IV. Forced and Bonded Child Labor
There are millions of children whose labor can be considered forced, not only because they are too young to choose to work, but also because they are, in fact, actively coerced into working.3 These include child bonded laborers -- children whose labor is pledged by parents as payment or collateral on a debt -- as well as children who are kidnapped or otherwise lured away from their families and imprisoned in sweatshops or brothels. In addition, millions of children around the world work unseen in domestic service -- given or sold at a very early age to another family.
Forced child laborers work in conditions "that have no resemblance to a free employment relationship."4 They receive little or no pay and have no control over their daily lives.5 They are often forced to work beyond their physical capacity and under conditions that seriously threaten their health, safety and development. In many cases their most basic rights, such as freedom of movement and expression, are suppressed. They are subject to physical and verbal abuse. Even in cases where they are not physically confined to their workplace, their situation may be so emotionally traumatizing and isolating that once drawn into forced labor they are unable to conceive of a way to escape.
This chapter reviews some well-known situations of forced child labor, including bonded labor in manufacturing and mining sectors.6 In order to provide a more complete picture of these practices as they occur throughout the world, situations of forced child labor in non-export production, including "services" such as the sex industry and domestic services, will also be described.
Forms of forced child labor are found in many regions of the world. It is generally assumed that forced and bonded child labor is most widespread in Asia, particularly in the Indian subcontinent, because most reports are from that region.7 The South Asian Coalition on Child Servitude estimates that there are approximately ten million child laborers in "chronic bondage" in India alone.8 Forced child labor is also found in Latin America and Africa, although less documentation is available on its occurrence in these regions. While reliable statistics on forced and bonded child labor are lacking, the ILO estimates that the number of child victims is increasing in some sectors and industries despite national and international laws prohibiting the practice.9
Forced child labor is found primarily in informal, unregulated or illegal sectors of the economy. It is most common among the economically vulnerable and least educated members of society such as minority ethnic or religious groups or the lowest classes or castes. Children are especially vulnerable to exploitation because their lack of maturity makes them easy to deceive and ensures that they have little, if any, knowledge of their rights. As the London-based human rights organization Anti-Slavery International (ASI) states,
It is an axiom that the weakest and most marginalized groups of people are those most vulnerable to exploitation. Within the context of slavery, indigenous peoples along with women and children are amongst the groups most affected.10
There are no specific international standards on "forced child labor." This study uses ILO and United Nations standards on minimum age for employment, forced labor, the economic exploitation of children, and slavery-like practices.
Forced labor is defined by ILO Convention 29 on Forced or Compulsory Labor as "all work or service which is exacted from any person under the menace of any penalty and for which the said person has not offered himself voluntarily."11 Convention 29 calls upon ratifying states to "suppress the use of forced or compulsory labor in all its forms."
The United Nations 1956 Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery, the Slave Trade and Institutions and Practices Similar to Slavery defines slavery to include: debt bondage, serfdom and any practice whereby a person under 18 years of age is delivered by his parent/guardian, whether for reward or not, with a view to the exploitation of the young person or his labor.
Most commonly, the person under control is a child, whose services are sometimes pledged at a very young age.13
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child states that children must be protected from all forms of economic exploitation. This includes performing any work "that is likely to be hazardous or to interfere with the child's education, or to be harmful to the child's health or physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development."14 The Convention also calls for the prevention of the use of children in illicit production and trafficking of drugs; protection against all forms of sexual exploitation; and prevention against abduction, sale of or traffic in children for any purpose.15
Examples of forced child labor are examined below. They include debt bondage, kidnapping, trafficking, and sale of children, and domestic servitude.
Debt bondage, found predominantly in South Asia and Latin America,16 occurs when, in return for a money advance or credit, a person, having no other security to offer, pledges his/her labor or that of a child for an indefinite period of time. In many cases a parent takes a loan aware that the labor of his entire family will be offered in return. In other cases the child alone is subjected to bondage by parents or a guardian who pledge the child's labor in exchange for a loan:
Technically, bonded laborers can end their state of servitude once the debt is repaid.18 But the fact of the matter is that this rarely occurs. Since debtors are often illiterate and lack basic math skills, they are easy prey for deception by moneylenders.19 A combination of low wages and usurious interest rates make it impossible to repay the initial debt. In many cases the debt increases because the employer deducts payment for equipment and tools or charges fines for faulty work.20 Sometimes the labor pledged is used to repay the interest on the loan but not the principal.21
Debt bondage is commonly found in rural areas where traditional class or caste structures and semi-feudalistic patterns endure. Landless or near-landless households, as well as migrant laborers, are particularly vulnerable to debt bondage since they have few resources with which to meet daily needs or unexpected expenses. There are no alternative sources of credit available. Sometimes families take loans they cannot repay in order to fund ceremonial events such as weddings and funerals.
In cases of "intergenerational" bondage, debts are passed down from parent to child.22 Once a parent is no longer able to work, the debt is assumed by the child. This occurs particularly in countries with longstanding feudal agricultural societies.
Other contractual-type arrangements exist that can eventually lead to debt bondage. In agriculture or mining, persons may be recruited and transported long distances to work. In most cases the actual conditions of employment are not written. Where written contracts exist, the illiterate children and families are unable to verify their contents. Once they arrive at the work site, often in remote areas from which escape is impossible, they find the conditions to be much worse than initially described.
These situations lead to bondage when transport costs and living expenses are deducted from pay. Families or children are required to buy food and medicine and other supplies at inflated prices from a concessionaire or company store. When workers owe more than they have received in pay, they find themselves ensnared in debt bondage. Unable to pay for their return trip home, they are forced to stay.
The abduction of children leads to some of the most exploitative and abusive situations of child bondage. In some cases, children are kidnapped, taken far away from home and sold into prostitution. In other cases abducted children are sold to work in small-scale industries. There are also reports of young boys from South Asia trafficked and sold to be used as camel jockeys in the Gulf States.
Systems of child trafficking include various middlemen, recruiting agents and conveying agents. There are networks of intermediaries at every level -- local, national and international.23
Many children are sold by their parents or lured away from their homes by recruiters. Poor families are commonly seduced by false promises of middlemen such as recruiting agents or contractors.24 The recruiters promise well-paying jobs and a brighter future for the children, often misrepresenting the type of work the child will perform.
Recruiters or contractors are often associated with a particular employer or organized agency, or may work independently. Sometimes village members or neighbors earn money by recruiting children for work. They make their rounds in villages and slums, "insinuating themselves as friends and helpers of the poorest families, understanding their plight and offering to help them with their financial problems."25 The child is then taken away by bus, truck or train to be sold to a master. In some cases, families are never reunited.
Parents are often given an advance by the recruiter to pay for travel and food. The child is then confined to the workplace until he/she is able to pay off the debt owed from the advance. In many countries children are forced into the sex industry because their parents have sold them to recruiters, or because recruiters have lured the children away with promises of an exciting life in the big city.
The selling of children by their parents has reportedly been on the increase in Sudan due to the ongoing civil war. Boys between 7 and 12 years old are sold by destitute families to merchants for approximately $70 each. Once sold, children have little chance of being reunited with their parents.26
The use of children as domestic servants is widespread and occurs in many countries in Asia, as well as in Latin America, Africa, and the Middle East. Although no reliable global or national figures exist on the number of children engaged in domestic employment, the figure is undoubtedly in the millions worldwide, and may be on the increase.27
Child domestic servants -- usually young girls -- work as "virtual slaves."28 They are given or sold to families or distant relatives to serve as household help. They generally work extended hours, and are sometimes treated harshly by their employer, beaten or sexually abused. They are often not paid. Strangers to the city or town where they work and isolated from their parents, the children are powerless to change their position.29
In the manufacturing and mining sectors, forced child labor occurs mainly in small-scale, decentralized operations. Larger manufacturers often subcontract work out to small production units that are not regulated by child labor laws. The victims of forced child labor in the manufacturing and mining sectors are most often marginalized groups such as rural poor and migrant workers.
It is common for children to be lured away from home by recruiters who convince parents that their children will be placed in promising, well-paying jobs. Often recruiters give parents an advance, which the children are then required to repay with their labor.30 In other cases, children are bonded along with their entire family. Those children who are separated from their families, often by long distances, usually suffer the most abusive conditions.
Children ranging in age from 5 to 15 are forced to work under conditions of debt bondage in the carpet industries of India,31 Pakistan,32 and Nepal.33 In April 1994, the South Asian Coalition on Child Servitude (SACCS) estimated that there are a total of one million children in servitude engaged in the carpet industry in the Indian Subcontinent -- 500,000 in Pakistan, 300,000 in India and 200,000 in Nepal.34 There is evidence, however, which is discussed below, that there has been a significant reduction in the number of children in the industry in Nepal since early 1994.
The working environment to which children in the carpet industry are subjected is detrimental to their physical health and development. They work in cramped positions for long periods of time in poorly-ventilated sheds filled with wool fluff and dust particles. Constant contact with the fluff causes skin ailments such as scabies as well as respiratory problems. Children develop swelling of lower limbs, pain in the joints and spine deformities from crouching for long periods of time as they work on the looms. Poor lighting conditions weaken their eyesight; prolonged contact with chemical dyes and the use of sharp knives during weaving damage their fingers. Many of the children are severely ill by the time they become adults.35
The Indian carpet-weaving industry is concentrated in the "Carpet Belt" of Uttar Pradesh in north Central India,36 which also accounts for over 85 percent of Indian carpet exports.37 Bonded child labor is thought to be widely utilized in Uttar Pradesh. In 1991, a fact-finding committee appointed by an Order of the Supreme Court of India found a large number of children, as young as six to nine years old, working as bonded laborers on carpet-weaving looms in Uttar Pradesh.38
The Indian carpet industry is widely dispersed over a large geographical area.39 The public scrutiny that the industry has received in recent years has caused it increasingly to scatter the loom sheds to more rural locations.40 Small production units typically employing less than ten people make up an estimated 95 percent of Uttar Pradesh's production. These small units are exempt from labor laws applying to registered factories in the formal sector.41
Bonded children in the carpet industry are often recruited from the neighboring states of Bihar and Madhya Pradesh by recruiting agents or organized gangs.42 Their parents, low-caste, poor peasants or landless laborers, are given a cash advance ranging from 600 to 2,800 rupees (approximately $20.00 to $90.00).43 This practice is generally institutionalized in cases where children are procured by recruiters.44 Those children whose parents take advances are required to continue working for the same employer until the advance has been repaid. The amount of time it takes to repay the loan can extend up to five or six years, during which time the child remains bonded.45
In some cases employers take advantage of the poverty of the family and offer large loans to parents against their children's future labor knowing that the parents will never be able to repay the debt.46 There are also numerous reports of children being abducted by strangers who lure them away with promises of movies, candy, or other sundries and sell them to loomholders.47 Sometimes attempts by parents to take back their children are blocked by force.
The worst conditions occur in production units that rely on migrant child laborers who have been recruited or lured from their villages. SACCS estimates that over 70 percent of the children working in the carpet industry are migrant children from neighboring states, the majority of whom receive no wages.48 The majority of migrant child carpet weavers are not given an opportunity to visit their homes for long periods of time after they begin working in the carpet industry.49 One report states that "(I)t is not uncommon for these children to leave their villages never to be heard from again."50
Once the children arrive at the loom shed, any advance paid to their parents is deducted from the children's already low wages. The children are penalized with deductions from pay for any mistakes they make. In addition, the cost of meals, often inadequate and of poor quality, is usually deducted from their pay.51 Some children are paid only in food. This category includes young children who are deemed apprentices for a period that can last from one to five years, during which he or she receives no wage.52
Bonded carpet children are often kept under close watch and not allowed to go outside or talk to people in the streets.53 They work up to 20 hours per day, seven days a week, and often sleep, eat and work in the same small, damp room.54 They are often locked in at night.55 When there is a rush order, the workers may be required to work through the night.56 Those who try to escape or make mistakes are often beaten, deprived of food or tortured. Cases have been documented where children trying to escape were hung from trees, chained to looms, shot, or branded with a hot iron.57 One former bonded carpet worker stated in an interview that his master had thrown acid into his eyes when he wept out of homesickness.58 Girl carpet workers are sometimes sexually abused.59
A rescue operation in 1995 by the Bonded Labour Liberation Front secured the release of 17 bonded child carpet weavers in the Allahabad district of Uttar Pradesh revealed oppressive conditions. The released children ranged in age from 8 to 14 and were dressed in rags. They worked for some 20 hours every day beginning at 3 a.m. In addition to weaving carpets, they were expected to work in their masters' fields and in and around their homes. They were beaten with sticks and iron rods and not allowed to see their parents. Most of the children could not say how long they had been held captive, but some said they had been working for three years.60
Migrant children are also recruited from Nepal, often via Kathmandu carpet factories, to work as bonded laborers in the Indian carpet industry.61 These children, reportedly sought out because they are perceived as pliable and easy to intimidate, are recruited with promises of high wages and are then forced to work under abysmal conditions.62 They work up to 18 hours a day, are poorly fed and lodged, and are paid little or no wages.63 NGOs operating in the region estimate that 20,000 to 25,000 Nepali children have become bonded in this manner.64
The United States imported $156 million of hand-made carpets from India in 1994.
Reports of bonded child labor in Pakistan suggest that up to 500,000 children are bonded in the carpet industry.65 A 1992 study of the carpet weaving industry in Punjab province, which accounts for the largest population of carpet workers in Pakistan, found that over 80 percent of carpet weavers are children under 15 and estimated that there are approximately 1.2 million children engaged in carpet-weaving in Pakistan.66 The study concluded that the number of families who pledged their children's work in return for a money advance was, at that time, increasing.67 The Pakistani carpet industry's use of child labor and child bonded labor has come under increased international scrutiny after the killing of Iqbal Masih, a former bonded carpet worker. Prior to his murder, Masih had become an advocate for the liberation of bonded laborers.
The bondage of children in the Pakistani carpet industry occurs mainly in rural areas. Some children, working on household looms, are bonded along with their entire family, while others are sent away from their families to weaving centers where the majority of workers are bonded children.68 Since factories employing less than ten workers are not covered by most labor laws, large carpet-weaving centers have broken down into smaller units or turned to subcontracting arrangements to avoid these laws.69
Bondage occurs in the home context when the head of the household takes advances from the "thekadar" (contractor), a middleman who controls the looms, provides material inputs and transports finished carpets to export centers. Payment is made to the family weavers according to the quantity and quality of work produced, but the families rarely receive enough income to cover payments on the initial loans. Contractors arbitrarily make deductions from the promised payment amounts for mistakes or failure to meet production deadlines.70
Pressure exerted by the contractors to meet quotas and deadlines induces families to put their children to work. Families become increasingly dependent on the loans advanced by the contractor, resulting in "an inescapable cycle of debts which keeps the children in virtual forced labor for many years."71 The families are not allowed to abandon their work until their debt is deemed repaid.72
Often the parents who set up looms at home do not get involved in carpet weaving themselves. Requiring their children to work at the home looms may enable unemployed fathers to stop looking for work.73 Children generally do not attend school and are rarely allowed to play during the day.74 Most do not receive any pay directly but instead only get small sums for pocket money from their parents.75
In other instances, particularly in the Thar area of Sindh province, children are sent or brought to work at private loom centers by their parents who in exchange receive a loan. As in India, there are cases where children are abducted and sold into bondage.76 Bonded child carpet weavers working in private centers often suffer abusive conditions. Interviews with bonded child carpet workers suggest that they are frequently beaten if they work too slowly, make errors, or disobey instructions. They are often forcibly confined and locked inside guarded buildings. Cases have been reported where bonded children are chained to the looms so as to prevent escape.77 Local police often fail to prosecute loomholders who commit such abuses.78
The United States imported $48 million of hand-made carpets from Pakistan in 1994.
In Nepal, the number of children engaged in the carpet industry appears to have declined since 1994. It is reported that in early 1994 (before the decline) child workers, mainly migrants from the countryside, constituted from one-third to one-half of the labor force in carpet factories.79 According to several sources, as many as 150,00080 carpet workers were children, 10,00081 to 27,00082 of whom were in debt bondage as a result of loans taken by their parents from labor contractors or landlords. Labor contractors have been known to lure or even kidnap children, often pocketing the children's income on the pretext of remitting it to the parents.83
By the end of 1994, negative publicity in Europe concerning the use of child labor and a resulting drop in Nepalese exports prompted the Nepalese Government and carpet manufacturers to move to eliminate child labor in carpet factories.84 As a result, the use of child labor in the carpet industry has dropped to 5-10 percent of the carpet labor force, according to various sources.85 The Government of Nepal is working with the carpet industry and NGOs to establish a certification for carpets made without child labor, and Government inspectors have increased their monitoring of child labor in carpet factories.86
The United States imported $5 million of hand-made carpets from Nepal in 1994.
Bonded child laborers work in the glass industry in Ferozabad, India, 150 miles south of Delhi.87 Estimates of the total number of children at work in Ferozabad range from 8,000 to 50,000.88 Anti-Slavery International estimates that 70 to 80 percent of these children are bonded by debt incurred by their parents in the form of advances.89 Many of the bonded child laborers are children of landless agricultural workers.
The parents of bonded children take advances from middlemen. The children are expected to pay off the loan from their wages. In an interview in a village just outside Ferozabad, two boys, aged eight and twelve, said that they had been left behind by their parents, who had received advances. The two boys lived alone in the factory where they worked and cooked their own meals. Their job was to arrange glass bangles on trays before they were put into the furnace.90
Conditions in glass factories in Ferozabad have been compared to Dante's Inferno. The intense heat from furnace temperatures reach 1,400 to 1,600 degrees Celsius; there is a lack of ventilation, pieces of broken glass everywhere, and dangling electric wires. Adults and children work without protective gear such as shoes, gloves or goggles.91 Both adult and child workers stand outside furnaces dipping iron rods into molten glass, bringing it out, and throwing it to glass molders or blowers. Boys as young as 11 and 12 sit on the floor for long hours in front of the pot furnaces, melting and fastening glass bangles and beads.92 Often glass splinters injure the workers, and pieces of glass cut into the children's bare feet. Children have to run very fast with the molten glass before it cools. They often bump into one other, sometimes scorching each other's bodies.93
The air in the glass factories is full of soot and dust. Workers suffer from asthma, bronchitis, eye problems, liver ailments, skin burns, tuberculosis and chronic anaemia.94 Children in the glass factories have been reported to suffer from mental retardation;95 one doctor found genetic damage to occur in the body cells of glass factory laborers who work close to the furnace heat for three years or more.96
A February 1995 news report stated that Indian Labour Department officials raided two glass factories in Ferozabad that were illegally employing children. Twenty children from age 7 to 11 were released from the factories. They had been working 10-11 hour days for only ten rupees (approximately 30 cents) per day. They suffered from multiple burn injuries, chest pains and chronic coughing, but had received no medical treatment for their injuries while at the factory.97
The glass factories in Ferozabad produce such items as glass bangles, chandeliers, wine glasses, beads, bulbs, test tubes and beakers.98
The United States imported $4 million of manufactured glass products from India in 1994.
Bonded labor, including child bonded labor, is widespread in the quarrying of granite and other stones in India.99 Children are required to work along with their parents in order to maximize production. Entire families work digging stones out of the earth with their hands and hand-tools, and cutting rocks and boulders into pieces. Children aged 4 to 14 work up to 14 hours a day carrying loads of rocks. They also break stones with hammers as they hold the stones with their feet.100
Accidents caused by explosions or drilling are common.101 One report describes how boys aged ten to twelve were observed using a pneumatic drill, "directing the bit with their bare toes, standing within two feet of the top of a 200 foot rock-face." A twelve year old boy was observed whose face had been disfigured by flying rock from an explosion.102 Workers also suffer from respiratory illnesses due to inhaling stone dust.103
Contractors working for quarry owners secure the labor of poor, landless migrant families. The workers are required to purchase their own materials, including drills and gunpowder, and provide for their own medical expenses and housing. They often have no choice but to borrow money from the contractors, moneylenders or quarry owners. Dependence on loans and advances leads to a high incidence of debt bondage, with debts ranging from 100 to 10,000 rupees (approximately $3.00 to $300.00).104 No records of the debts are kept. Bonded families are not allowed to leave until their debt is repaid, but low wages and high interest rates make this difficult.105 Physical threats are sometimes used to intimidate workers and prevent them from leaving.106 Bonded children are sometimes sold to other contractors.107
Sometimes children are born into bondage because of a debt owed by their parents to contractors.108 In stone quarries in Faridabad, near Delhi, "three generations may be seen working side by side in conditions of brutal debt bondage."109 Most of the youngest generation receive no wage.
A study of stone quarries at Ghaziabad, also near Delhi, found that 25 percent of some 2,000 workers were between the ages of 10 and 14. Whole families were found to be working 10 to 11 hours a day, seven days a week. They lived in huts made of mud and straw and lacked schools and other amenities. Female workers were frequently sexually harassed, even raped. Many workers wished to leave but could not because of the debts they owed. While a truckload of stone normally fetches 45 to 58 rupees, the families only took home 15 to 20 rupees after making loan payments to the contractors.110
In January 1995, the Indian Citizens' Commission on Bonded Labour and Child Labour obtained the release of 76 bonded laborers working at a stone quarry in the Bhiwini District near Delhi. Over half of the workers were described as children in a news report covering the release.111
The United States imported $34 million of worked and unworked stone, including granite and marble, from India in 1994.
An estimated 5000 children work in the silk thread manufacturing industry in southern Karnataka in southwestern India.112 Some of the factories in the town of Dasarayara Palya are reported to rely on a form of bonded child labor. Girls ranging in age from 5 to 16 are pledged to work by their parents, who in return receive a loan from the factory owner of between 5,000 and 6,000 rupees (approximately $160 to $192). The children, who earn 50 paises to 2 rupees (approximately 1½ to six cents) per hour, are required to work until the loans are paid off. They are obliged to work up to 14 hours a day "until their parents and the owner decide otherwise."113
The silk handloom industry in Varanasi (east central India) and Kanchipuram (southeastern India near Madras) also commonly employs bonded children, mostly girls, some as young as six.114 Sometimes parents continue to borrow money even as the initial debt is being worked off by the child. If the child changes employers, the debt is simply transferred.115
Most of these child bonded laborers in the silk handloom industry work in unregistered production units that perform work for registered factories.116 Children are often paid on a piece rate basis. No written accounts are kept. Sometimes children receive no wages for a period of two years while they improve their weaving skills.117
Children are verbally and physically abused. Some complain of being beaten with rods for making mistakes. They work in poorly ventilated, damp, cramped weaving pits in crouched positions. Constant exposure to dust particles causes respiratory infections, and poor lighting and long working hours damage their eyesight. Some children develop peptic ulcers from ingesting dye when they break off thread with their teeth. They are generally poorly nourished.118 Labor inspectors rarely visit the small silk weaving production units.119
One study reports that children working in the silk handloom industry in Bhagalpur, in the central eastern state of Bihar, are similarly bonded. Parents pledge their children's labor in exchange for loans offered at exorbitant interest rates.120
The United States imported $28 million of silk thread and silk fabric from India in 1994.
In the town of Aligarh, 100 miles southeast of Delhi in Uttar Pradesh, poor Muslim families become bonded laborers when advances are taken from middlemen.121 It is estimated that 80 percent of the locks made in India are produced in Aligarh.122 Many children in the lock industry work as part of a family unit but others are found in workshops away from their families. Most production occurs in workshops engaging between 5 and 15 employees.123
According to one report, many children in the lock industry in Aligarh find themselves in bondage, cut off from their families. The owners of the lock companies classify their firms as cottage industries so that they are not regulated under the Child Labor Act of 1986. Many of the small "cottage industries" are subcontractors for larger factories that export.124
A survey of 100 manufacturing units conducted by the Labor Department of Uttar Pradesh indicated that children under the age of 14 make up over 50 percent of the work force engaged in polishing, electroplating and spray-painting of locks and lock parts, all of which are considered to be hazardous jobs.125 In spray-painting, children inhale large quantities of paints and paint thinners which are harmful to their lungs. Common ailments include cough, fever, breathlessness, tuberculosis and bronchitis. Many children work late into the night.126
The United States imported $23,000 worth of locks from India in 1994.
Bonded children from 8 to 12 years of age work in the brassware industry of Moradabad in Uttar Pradesh. The children are recruited from surrounding villages by middlemen called "dalals." These middlemen are paid a commission by factory owners or contractors for bringing in child workers. Children are preferred over adults because they are easy to control.127
Parents who pledge the work of their children are given an advance, typically equal to one month's wages. Once a parent takes an advance, the child is required to work. One report states that if a child "plays hooky," wages of other children from the same village are cut.128
Children in the brassware industry work in all areas of production, including electroplating, polishing and application of chemicals. They work under hazardous conditions for long hours and low wages. Children wearing no protective gear remove molten metal from molds near furnaces that reach temperatures of 1,100 degrees Celsius. Burns are a constant danger.129 The constant inhalation of fumes from the furnaces and metal dust leads to tuberculosis and respiratory problems. Children engaged in polishing are at risk of injury from pieces of metal that slip and ricochet into the air. Children suffer from eye irritations from fumes that permeate the workshops during acid washing of the brassware.130
The United States imported approximately $26 million worth of brass household and kitchen articles from India in 1994.
It is reported that at least 30 percent (and probably more) of the children working in the match and fireworks industries of Sivakasi, Tamil Nadu are in debt bondage.133 There are as many as 6000 unregistered "safety match" cottage units in Sivakasi and the surrounding areas.134 Sivakasi produces 75 percent of India's matches and 90 percent of its firecrackers, and has been described as having one of the largest concentrations of child workers in the world.135
The average age of child workers in the industry is 10 to 14 years,136 but some child workers are reported to be as young as four.137 The extremely arid climate and frequent droughts guarantee a steady stream of migrant laborers from surrounding villages, mainly from lower castes and tribal families.138 Child laborers are mainly found in the small unlicensed units.139
In the match and fireworks industry, the tasks are repetitive and low-skilled. Girls as young as three fill match boxes, stack boxes for packaging and paste labels to boxes. Older girls make and label boxes. Boys mix chemicals used for match tips, and dip the tips in the chemicals.140 Children in the fireworks industry dye the outer paper, roll the ground powder and pack finished product.141
Conditions of debt bondage arise when parents pledge the labor of their children in exchange for cash advances from recruiting agents. The advances are then deducted from the children's pay.142 Agents advance sums of money ranging from 500 to 2,000 rupees (approximately $15.00 to $60.00) to the children's parents.143 Other children are bonded by debts incurred by their parents as interest on loans.144 Sometimes recruiting agents advance money to the children instead of their parents, "and this keeps them bound to the employer."145 There are cases where children are pledged to the factories before they are even born.146
Children work an average of 12 hours a day, with a short break for lunch, six or seven days a week. Sometimes they are kept at work for over 14 hours a day.147 They are picked up by bus from their village between 3 and 5 a.m. and are returned home between 6 and 9 p.m.148
They work in cramped, dark sheds in crouched positions and are exposed to dangerous chemicals such as chlorates, phosphorous and sulphur. There is a constant risk of fire and explosions, yet the children wear no protective gear.149 Local doctors report that children suffer from chronic bronchitis, broncho-pneumonia, tuberculosis, malnutrition, gastrointestinal disorders, skin disorders, over-exhaustion, burns, water borne diseases and eye infections. Harsh treatment by employers is common, and girls as young as seven and eight are reportedly sexually assaulted by supervisors outside of factory premises.150
The Government of India considers these industries hazardous, and the Child Labor (Prohibition and Regulation) Act prohibits employment of children under 14 in the industry except "in the process of family based work."151
The United States imported $21,000 of matches and fireworks from India in 1994.
The brick kiln industry -- the molding and firing of bricks from clay -- is a significant employer of bonded child labor in both India and Pakistan. Brick kilns employing bonded laborers are located in small-scale manufacturing units on the outskirts of urban areas in both countries.152 Families live and work on the site. The work, which is seasonal, attracts migrant labor from surrounding rural areas.153 Brick kiln laborers are usually landless families from the lowest classes or ethnic minorities.154
A large number of children and families in the brick kiln industry work under conditions of debt bondage.155 Human Rights Watch/Asia estimates that brick kilns in Pakistan "operate almost exclusively on the basis of debt bondage."156 Children working at brick kilns are largely regarded as part of a bonded family unit and work alongside their parents, with only the head of the family receiving remuneration.157 There are also cases, however, where children inherit debts from parents and become bonded as individuals.158
Families become trapped in debt bondage after having pledged their labor in return for advances taken from the kiln owners or labor contractors who serve as middlemen. While a laborer initially sees it to his advantage to borrow, the advance "all too often in fact becomes a trap from which, due to a combination of high interest charged, manipulation of the books, and sheer low wages, the labourer never disentangles himself."159 Sometimes moneylenders arbitrarily call in loans, adding a fine to the original debt when laborers are unable to pay.160 Often the debt is intergenerational, with families living on the kiln premises in social isolation for generations.161
Children make up a significant part of the brick kiln work force in both countries. In Pakistan, it is estimated that children, who begin working alongside their parents when they are as young as 6 - 8, constitute at least half of the work force. On some sites children have been found to outnumber adults.162 Estimates of the number of children working at brick kilns in Pakistan range from a conservative estimate of 250,000163 to five million.164 The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan states that the "clear majority" of children in the industry are under fourteen.165 Many of these children are either the children or grandchildren of the person who originally took a loan.166 In India, it is estimated that one million children work in the industry along with their families.167
Children participate in all stages of brick production. In certain tasks, such as the molding of the bricks by hand, children are preferred because of their dexterity and speed.168 Children also fetch and carry bricks to and from the kilns and load and unload the kilns.169 Children and their families work long hours, often throughout the night170 or in the early hours of the morning during the summer.171
The mortality rate of children working in the brick kilns of Pakistan is high.172 Children work barefoot, unprotected from the sun in summer and the cold in winter. They constantly inhale fine quartz dust from the clay. Common illnesses include tuberculosis, chronic chest infections and silicosis. Children often suffer from injuries to their eyes and fingers.173 Deteriorating eyesight and even blindness are common among children.174
Bonded families are often held as virtual prisoners, requiring special permission to leave the work site until the debt is repaid.175 Children are often psychologically traumatized. Sexual and physical abuse is often used by employers to punish workers. Several cases were reported in 1994 where the wives and children of bonded workers were kept in captivity or in chains by brick-kiln owners wanting to intimidate or punish the employee.176 "The children... grow up in a climate of insecurity and fear, being daily witnesses of their parents being humiliated, insulted or worse."177
In a 1995 study on bonded children working in the brick kiln industry in the Northwest Frontier Province of Pakistan, it was found that of 40 children interviewed, ranging in age from 5 to 10, only three had managed to reduce their debt since beginning to work at the kilns, despite the fact that the average period working as bonded laborers was over two years.178 The bonded families live on the work site isolated from the rest of society and guarded by the owners. One child interviewed said that his family only received pay for complete sets of 1000 bricks. Since the bricks must be left out in the sun to dry for a few days before firing, rainfall could destroy several days of work and pay.179
In Pakistan, a Supreme Court decision in 1988 abolished the "peshgi" system of advances and held that brick kiln workers were to be considered bonded laborers.180 Bonded laborers freed as a result of the 1988 decision were replaced by other workers attracted to the industry. They, in turn, became bonded.181 Despite the illegality of the advance system, bonded labor continues to be widespread in the brick kiln industry.182 The practice continues at least in part because of ". . . . the lack of effective legal remedies, illiteracy, psychological dependence on advances, lack of alternative employment and the social forces which sanction the practice . . . ."183
Beedis are hand-rolled local cigars. There are thousands of bonded child workers, girls and boys as young as 7-8, engaged in the beedi industry in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, India.184 One newspaper report estimates that at least half of the children working in the beedi industry in Tamil Nadu are bonded.185
There are some 300 large beedi companies in Tamil Nadu and between 3000 and 4000 small contractor production units.186 The tobacco leaves are distributed to the contractors, who oversee the rolling of the leaves into beedis. These units, which usually house ten or more children, are small, dark and poorly ventilated. The children are sometimes beaten or caned for making mistakes.187
Children in the beedi manufacturing industry cut and clean the leaves and roll, bind and close the ends of the cigars.188 They become bonded when parents pledge their labor as security on an advance taken from contractors or middlemen who run small, illegal
manufacturing units.189 Sometimes children who have been mortgaged by their parents work at home, where they are usually out of the reach of labor inspectors.190 The advances taken by parents range from 500 to 6,000 rupees (approximately $16.00 to $190.00). Interest rates charged by the contractors range from 10 to 25 percent.191 Because the children and their parents are illiterate and lack basic math skills, employers often demand that they continue working to pay off the debt even when the principal and interest have in fact already been paid.192
Contractors use various schemes to retain the bonded workers. Children are sometimes required to roll 1000 beedis per day and are generally paid six to seven rupees (20 to 22 cents) per batch of 1000 -- about one-fourth of adult wages. If they fail to meet the quota, or if the quality of the beedis are found to be poor, their wages are cut or they are required to make up the loss by performing extra work the following Sunday.193 Sometimes contractors do not directly charge interest on advances but pay bonded workers only half or less of the amount that a regular worker would receive for commensurate work.194
Various studies and news reports indicate that forced child labor is used in the manufacture of various products in small-scale industrial units in the Philippines195 and Thailand.196 While it is not possible to identify any one industry or product that consistently utilizes forced child labor in these countries, there are allegations of the false recruitment and abduction of children. Recent reports suggest that similar recruitment and abduction of children occurs in China.197
The children who are coerced into such situations are often forced to work extremely long hours under poor conditions for little or no wages. In many cases, they are physically confined so as to prevent escape. Sometimes parents are given a false or no forwarding address.
In the Philippines there is evidence of systematic recruitment of children from rural provinces to work clandestinely in small and medium-scale factories in Manila and Quezon City.198 The recruiters, who often work for agencies, go to the poorest areas and coax parents to part with their children by promising well-paying jobs. Sometimes the recruiters are neighbors or acquaintances.199 The children are sometimes kept as virtual prisoners and forced to work long hours for little or no pay, in some cases because they owe their employers for travel expenses or a recruitment fee.200 There are reports of children who literally disappear after being recruited.201
In 1993, an NGO found a group of child workers imprisoned in a sardine factory in metropolitan Manila.202 The seven children, the youngest of whom was 12, were recruited from the southern province of Mindanao and were originally promised jobs as domestic workers or store clerks.203 They were not allowed to leave the factory premises, even on Sundays or holidays, nor to write their parents to tell them where they were. None were paid, despite the fact that some had been working at the factory for over a year.204
Upon their arrival at the factory, the youths were told that they were in debt to the owner for their trip to the factory, the food they were given during the journey, and the payment that the factory owner had made to the recruiter. Of the 23 pesos per day wage that had been originally promised, 25 pesos were deducted to pay for the inadequate and often unsanitary food provided.205 In this way, the children's debt was instantly and systematically perpetuated.
The children were forced to begin work at 3 a.m. and worked into the evening, seven days a week, within guarded factory gates.206 They filled sardine cans with fish parts and were reprimanded by their supervisor if they did not work quickly enough. Their fingers and hands were often slashed from the cans' sharp edges, and their skin damaged and yellowed from constant exposure to water and chemicals.207
In a similar case, which came to public attention after an official raid in 1993, children as young as 14 were found working in a cooking oil factory outside of Manila, where they were held in a walled compound behind barbed wire and armed guards. The living quarters were small cage-like structures which were kept locked during the day.208 The children worked an average of ten hours each day, with meals and medicine deducted from their wages. None of the children received wages for the first two months because they were required to repay the money spent to transport them to the factory.209 The children reportedly were frequently beaten or otherwise mistreated.210
Press reports in 1994 documented a case of six girls aged 14 and 15 who escaped from a print shop in Manila. They were recruited by agents who promised wages of 500 pesos ($18) per month, but for two years they received no money. They were forced to work up to 21 hours a day. Their mouths were taped to prevent them from talking to each other, and they were physically punished for any mistakes. Although they were locked inside the house, the girls had managed to escape when the door was mistakenly left ajar.211
The Philippine Government, which has demonstrated an increasing commitment to the elimination of child labor, recently proposed measures to improve regulation of recruitment and placement agencies. Under the proposed new rules, prior to taking a recruit out of his/her home region, recruiting agents would be required to present to the Department of Labor and Employment the recruits' i) birth certificate; ii) medical certificate; iii) National Bureau of Investigation or police clearance; and iv) the recruit in person. The proposed rules also call for the revocation of private recruiting agencies' operating licenses in cases where recruitment agencies are found to engage in illegal recruitment. Firms engaging in illegal recruitment activities will also face criminal charges.212 In addition, the Government of the Philippines, in cooperation with local NGOs, carried out 18 rescue operations resulting in the release of 59 illegally-employed children since July 1993.213
Similar situations of false recruitment and otherwise forced child labor have also been documented in Thailand. In 1995, the ILO Committee of Experts stated that in Thailand:
Recruiting agents travel around rural areas, particularly in the impoverished northeastern part of the country, luring children from poor families into sweatshops and factories with promises of well-paying jobs.215 According to a staff member of a Thai NGO, many parents do not know where their children have been taken. Factory doors are often locked to outsiders.216 In the towns and cities, there are shops that specialize in the selling of children and teenagers.217
Children are also recruited and sometimes kidnapped from the central train and bus stations in Bangkok. In one such case, described by representatives of the ILO who visited Thailand in 1993, a young boy was kidnapped at the train station and forced, along with other children, to work very long hours in a small, illegal factory. He was beaten and prohibited from leaving the premises or even from looking through the window. All the windows were sealed and corridors barricaded. Police had to climb over the fence in order to gain entry to the building.218
In 1986, the Thai Government's National Youth Bureau conducted a detailed survey, still widely cited, of 145 manufacturing industries utilizing child labor in Bangkok. Results indicated that most of the 325 children interviewed lacked the opportunity to go home for a visit or even to get in touch with their family. Some children for whom advance payment had been made were not allowed to leave the workplace for fear that they would not return. Many children staying with employers were found to be "confined, scolded and physically or psychologically assaulted."219 More than half the child workers were found to work between 9 and 12 hours a day.220 Six percent of the children were under twelve years old; the rest ranged in age from 12 to 15.221 They were found to suffer from ailments such as muscular pain, skin irritations and eye and hearing problems as a result of exposure to loud noise, heat, dust, chemicals, high intensity light and heavy work load.222
In one highly publicized case in late 1991, police raided a paper cup factory in Bangkok and rescued 31 children aged 13 to 15 who were being held as prisoners. Many had been severely beaten; some were partially crippled.223 They had been imprisoned in a windowless room, where they were forced to work up to 18 hours per day making paper cups while squatting on the same floor on which they ate and slept. They had been working there for one to four years. Several of the children had to be helped from the building because their atrophied legs, after months without walking, could no longer support them.224
In 1994, police raided a garment sweatshop in a Bangkok suburb and found girls as young as 14 who were forced to work 16 hours a day sewing jeans for no pay. They were originally promised $20 per month. Among the workers found were girls from Burma. They were kept behind steel doors and thick window bars and were dependent upon supervisors for meals. Their mail was screened. Some of the prisoners had been held for as long as four years, and had only been allowed out when the factory moved to avoid detection. The shop supervisors were charged with illegal detention of workers, employing child labor, and harboring and sheltering illegal aliens.225 According to one report, the demand in Thailand for foreign child workers from countries such as Burma and Laos is growing since they are cheaper than Thai children and less likely to leave.226
There is some evidence that similar situations involving forced child labor in manufacturing and mining operations are occurring in China.227 Recent reports in the official Chinese press indicate that increasing numbers of rural children are being kidnapped and recruited to work under exploitative conditions in Chinese cities.228 Children are "employed in large numbers in textile factories and other sweatshops where they are sometimes locked in and not allowed to leave."229 In December 1994, coal mine owners in Hunan Province were arrested for having kidnapped over 100 children and forcing them to work under "brutal" conditions with little food or water. The children were forced to work for ten hours per day carrying heavy loads. They were fed only water and melons, were paid little, and were physically mistreated.230
Entire families are recruited by labor contractors called "gatos" (literally "cats") to work under slave-like conditions in Brazil's charcoal industry, particularly in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul.231 In a June 1995 radio address, Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso described the situation of charcoal workers in Mato Grosso do Sul and northern Minas Gerais as "involving both enslaving and degrading labor." He stated that "irregularities range from violations of labor laws -- none of these workers are registered workers -- to poor living conditions and a lack of both freedom of labor and of freedom in general."232
Charcoal is produced from felled eucalyptus and pine wood, which is gathered and fired in kilns.233 The charcoal is used as an input for pig iron smelters, which procure the charcoal under subcontractor arrangements.234 Workers often do not know for whom they work, since increasingly smaller production areas are rented to subcontractors to avoid regulation and union organizing efforts.235
Children work alongside their parents at the kilns, raking the charcoal and loading it into sacks or cooling the hot kilns by spreading mud over their sides.236 The families work in remote areas far from towns, schools or medical facilities and are often prevented from leaving the work premises by armed guards. They are often forced to buy food and supplies at inflated prices at the company store and thus constantly find themselves in debt. This indebtedness reinforces parents' reliance on the work of their children to help boost coal production.237 There are cases where families -- sometimes recruited from distances of 800 miles or more -- cannot earn enough money to pay for the return trip.238
Workers in the charcoal industry are vulnerable to silicosis from the fine charcoal dust that permeates the air and lodges in their lungs. One charcoal worker stated that her 11-year-old son had been coughing for a week after having worked for only 20 days at the kilns.239 Workers suffer from circulatory problems due to long exposure to high temperatures. Splinters and cuts to the hands are common.
In March 1992, labor inspectors found 5,000-8,000 people, including entire families, working in charcoal production in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul. An inspector described the conditions:
The workers were found to be "in an advanced state of malnutrition."241 The families worked 12 hour days gathering wood which was stacked up by children as young as nine. At one furnace a 4-year-old girl was found loading charcoal into sacks.242
In a similar case at a charcoal-producing ranch in Mato Grosso do Sul, the Regional Labor Office discovered 1000 enslaved workers, including over 400 children. These children were recruited along with their parents from the state of Minas Gerais. One worker, who had been working at the ranch for three months along with his wife, nephew and eight children, said that they had been unable to leave because of debts owed to the "gato." 243
During inspections in May 1995, Brazilian labor authorities detected 83 irregularities regarding labor conditions in four companies in Mato Grosso do Sul.244
Children are recruited and forced to work in substandard conditions in gold panning operations in the Madre de Dios department in the jungle of south-eastern Peru.245 The Peruvian National Institute of Planning has estimated that the Madre de Dios region accounts for over three-fourths of Peru's gold deposits, the majority of which are found in the Madre de Dios riverbeds.246 While there are hundreds of registered concessions in Madre de Dios, there are many more -- possibly thousands -- of small, unregistered gold panning concessions that operate under informal arrangements with larger companies.247
Most of the labor force are migrants from the Andean highlands where there are few opportunities for employment.248 It has been estimated that from 20 to 50 percent of the workers are under the age of 18, with some reportedly as young as 11.249
Contractors promising high wages illegally recruit minors on behalf of the concession owners through informal verbal contracts. The youths are usually recruited for a nine-month period with payment for their return journey conditional on the completion of the contract. The employers generally agree to cover the cost of transport to the mines, as well as food and lodging.250
A Roman Catholic priest living in one of the gold-mining towns in Madre de Dios in 1991 observed that at least ten children ranging in age from 12 to 16 arrived daily on trucks from the city of Cuzco. He stated:
Children under 18 are often favored by concession owners since they work illegally, cannot unionize, and do not register complaints regarding wages.252 "Children are very sought-after as workers. They don't complain. They keep their mouths shut. They work hard because they want to be like grown-ups . . . And they're paid very little . . ."253
The workers are irregularly fed during the long trip to the remote gold panneries. They are often weak and ill by the time they arrive.254 The food provided by the employer at the site is usually insufficient; the workers are encouraged to get advances on their wages for extra food and drink which are sold at prices fixed by the employer. Wage advances also are made for medication. Common ailments include insect, bat and snake bites, stomach illnesses, malaria, anemia, colds and piodermis (a chronic skin disease caused by mosquito bites).255 The children sleep in unwalled, temporary structures. Mosquito nets, which are considered indispensable, must be bought or rented from the concession owner.256
When workers realize that the amount they owe is greater than the wages to be paid, they are forced to continue working in order to pay off the difference.257 In some cases, the employers simply refuse to pay at the agreed upon time, forcing the workers to stay on longer.258 Those children who are paid are sometimes cheated out of their wages by drivers during the return trip home.259 One survey found that only half of the gold workers in Madre de Dios returned home with any earnings, despite the fact that their main objective for working had been to gain income for their families.260
The method of production used by the gold washeries is very labor intensive and physically demanding. Children generally work eight hours a day, six days a week, performing many of the same tasks as adults.261 One reporter witnessed "boys no more than 14 pushing wheelbarrows in the boiling sun and washing gravel through sluices."262 Children transport top soil and gravel in wheelbarrows along narrow, inclined wooden ramps. They are preferred for this task because of their lightness and agility in negotiating the ramps, but accidents occur when they fall or the ramp overturns, causing bone fractures, dislocations, or muscle damage.263 During a later phase of production, when mercury is used to separate gold from soil and gravel, young miners come into direct contact with the toxic metal, which also pollutes the water in the river.264
Girls as young as 12 or 13 work 12-14 hours a day, seven days a week. They are responsible for domestic work such as preparing food and washing clothing and eating utensils.265 According to some reports, they are sometimes forced into prostitution.266
Mistreatment of the youths by their employers is reportedly common:
Many news articles in 1991 reported the discovery of common graves of children in Peru's gold-producing region. Examination of the corpses indicated that the youths had died of disease, work accidents such as falls, or contusions caused by abusive employers.268
In October 1993, the Peruvian Ministry of Labor carried out an operation on a gold washery in Madre de Dios and rescued 7 youths who were being "exploited as slaves." The youths testified that labor contractors, or "enganchadores," had used dishonest means to recruit them and then had sold them to the concession owners. The boys had been overseen by armed men.269
The United States imported $16 million of unwrought, non-monetary gold and gold scrap from Peru in 1994. United States imports of gold necklaces from Peru were over $30 million in 1994.
Large numbers of children around the world are forced to work in the farm sector. Farming may account for greater numbers of forced child laborers than manufacturing, although comparatively little research has been devoted to the subject.
In some countries, particularly in South Asia, debt bondage is the prevalent form of forced child labor in the farm sector. Children are pledged by parents as collateral on a debt or inherit the debts of their parents, which may have been passed down for generations. Debt bondage also occurs under land tenancy or sharecropper arrangements; tenants, along with their children, are expected to provide labor or a share of crops to the landlord. In such cases children work alongside their parents without receiving separate compensation for their labor. When wages are insufficient to cover necessary expenditures such as food, tools or seed, tenants and sharecropper families often rely on the landowners for loans or other forms of advances. Such conditions lead to a high incidence of debt bondage.270
Children in rural areas, sometimes along with their entire families, are recruited in the farm sector to work in remote areas long distances from their home. Recruiters deceive the children and their families into believing that they will receive much higher wages and better conditions than those actually offered at the work site. Once at the work site, usually isolated and far from home, the workers are at the complete disposal of their employer. Deductions from wages for food and other necessities purchased at inflated prices from a "company store" lead to reliance on credit and a spiral of indebtedness.
In addition to reports of forced labor in South Asia's farming sector, there are situations of forced labor of children in the commercial fishing industries of Indonesia,271 Sri Lanka,272 the Philippines, India and Pakistan. Forced child labor in commercial agriculture also may be found in the harvesting of rattan in the Philippines, sugar cane and rubber in Brazil, and vegetables in Honduras and South Africa. These situations have been described in further detail in the first section of this report on the exploitation of child labor in commercial agriculture and fishing. The cases noted below occur on small-scale farms which are not known to export their products to the United States.
There are large numbers of children in bondage in small-scale agricultural operations in rural India, Pakistan and Nepal. The farm sector probably accounts for more bonded child laborers than any other sector in these still largely rural societies.
Bonded labor in the farm sector occurs when poor, landless peasants and tenant farmers have no choice but to turn to landlords for loans in the form of cash or food.273 In return, the peasants offer their labor and/or that of their children. The loans are taken to meet the cost of daily needs and for expenses occasioned by special events such as marriages and funerals.274 Instead of decreasing with the time worked, however, the loans often increase, and bondage becomes a way of life for generations.
Bonded children in farming in these countries perform jobs such as feeding, grazing and caring for animals, fetching water and firewood, tending crops, and selling vegetables. In addition, they often perform domestic duties for the landowner.
Debt bondage in farming is the most widespread form of forced labor in India.275 There is a startling variation among estimates of bonded child labor in the Indian farm sector. Official Government of India figures put the total number of bonded workers (children and adults) at 353,000,276 while NGO estimates range from 2.6 million (child and adult) bonded workers277 to 15 million bonded child farm workers.278
Debt bondage in India, according to the Indian National Commission on Rural Labor, has its roots in rural, feudalistic and semi-feudalistic society, hierarchical social order, extreme poverty and ignorance.279 It is also closely linked to the Indian caste system. Bonded laborers are often members of the scheduled castes and tribes, which include the "untouchables" and other low-caste groups.280
In many cases bondage is intergenerational, with child bonded laborers replacing their fathers when the latter have become too old or too weak to work themselves.281 The initial loans that form the basis for this intergenerational bondage are often quite small. However, the borrowing family, usually illiterate, is unable to understand interest calculations performed by the landlord. Written agreements are viewed as unnecessary, and interest rates can range to as high as 400 percent.282
Children as young as six are sometimes pledged by their parents to landlords as bonded laborers. In exchange for a loan, parents engage their sons, ranging in age from 10 to 14, as bonded laborers known as "Kuthias." The amount of the loan, ranging from 400 to 1000 rupees, depends on the age and health of the boy. Kuthias, who are considered to be in training to become adult bonded laborers, graze cattle and assist bonded adults with all other agricultural chores. Another type of child bonded laborer is the "Peyjoli"-- a child aged six to nine -- who, because of extreme poverty, is sold by his/her parents to a landlord for a yearly fee ranging from 100 to 400 rupees. Sometimes parents receive no payment at all, but consider themselves better off because they have one less mouth to feed.283 "Peyjoli" are at the complete disposal of their masters and do all types of jobs -- from collecting cow dung to massaging their master. In return, they receive a bare minimum of food and lodging.284
Bonded child labor is especially widespread in certain areas of central India such as Bihar, Orissa and Andhra Pradesh. In some villages, landlords have been found to rely almost exclusively on child bonded labor.285
Bonded children are sometimes subjected to physical punishment and suffer from a high incidence of severe malnutrition, vitamin deficiency, anaemia, tuberculosis, and skin and parasitic diseases.286 They have no time for either leisure or education -- over 90 percent of bonded laborers in India, many of whom became bonded as children, have never had the opportunity to go to school.287
According to a 1979 survey on bonded labor in ten states of India, 30 percent of bonded families were obliged to send two or more family members into bondage. Over half of the loans were taken to meet basic needs of food, clothing and shelter, and the average loan amount was less than 30 dollars. In the central Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, almost 70 percent of bonded children did not receive wages; in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, 99 percent of children were not paid. The study concluded that for landlords and moneylenders, cheap labor provided by bonded laborers was actually more valuable than recovery of the original debt.288
In Nepal, bonded labor is rooted in feudalistic patterns of land ownership and poverty.289 In three districts of Western Nepal, which were the subject of a 1992 NGO survey of bonded labor in Nepal, it is estimated that there are approximately 25,000 families working as bonded laborers known as "Kamaiya."290 A recent news report in the Rising Nepal estimates that there are 55,000 bonded Kamaiya families in five districts of Western Nepal.291 Most Kamaiya families are from economically marginalized and landless indigenous ethnic groups such as the Tharu.
A "Kamaiya" is an agricultural laborer who serves an employer, usually a landowner, under a one-year binding verbal contract. Literally, "Kamaiya" is defined as "a hard tiller of land, earner; manly or obedient person; one who earns along with his family in other's land by borrowing in cash or kind from the land owner or a peasant equivalent to him."292 Kamaiya usually must resort to borrowing cash or food from the employer in order to maintain their families. In most cases, the employer assumes that the Kamaiya's family is also at his disposal to perform any task he commands. In a small percentage of cases, children themselves -- some below the age of ten -- are Kamaiya.293
The conditions of the Kaimaya's contract include a fixed amount of food, land, cash or other goods to be paid him; these, however, are usually not sufficient to provide even for basic subsistence. Kamaiyas who have children are provided with the same amount of food as those without children.294 In addition, the contract gives the master the option to fine the Kamaiya for each day of absence or for loss of or damage to tools. It also provides that the Kamaiya's wife and children will also work for the master but for no additional remuneration.295
The Kamaiya is not free to end his employment during the one-year period. Working days of 18 hours for Kamaiyas and 12 hours for their families are routine; there are no days off.296 Kamaiya are often subjected to beatings and their daughters to sexual abuse.297 Kamaiya and their families cultivate land, clean animal sheds, collect fuel and perform domestic chores in their masters' homes. Children sometimes herd buffalos or cows or perform domestic work for the master.298
Loans are a central feature for maintaining the Kamaiya system. Since Kamaiyas are generally not paid enough to meet their basic needs, many have no choice but to take loans from their master. Many also carry inherited debts, sometimes going back for three or four generations, in addition to their own.299 A Kamaiya burdened by debt must continue to work for the same landlord until the debt has been repaid. The Kamaiya remains bound to the landlord unless, at markets held each winter, the Kamaiya finds a new master to pay off his debt or the original master sells off the Kaimaya and his family to a new master.300 Debts tend to increase with time because of high interest charged, the master's dishonest bookkeeping, and fines charged to the Kamaiya for days absent.
Kamaiya and their families often remain in debt-bondage for their entire lives.301 Some families have been indebted for such a long time that their indebtedness assumes a sense of normality in their minds:
In Pakistan, child bondage, under the system of advances known as "peshgi," is common in agriculture, particularly in Sindh and Punjab provinces.303 Bonded laborers are known in certain districts, as "gehna maklooq," or mortgaged creatures.304 According to a Government of Pakistan/UNICEF report:
Bonded child laborers are reportedly used extensively as laborers on sugar cane and cotton farms.306
Tenant families often take loans out of necessity from their landlords during poor harvests or to pay for materials and other necessities.307 The debtor and/or the members of his family are bound to the creditor/employer as long as any portion of the debt remains outstanding.
Under this system, the children are expected to work although they receive no wages. Children working under such circumstances constitute an integral part of the country's agricultural work force. Their workload is regulated by demands of the landowner's overseer, "often with no consideration for the age of the child."308
Many forms of coercion are used by landlords to physically confine bonded laborers. Some even have private jails to confine workers. In 1991, the Pakistani army raided a private jail where a landlord was found to be illegally holding 295 peasants, 132 of which were children.309 The bonded laborers worked all day in the fields under supervision of armed guards and were confined at night in the jail, where they were chained with iron shackles. The only food they were given was flour and chili peppers; no plumbing facilities or medical care was provided. The local police were aware of the jail's existence, but because of their close relationship with the local landlord, they had taken no action to release the prisoners. Interviews indicate that while this case is one of the more notorious examples of illegal confinement, it is by no means an isolated incident.310 Attempts at escape from bondage are often brutally punished.311
The Bonded Labor Liberation Front of Pakistan estimates that out of 20 million bonded laborers in Pakistan, 7.5 million are "children whose families are looked upon as slaves."312
Largely hidden from public view, forced child labor in the informal service sector is widespread and includes the sex industry and domestic services. Sometimes parents knowingly sell their children into such work, while in other cases children are fraudulently recruited or abducted. In still other cases, children -- often with their parents knowledge and acquiescence -- are enticed to seek employment as prostitutes or domestics. The children, however, rarely are aware of the conditions and treatment that await them.
The first part of this section focuses on child prostitution, the sexual exploitation of children for commercial purposes. The second part discusses the use of children as domestic servants. A final section reports on the trafficking of young boys to be used as camel jockeys in certain Gulf states.
Child prostitution is defined by the United Nations as "the sexual exploitation of a child for remuneration in cash or in kind, usually but not always organized by an intermediary (parent, family member, procurer, teacher, etc.)."313 The sexual exploitation of children is considered to be one of the worst forms of child labor and a form of bonded labor.314 Children who are sold, induced, tricked, or enticed into prostitution are too young to fully comprehend or consent to the acts that they are forced to perform.315 Most countries have penal laws against such activity and consider sexual relations with a minor under 16 years of age to be statutory rape.316
These children are in some cases taken far from their homes and held as virtual slaves, forcibly confined and abused into submission.317 They are exposed to severe health risks, including HIV infection and AIDS, other sexually-transmitted diseases, and drug addiction, as well as sustained physical and psychological abuse.
The ILO expresses particular concern regarding the exploitation of children in the sex industry:
The term child prostitution generally refers to the prostitution of young (pre-pubescent) children and adolescents up to the ages of 15 to 18, depending on national laws.319 Estimates of the numbers of child prostitutes vary widely. In Thailand, for example, estimates of the number of children and adolescents whose livelihood includes the sale of sexual services range from 2,500 up to 800,000.320 Similar discrepancies exist in the figures commonly cited for other countries. It is generally accepted, however, that the number of children being forced or sold into the sex industry is "substantial and growing."321
While it is believed that those under 15 make up a small minority of child prostitutes, some observers note a trend towards greater demand for ever younger children in the sex industry, particularly in Asia but also in Latin America.322 This can at least partly be attributed to the perception that younger girls are less likely to carry the HIV virus. In some countries, including Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and India, there are brothels which specialize in the prostitution of young virgins.323 It is reported that the average age at which Nepali girls are recruited into Indian brothels has dropped from 16 to 14 since the 1980s.324 One report stated that of 100,000 estimated Nepali women and girl prostitutes in India, 20 percent are believed to be girls under 14 years of age.325 A book on girl children and family violence in India found that most girls in the red light districts of Bombay had been initiated into prostitution at the age of 12 or 13 years.326 In Brazil, the average age of child prostitutes is declining due to the increasing numbers of street children and the fact that by time they reach 18, prostitutes, plagued by various illnesses, are considered finished.327
The most commonly cited explanation for the subjection of children to prostitution is poverty. Poverty alone cannot, however, explain the increasing sexual exploitation of children.328 Another factor is the willingness of parents in some countries such as Thailand to sell their children into prostitution. While many parents sell their children because they are impoverished, one report estimated that one-third of transactions are motivated by the desire for consumer goods.329 Increasing urbanization, with poor families being forced to find a foothold in the modern cash economy, is another factor.330
The demand for child prostitutes can also be attributed in part to the rise in international sex tourism, with customers from developed countries exploiting children in developing countries.331 In the sophisticated international business of prostitution, children are abducted, drugged and coerced by gangs and syndicates into prostitution both locally and across frontiers. They are sometimes killed or maimed in the process.332 Girls from all over Southeast Asia, including Burma, Cambodia, China, Laos and Vietnam can now be found in the brothels of Thailand.
As a result of many international campaigns to bring a halt to the trafficking of children for the purposes of prostitution -- and highly-publicized cases of extreme physical abuse and death of child prostitutes at the hands of foreign tourists -- several industrialized countries, including Australia, Belgium, France, Germany, Norway, Sweden, New Zealand and the United States have passed or revised laws which permit prosecution of their nationals for sexually exploiting children abroad.333
The clientele of the sex industry varies by location, and locals often make up a greater proportion of clients than do foreigners. In Thailand, for example, where patronizing prostitutes is considered by many to be socially acceptable,334 one study found that foreigners constituted less than 10 percent of the clients patronizing girl prostitutes. Western tourists were found to mainly frequent prostitutes over 18.335 An ILO study in Sri Lanka found that most customers were male foreign tourists. The same study found that in the Philippines and Mexico customers included both foreigners and nationals. In Kenya young boys on the beaches were found to service foreigners; young girls in the towns mainly serviced nationals.336 Several other studies conducted in the Philippines indicate that local people represent up to half of the clientele.337
As is the case for forced child labor in general, there are several paths by which children become prostitutes. The most exploitative situations often result from instances where children, usually girls, are deliberately tricked or kidnapped and sold into prostitution. These children are often trafficked from the countryside to larger urban areas. They are also trafficked across national borders. Some brothel owners actively seek children who come from long distances or other countries because they are the most powerless, dependent and least able to escape.338
In many cases children are promised jobs in restaurants or as domestic workers, but find themselves instead forced to prostitute themselves. Thai non-governmental organizations estimate that as many as 10,000 Burmese women and girls, some as young as 13 years old, are illegally brought into Thailand each year by recruiters.339 Many are sold to brothel owners, with their selling prices -- ranging between $400 and $800 -- becoming their debt.340
In the Philippines, children aged 14 to 16 (but some younger) are tricked into prostitution after their parents sell them to recruiters promising jobs as domestics or sales clerks in the city.341 Children of impoverished hill tribe families in northeastern Thailand are similarly tricked into prostitution by procurers promising restaurant, domestic or factory jobs, although in other cases parents knowingly sell their daughters into prostitution.342 In Bangladesh, girls are lured by false promises of jobs or marriage and are then smuggled by middlemen into Pakistan where they are sold into prostitution.343 Sometimes they are drugged during the trip.344 In Brazil, girls between the age of 12 and 15 who have been promised employment in restaurants or shops are brought by plane or boat to brothels in remote mining encampments of the Amazonia region where they are sold to brothel owners and held as virtual slaves.345 Trafficking of young boys and girls from Mozambique to South Africa for sexual exploitation also occurs.346 In Nepal, the majority of girls who are forced into prostitution are enticed with promises of good jobs in Indian cities.347
Kidnapping is less common, but has been reported to occur in Nepal, where trafficking of girls as young as ten, particularly into India, is widely acknowledged.348 NGOs have reported that disappearances of children from villages (purportedly for prostitution) is on the increase.349 Sometimes friends or distant relatives pretend to arrange a marriage in another village but instead abduct the girl and send her to India.350
The victims of trafficking are often powerless to escape the situation. In cases where they have been taken into another country, they are isolated by language barriers and their illegal status.351 In Thailand, girls brought from Burma and northern hill tribe villages are unable to read Thai. Most also do not have identity cards, making them illegal immigrants subject to arrest.352
Often, in Amazonia and Thailand, the girls are in debt from the moment they arrive -- from transport costs, payoffs to police or other officials, and fees paid to recruiters by brothel owners. Human Rights Watch/Asia found that Burmese girls recruited and sold to Thai brothels often had no idea of how large their debt was or how it had been calculated.353 Often the debt becomes impossible to pay off, as food, medicines and other expenses are deducted from pay.354 In many cases, money from customers goes directly to the brothel owner and the girls receive only a small percentage.
In the worst cases, the girls are literally trapped inside the brothels. In Ranong, Thailand, where a large number of Burmese child prostitutes are found, some brothels are surrounded by electrified barbed fences and armed guards.355 In Bombay's red light district, there is a specific area known as "the cages," where girls are displayed in caged window fronts.356 Nepalese girls in Indian brothels are sometimed physically confined for fear that they might escape.357
In some cases, children are compelled by their parents to engage in commercial sex, which may be seen as a good source of family income.358 In Thailand, for example, where daughters are traditionally considered to have a duty to help support their family, gaining income through the prostitution of one's daughter is not necessarily viewed as morally reprehensible.359 Parents who sell their daughters to procurers receive advances of approximately $300 to $1200 dollars.360 A high percentage of the victims come from the hill tribes in northern Thailand. Hill tribe people are not granted Thai citizenship and have limited educational and employment opportunities. It is estimated that in some northern Thai hill tribe villages, 60 to 70 percent of the girls aged 11 years and older are engaged in the sex industry.361 Some parents, particularly in villages that have no prior history of sending girls into prostitution, are deceived by the recruiters and do not know that their daughters are to be placed in the sex industry. But when they learn the truth, even such parents are sometimes impressed with their returning daughter's relative wealth and "worldliness."362 There are reported cases from Thailand of parents pledging their daughters to procurers when the girls are still in elementary school.363 In other cases parents themselves bring their daughters to brothels.364
In Nepal, where the sale of a young woman can bring as much as ten years of income, parents or relatives are known to sell young girls into prostitution.365 In Sri Lanka, where child prostitutes are primarily young boys between 6 and 14 years old, parents sometimes condone the use of their sons for such activity.366 NGO workers operating in communities in the Philippines, where child prostitution is rampant, found that many families "wholeheartedly accepted" the situation of their children.367
Sometimes girls who are initially hired as waitresses, receptionists, hostesses or dancers are compelled into performing sexual services in addition to their normal duties.
An ILO study on child workers in the hotel, tourism and catering industry found that in both Acapulco and Manila there were informal routes for enticing children into providing sexual services. For example, in the Philippines, girls might move from waitress onto the "receptionist track" -- where the likelihood that they will become prostitutes is high.369 Sometimes waitresses and receptionists are paid according to the number of drinks they themselves consume; they are encouraged to become inebriated with the hope that they will be more acquiescent to customers' suggestions regarding sexual acts.370
In countries such as India, Nepal and Ghana,371 parents are reported to dedicate their young daughters, once they reach puberty, to serve religious or ritualistic purposes in temples or shrines. This practice, rooted in traditional society, often degenerates into sexual exploitation, whereby the girls are kept as virtual sex slaves.372 In Ghana's eastern Volta region, for example, under the "tro-kosi" (i.e., vestal virgin) system, young girls, usually under ten years of age, become virtual slaves to a fetish shrine and its priest to atone for an alleged crime of a family member.373 In Nepal, girls are bought by the temple from a poor family; these girls cannot marry and often engage in prostitution ofr economic support.374 The daughters of these girls are also pushed into the flesh trade.375 In India, it is estimated that 10,000 young girls are dedicated each year to become "devadasi" (i.e, ritual slaves of a god) in temples. The girls, once they reach puberty, are auctioned off to the highest bidder, who retains the right to deflower them. Sometimes they are auctioned directly to procurers for brothels. The dedication of children to become Devadasis invariably leads to 'a life of prostitution' and sexual exploitation within their communities or in urban brothels.376
Child prostitutes are subjected to many types of physical and emotional trauma, violence and abuse. They are sometimes brutally raped or beaten into submission and subjected to sadistic treatment by customers.377 In one case, a young Chinese girl who had been trafficked into Thailand was beaten to death in a brothel in Chiang Mai.378 Young prostitutes in mining encampments in Amazonia who refuse a customer or attempt to escape are beaten, tortured, and in some cases killed.379
Young teenagers also face the risk of pregnancy. Over one hundred thousand maternal deaths occur each year among adolescents, many from abortions done by primitive methods.380 Young prostitutes are subjected to abortions using methods such as blows to the abdomen, knitting needles or inappropriate medicine.381
Child prostitutes are constantly at risk from exposure to harmful contagious diseases, including sexually-transmitted diseases and AIDS. In Thailand, HIV infection has already reached alarming proportions among young prostitutes. One study found that approximately one-third of children involved in prostitution in Thailand are HIV positive,382 while other reports indicate that 60 to 70 percent of girls in Thai brothels are HIV infected.383 Despite the threat of AIDS, many girls do not understand the disease or how it is transmitted.
Drug abuse is another risk associated with prostitution.384 Some children resort to drugs as a way to block out their personal pain. Drugs are often deducted from their wages.385 An ILO study in Sri Lanka found that 6 out of 52 boy prostitutes were drug addicts; they had apparently been initiated to drugs by foreign tourists.386
The use of domestic servants in the homes of middle and upper-class families is probably the most widespread form of forced child labor. It is a commonplace and widely-accepted practice throughout Asia, the Americas, and Africa. Because many child domestics work and live within the confines of private homes, they are perhaps the most invisible of all child workers.387 While there are no reliable national or international figures on the number of children engaged in domestic services, the figure is estimated to be in the millions worldwide and possibly on the increase.388
In many countries poor families traditionally sent their children to live in the home of a better-off relative. There, while receiving beneficial training, they were treated as family members and assumed the same kinds of chores and responsibilities as the children of their host family. The current situation is drastically different. The procurement of young child domestic workers has become, in many countries, commercialized and highly exploitative, even where "relatives" are involved:
Children, usually girls from poor, rural families and sometimes as young as six to ten years old, may be recruited by a special agency, placed by a friend or acquaintance, sent by their parents, adopted or kidnapped. In Nepal, the Côte D'Ivoire,390 and India, for example, child domestic workers are often recruited by brokers or agents.391 In Syria, poor families from rural areas place their daughters and in return receive a cash advance, sometimes equivalent to a year's salary.392 In Brazil, there are cases where child domestics are compelled to work -- often in the homes of fictitious relatives -- in order to pay off a debt incurred by a parent.393 In Morocco,394 orphanages are party to the practice of adoptive servitude, in which families adopt young girls who perform the duties of domestic servants in their new homes.395
In Sudan,396 militias from the north kidnap children in the course of conducting raids on tribal communities in the south of the country.397 Kidnapped children are considered by some militia members to be legitimate war booty in the ongoing civil war.398 The children, some as young as seven, are transported to the north where the militias either keep them for their own use or sell them (for approximately $30 to $60 dollars each) into domestic slavery.399 According to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Sudan, the kidnapping and selling of Sudanese children seems to be an organized and politically motivated practice.400
Child domestic workers who live with their employer families are often subjected to horrendous working conditions, extended work hours, and physical and sexual abuse. They often wake up at dawn and do not go to sleep until after the rest of the family has retired. They often work seven days a week with no holidays and little leisure time or rest. Many are illiterate, and most are not permitted to go to school. In Benin,401 for example, one recent study indicated that as many as 90 percent of child domestic workers, most of whom are under 14, do not attend school.402
The daily tasks that child domestics are expected to perform are labor intensive and often well beyond their physical capacity. Their work includes cleaning, washing, wiping and polishing floors, cooking, shopping, taking care of younger children, tending the garden and taking care of animals or pets. They are often isolated from other children and deprived of human contact and affection.403 In some cases they are locked up while their employers are out. In addition, they are separated from their families for long periods of time and often not allowed visits.
Child domestic workers are usually paid little if anything; often their only remuneration is food and lodging. They eat after the rest of the family, and their meals, which are often provided irregularly, generally consist of whatever leftovers remain. Employers rarely provide for medical care and often attempt to medically treat child domestics at home.404
The accommodations for child domestics are generally unpleasant. In Haiti,405 child domestic workers, referred to as "restaveks," are sometimes housed in a separate shed.406 In India, child domestic workers are often left to sleep in the bathroom, terrace, balcony or open courtyard and generally are not given bedding.407 In other cases, such as in Lesotho, they sometimes sleep without proper bedding in the same room as the children of their employers.408
Child domestic workers are often verbally or physically abused or sexually exploited. A study on the situation of child domestic servants in Bangladesh states that they are the recipient of abuses "at the smallest pretext" and live under the constant threat of being thrown out to a vagrant life on the streets.409 In Sudan, there are reports of children being beaten and branded;410 one young boy describes how his master punished children trying to escape by cutting their achilles tendons.411 In Haiti, the Ministry of Social Affairs has estimated that about one-fifth of "restaveks" are badly mistreated. Some are sexually abused.412 The ILO has noted that the Police Department in Sri Lanka has received over 1000 complaints during the past few years involving the inhumane treatment of child domestics.413 Cases of such abuse in Sri Lanka have involved children being starved, battered, burned or tortured to death.414 In Morocco, several cases involving the physical abuse of child domestics by their employers were brought before Moroccan courts in 1994. The girls had suffered severe beatings, torture and starvation. One had died from her wounds.415
Camel racing is a popular sport in the Persian Gulf States, including the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Many children -- particularly from South Asia -- are reported to be employed as camel jockeys.416 In 1993, the Government of the UAE prohibited the employment of children as camel jockeys and the use of jockeys weighing less than 45 kilograms.417 The Camel Racing Association of the UAE enforces these rules.418 The Indian, Pakistani, and Sri Lankan embassies in the UAE report no recent complaints of child abuse lined to camel racing since the 1993 prohibition.419
Some reports persist that young boys between four and ten years of age have reportedly been abducted or recruited from countries such as Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Mauritania are smuggled into the Gulf States to work as camel jockeys.420 Parents are sometimes promised that their children will be employed as companions for children of wealthy families or will take part in ceremonial events.421 Organized recruitment networks falsify immigration documents and escort the young boys across borders.422
Young boys are preferred because they are light and their cries propel the camel to run faster.423 Some reports cite repeated accidents, including deaths, prompted camel owners to strap the boys to the backs of the camels.424 Sometimes the boys are glued onto the camels.425 The ropes that are used to bind the children to the camel sometimes become loose, and the boys can be thrown off the camel or dragged between the camel's legs over stones and sand.426 The boys are often underfed so as to reduce the burden on the camel and are sometimes subjected to bullying and physical harassment.427