated out and on some cases never see the required funds or their children again. In its most extreme forms, child labour involves children being enslaved, separated from their families, exposed to serious hazards and illnesses or left to fend for themselves on the streets of large cities, often at a very early age. “Children who are compelled to work are robbed of childhood itself,” UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman said, “The majority of child labourers are hidden from view and beyond the reach of the law. Many of them are denied basic health care, education, adequate nutrition, and the protection and security of their communities and families."

How many children are affected by Child Slavery?

Some 180 million children aged 5–17 (or 73 per cent of all child labourers) are believed to be engaged in the worst forms of child labour, including working in hazardous conditions such as in mines and with dangerous machinery. Of these children, 5.7 million are forced into debt bondage or other forms of slavery, 1.8 million are forced into prostitution or pornography and 600,000 are engaged in other illicit activities.

Why Child Slavery?

Agriculture remains by far the most important sector where child labourers can be found, at around 98 million, but it is also a big problem in industry with numbers being up to around 12 million. For some people in poor and impoverished countries, children provide the most cost affective solution too community labour. Receiving less then the minimum wage, no health care and protection under the law in some cases, the children are exposed to anything thrown at them and have little preservation.

Roman Catholic Church Teachings on Child Slavery

2258 - "Human life is sacred because from its beginning it involves the creative action of God and it remains for ever in a special relationship with the Creator, who is its sole end. God alone is the Lord of life from its beginning until its end: no one can under any circumstance claim for himself the right directly to destroy an innocent human being."

It is seen as a moral issue that children are meant to be looked after and cared for until their bodies and minds are sufficiently developed which includes giving them the right of education, food, shelter and support. The Catholic Catechism states that this child exploitation is a serious violation of a person’s dignity no matter how small or insignificant they seem to society and that we should live in a just society. The slavery these children are forced to undergo opposes the teaching as the world they live in is unjust and unfair, full of violation and violence. The violation of these children is not showing good within the community as the have been deprived of a childhood and have been forced to be a part of a corrupt environment whilst being taken advantage of.

Pope Leo XIII issued the warning:

“In regard to children, great care should be taken not to place them in workshops and factories until their bodies and minds are sufficiently developed. For, just as very rough weather destroys the buds of spring, so does too early an experience of life's hard toil blight the young promise of a child's faculties, and render any true education impossible”.

What can we do about it?

There are a variety of things that we can do to help those affected by child slavery. They are as follows:

-Raising awareness about the affects and problems of child slavery.

- Talk to businesses involved in the production of goods and ask them what measures they take to ensure that the goods they produce are child labour free.

- Recruit others into the campaign. In your region, establish contact with other young people in schools and community groups who could work with you in your action against child labour.

- Involve your wider community in events such as World Day Against Child Labour observed yearly on 12 June, or organise an child labour awareness week to attract the greatest public attention possible.

No individual, no organization, even the largest one, can begin to stop child labour on its own, and no action, even the smallest, can be dismissed as being too small to bring about change. It is only through joining the forces of goodwill on all levels of society that we can hope to put an end to child labour.

“Few human rights abuses are so widely condemned, yet so widely practised. Let us make (child labour) a priority. Because a child in danger is a child that cannot wait.” - Kofi Annan,

Former UN Secretary-General