Topic: Children and women labour abuse: ways to prevent further escalation
In almost all countries all over the world, countless laws and policies against the exploitation of child/women labour abuse exist. The political will to enforce them, however, does not. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Child (UNCRC) and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) are the most ratified human rights treaties in history. Both of them target at protecting the rights of the most vulnerable human beings, children and women who are often subjects of violation and exploitation.
Child/women labour is a complex problem influenced by numerous factors. Low income, poverty, poor access to education and particular political or cultural circumstances are the driving forces behind the prevalence of forced labour. In addition, labour markets do not function properly, because poor households create a demand for child/women labour.
In recent decades some extreme forms of violence against children and women, including sexual exploitation and trafficking, the worst forms of labour and the impact of armed conflict, have provoked international outcry and achieved a consensus of condemnation. But in addition to these extreme forms of violence, many women and children are routinely exposed to physical, sexual and psychological violence in their homes, in care and justice systems, in places of work and in their communities. All of this has devastating consequences for their health and well-being now and in the future.
Croatia is a country which respects the right of all individuals to enjoy all rights and freedoms and guarantees equality for all citizens (art.14). The labour Law prohibits gender discrimination and article 172 (1) of the Criminal Code punishes the violation of fundamental human rights and freedoms on the basis of differences in sex among other attributions. The National Action Plan, introduced in 2001, promotes the coordination of ministries, parliamentary offices, unions, and the NGO community with the aim to protect and safeguard gender equality. Perpetrators may be sentenced to imprisonment for six months to five years.
The nation signed on to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and committed to undertake a series of measures to eliminate discrimination against women in all forms.
Croatia was one of the first countries to sign the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, including the Protocol to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking in persons, especially women and children.
Trafficking is considered a severe form of exploitation and is prosecuted under the penal Code?s articles prohibiting slavery, the illegal transfer of persons across state borders, international prostitution, and procurement or pimping.
To deal with the trafficking problem Croatia put emphasis to the police comprehensive training on trafficking. The training programme was so successful that the Council of Europe has chosen it as a model training programme for other areas.
To address and prevent child labour the government has adopted a national Action programme and created a national ombudsman (a complaints investigator) to ensure effective implementation of the programme.
The minimum age for employment of children is 15 as long as the child is not attending compulsory education, and it was enforced by the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare. Workers under the age of 18 are prohibited from working overtime, at night, or under dangerous conditions that may be harmful to a child?s physical and moral well-being. The Labour Act does not permit minors to work more than 40 hours per week. The Labour Act also authorizes labour inspectors to investigate minors? working conditions to determine whether or not they are in danger.
The Constitution of Croatia prohibits forced labour and the government has incorporated child labour issues into related policy frameworks. The government has also adopted a National Action Plan for the Rights and Interests of Children to strengthen services provided to vulnerable children. The goal is to provide resources for the prevention of the worst forms of child labour, including resources for investigation of child labour and exploitation. The plan also aims to bring together a network of donor organizations and local NGOs to improve the well-being of children and help those who are victims of trafficking and the worst forms of labour. The Criminal Code prohibits parents and other responsible persons from forcing a minor to beg or to engage in unsuitable or excessive work.
Taking all these important issues into account, Croatia believes that the international community plays and has to play a significant role in the aspect of children and women human rights abuse. Though the United Nations have already created a large number of international conventions, setting legal standards to prohibit exploitation of child labour, the problem remains widespread. After all, laws mean very little if they are not enforced. Croatia, therefore, proposes that all state members of the community formulate and execute a national policy to monitor enforcement of child labour legislation and laws.
Finally, improving educational systems and providing financial incentives to poor families to send children to school may be more useful solutions to the child labour problem than punitive measures designed to prevent children from earning income.