Afghanistan Rights Monitor (ARM) was designed to conduct regular monitoring of the conditions of fundamental rights in ten provinces of Afghanistan (29 districts) from 2015 to 2018 using a set of indicators based on internationally recognized monitoring standards. The findings from monitoring are expected to feed into informed, pragmatic, and constructive advocacy messaging on fundamental rights by civil society. The findings also serve as the evidence base to alert and sensitize governmental stakeholders on pressing, fundamental rights-related challenges of Afghan citizens.
This brief is based on the findings of ARM, on the issue of child labor. For more information on ARM, see: http://appro.org.af/afghanistan-rights-monitor-has-been-launched/
More than a 100 million children across the globe work in hazardous conditions in mining, agriculture, factories, domestic labor and other fields. In the world’s poorest countries, nearly one in four children are engaged in work that is potentially harmful to their health and social development. In South Asia, 12 per cent of children in the age group of 5 to 14 are performing potentially harmful work. Despite laws banning child labor in Afghanistan, an estimated 25 percent of Afghan children work full or part time, driven by the need to meet basic household necessities, such as food requiring regular income.
In 2014, Afghanistan made efforts to eliminate the worst forms of child labor. The Government announced a list of 29 occupations and working conditions prohibited for children and passed a law that criminalizes the recruitment of children under the age of 18 into state security institutions. The Government of Afghanistan has also ratified the Palermo Protocol on Trafficking in Persons to combat child trafficking. However, as with many other rights-related areas of legislation, laws and conventions prohibiting child labor are widely ignored because of the demand by exploitative employers looking for cheap labor and poor families needing regular income.
A recent assessment by Afghanistan Public Policy Research Organization (APPRO) finds that since December 2015 child labor has been on rise across Balkh, Bamyan, Daikundi, Herat, Kabul, Kandahar, Khost, Kunduz, Nangarhar and Nimruz, the 10 provinces being monitored under Afghanistan Rights Monitor (ARM) by APPRO. The findings also indicate that there is no uniform awareness of the law pertaining to child labor. Child labor is also a major reason for the increase in school dropout rates.
Persistent and increasing poverty and unemployment and an absence of the rule of law appear to be the main drivers of the increase in child labor. Some forms of child labor, such as traditional apprenticeship arrangements in various crafts like carpentry, mechanics, and carpet weaving allow the children to continue their education and social development while they learn a skill. These occupations for children might be justifiable in the Afghan context. Other trades that require physical labor, and difficult and unsafe working environments, for example, brick making and heavy construction work have little or no protection for children’s rights. These sectors are, without a doubt, exploitative and deprive children of safety, education, and social development. In addition, working children can be subjected to physical and sexual abuse in unregulated and unprotected environments.
The risk of physical and sexual abuse is just one of the many consequences that come with child labor. The most significant impact of child labor is societal. Child labor not only causes damage to a child’s physical and mental health and development, it also results in the emergence of a generation of adults who have grown up in abusive conditions while being deprived of basic development needs, such as access to education and nurture that only a family could provide. The likelihood of many of these children becoming the abusers of the next generation of children is, therefore, quite high.
In managing the issue of child labor in Afghanistan, the following factors and related recommendations may be considered: