Nepal reaffirms commitment to eliminating forced labour, human trafficking and child labourNepal’s objectives are in line with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.
Chandan Kumar Mandal
Nepal has renewed its pledge to eradicate forced labour, human trafficking and child labour in line with the targets of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
On the opening day of a three-day Asia Regional Conference of Alliance 8.7, a global partnership that strives to eliminate all forms of forced labour, modern slavery, human trafficking and child labour in member countries, the Nepal government reiterated its pledge to eradicate these social evils.
“The Nepal government is fully committed toward combating the complex issue of eliminating child labour, forced labour and human trafficking in all forms,” Minister for Labour, Employment and Social Security Gokarna Bista said while addressing the inaugural session of the conference.
“Forced labour, human trafficking and child labour are crimes against humanity and they seriously violate human rights. In Nepal, we recognise these crimes as crimes against the state,” he added.
Bista also said that Nepal government was committed to providing the best possible care and protection to innocent children who are the country’s future.
Forced labour, human trafficking and child labour continue to be the leading challenges in ensuring human rights across the world. Globally, it’s estimated that there may be as many as 40 million people enmeshed in modern slavery, 152 million children in child labour and 24.8 million people in forced labour. The number of child labourers and forced labourers is an estimated 62.1 million and 16.5 million, respectively, in the Asia-Pacific region, including Nepal.
“This signifies the urgent and effective action on the part of all the actors and stakeholders in a more innovative and timely manner with visible and tangible outcomes,” said Bista.
Despite recent actions in combating forced labour, human trafficking and child labour, these problems continue to plague the country.
According to the National Labour Force Survey 2017-18, unveiled by the Central Bureau of Statistics in April, a total of 31,338 individuals are in forced labour in Nepal. People are in forced labour, according to the survey, for 2.6 years in an average. Of the total people in forced labour, 56 percent are male, and 17 percent are children, the survey said.
Likewise, Nepali girls, women and children are still vulnerable to various forms of human trafficking despite legal protections and law enforcing agencies in action to protect them.
The survey also reported that of the approximately 7 million children aged between 5 and 17 years, nearly 286,000 were involved in work for pay.
Although child labour is declining at the rate of 100,000 per year, 1.6 million children aged 5 to 17 are in child labour in Nepal, according to the estimates of the alliance, which aims to achieve the SDG target 8.7 by 2030.
According to the alliance, of the children involved in child labour, 621,000 children are estimated to be engaged in hazardous work.
“Emergence of new forms of forced labour is one of the leading challenges,” said Ram Prasad Ghimire, joint secretary at the Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security.
“All of the stakeholders need to focus on the root cause and promote decent work. Also, there is a need for harmonisation of laws, forging of better coordination among various stakeholders to deal with the problems and coming up with alternate livelihoods and overcoming work deficits.”
The Nepal government has introduced National Master Plan on the Elimination of Child Labour (2018-2028) with the aim of banishing the ‘exploitative and worst form of child labour’ by 2022 and all types of child labour by 2025.
The ongoing conference has brought together social partners, government officials, and members from workers’ and employers’ organisations from 15 countries. Participants from attending countries shared their country’s innovations toward achieving the SDG Target 8.7.
RPA Wimalweera, commissioner-general for labour with Ministry of Labour and Trade Union Relations, Sri Lanka, a country which has witnessed a drastic decline in child labour, said his country’s policy on child labour was complemented by the national action plans.
Arvind Francis, assistant secretary-general of Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, said government schemes like mid-day meal have encouraged participation in schools while measures like PENCIL has encouraged reporting of child labour and enforcement of no child labour in India.
“Promotion of education is crucial in promoting the rights of children and ensuring a better future for them,” said Amar Lal, a youth advocate and a human rights lawyer from India, who happens to be a son of parents who were once engaged in bonded labour.