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Mauritius


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2012 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor

In 2012, Mauritius made a minimal advancement in efforts to eliminate the worst forms of child labor. The Government continued its efforts to combat commercial sexual exploitation by creating a sub-committee to facilitate inter-agency coordination, operating drop-in centers, and providing services via its Child Development Unit. In addition, the Government continued efforts to increase access to quality education through strategies such as the Zones d’Education Prioritaire (ZEP) and vocational programs for school drop outs. However, the Government does not currently ensure that victims of commercial sexual exploitation have access to comprehensive, quality services. Children in Mauritius are engaged in the worst forms of child labor, primarily in commercial sexual exploitation, although the extent of the problem is unknown.

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Prevalence and Sectoral Distribution of the Worst Forms of Child Labor

Children in Mauritius are engaged in the worst forms of child labor, primarily in commercial sexual exploitation (CSEC), although the extent of the problem is unknown.(3-5) Recent unofficial estimates report that the scale of the problem has been reduced even though accurate figures are not available.(5) However, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography visited Mauritius in May 2011 and found, through anecdotal reports, that the scale of CSEC in the country seems to be growing.(6) Some children are lured into CSEC by their peers or through false offers of other employment. Some adult prostitutes force their sons and daughters into CSEC.(4, 7) Although information is limited, children are reportedly engaged in the production of pornography.(8)

Available evidence suggests a low incidence of other worst forms of child labor in Mauritius and its dependencies, such as Rodrigues Island. Although information is limited and the extent of the problem is unknown, some children reportedly work in dangerous activities in agriculture and in domestic service.(4, 9, 10) Children working in agriculture may use dangerous tools, carry heavy loads, and apply harmful pesticides.(11, 12) Children working in domestic service may be required to work long hours, performing strenuous tasks without sufficient food or shelter. These children may be isolated in private homes, making them susceptible to physical and sexual abuse.(13, 14)

There are reports of children working on the streets, but specific information on hazards is unknown.



Laws and Regulations on the Worst Forms of Child Labor

The Employment Rights Actsets the minimum age for work at 16. Children under age 18 are prohibited from work that is likely to jeopardize their health or safety, or their physical, mental, moral, or social development.(15) The Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act identifies specific work activities prohibited to young persons 16 to 18 years old, which includes work with heavy metals and work in the forestry or construction sectors.(16) It is illegal to employ youth ages 16 to 18 to work in any industrial setting between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. Employers are required to maintain records of all employees ages 16 to 18.(15) The Constitution prohibits forced labor and slavery.(17)

The Combating Trafficking in Persons Act establishes trafficking as a criminal offense, including trafficking of children. The Act also requires Internet service providers to inform the police of any information that suggests or alludes to trafficking on its server.(18) The Child Protection Act forbids causing, inciting, or allowing any child under age 18 to engage in prostitution. The Criminal Code provides for penalties against procuring, exploiting, or enticing a prostitute, including a child prostitute.(6) The Child Protection Act also prohibits distributing, showing, taking, or possessing with the intention of showing or distributing any indecent photograph of a child, including electronic images.(6)

There is no compulsory military recruitment because Mauritius has no military. The voluntary recruitment age for the Police Force, which includes other security forces, is 18.(19-22) Education is free and compulsory to age 16.(23, 24)



Institutional Mechanisms for Coordination and Enforcement

The Government has created a National Child Protection Committee (NCPC, also known as the Working Together Committee) that includes key stakeholders related to the coordination and implementation of child protection policies.(24, 25) The NCPC coordinates the roles and responsibilities of the relevant ministries and ensures there is effective collaboration on effective intervention on cases involving children, including the worst forms of child labor.(21, 24) Under the auspices of the Ministry of Gender Equality, Child Development and Family Welfare (MOGE), the Government established the National Children’s Council (NCC) in 1990 following its ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.(6) The NCC is an independent, para-governmental entity that serves as the executive of child protection programs and focuses on child protection issues in the country.(6) During the reporting period, the MOGE consulted the NCC and various child protection service providers to discuss a new Consolidated Children’s Bill.(4, 21) Significant overlap appears to exist between the committees involved in child protection issues, and it is unclear if worst forms of child labor are specifically coordinated through the NCC.

The Inspection and Enforcement Division of the Ministry of Labor, Industrial Relations, and Employment (MOLIRE) enforces all labor laws, including those related to child labor.(4) It employs 45 inspectors and is responsible for conducting all regular labor inspections, including monitoring for child labor.(10, 26) From January 1, 2012 to November 2012, the MOLIRE inspections found no cases of child labor.(4) Information was not available on the number of labor inspections conducted. The Office of the Ombudsperson for Children also has the authority to investigate any suspected or reported case of child labor.(27) The 2012 Ombudsperson for Children Annual Report indicated that the Office investigated the absence of four children from school in alleged child labor cases. It reported that three of the children are back in school and that follow-up is being maintained on the fourth.(27, 28) When a child labor violation is found, the MOLIRE carries out unannounced follow-up inspections to deter repeat offenses.(10) Prosecution is usually pursued against repeat offenders.(29) Violations related to the hazardous work provisions of the OSH Act are referred to the MOLIRE’s OSH Division.(10)

The MOGE is the lead agency for implementing anti-Trafficking in Persons (TIP) policies and the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) is the coordinating agency for government anti-TIP policies.(5, 7) The MOGE established a sub-committee with the NCPC to facilitate inter-agency coordination on the CSEC.(21) Despite efforts to improve inter-agency coordination, a formal and permanent anti-TIP coordinating body does not exist and a lack of understanding of TIP by government officials has prevented the Government from effectively addressing the issue.(5, 7, 21) In addition, coordination and cooperation among government agencies and with civil society groups seems to be a persistent challenge in addressing commercial sexual exploitation and related child protection issues in the country.(6)

The Police Brigade for the Protection of Minors (Minors’ Brigade), a unit of the Mauritius Police Force (MPF), patrols areas such as arcades, bus terminals, and other areas in which youth are vulnerable to involvement in commercial sexual exploitation.(4, 6) The MOGE, the NCC, and NGOs also participate in these operations.(30) The MOGE has established Family Service Bureaus throughout the country to receive calls and handle walk-in visits related to any situation involving harm to children. The Bureaus are staffed with family welfare officers, psychologists, police officers, and family counselors.(6) The MOGE’s Child Development Unit (CDU) also receives tips on all forms of child abuse, including commercial sexual exploitation and child trafficking, through two telephone hotlines. From January to November 2012, the CDU received reports of six cases of child trafficking and five cases of child prostitution.(4) The Minors’ Brigade investigates these cases while the CDU provides follow-up assistance to victims.(31) However, the CDU suffers from a lack of resources and personnel, with only nine family welfare officers to serve Mauritius and one for Rodrigues, leading to insufficient service provision.(6)

In 2012, the most recent time period for which information is available, the Government prosecuted four cases of child prostitution, involving seven offenders.(21) As of May 2011, one case of child pornography was pending in the courts.(6)

The MPF provides anti-TIP training to new recruits as part of basic training requirements. During the reporting period, over 200 new recruits received training.(5) Training on preventing CSEC was provided by an NGO to 30 officials from the Government including the police, Ministry of Tourism, the probation service, and the MOGE. The USDOJ provided the Children as Victims and Witnesses in the Criminal Justice System training, with a substantial anti-TIP component, to over 150 government officials.(5)



Government Policies on the Worst Forms of Child Labor

The Government does not have a national policy that specifically targets child labor. It has a Protocol of Assistance to Victims of Sexual Abuse that lays out procedures to be followed by police and other officials when handling sexual abuse cases, including commercial sexual exploitation.(4, 32) In addition, the Government’s Child Safety Online Action Plan aims to prevent sexual exploitation of children on the Internet by strengthening the legal framework and raising awareness among parents and children.(4, 31)

The Government’s National Policy Paper on the Family lays out strategies to support child welfare through holistic support for families, including job training for parents.(33) The Government’s Education and Human Resources Strategy Plan (2008-2020) aims to improve equity of access to primary, secondary, and technical/vocational education, among other goals.(34)

The draft UNDP Country Program for Mauritius includes improving the education of vulnerable children through programs such as the ZEP.(24, 35) Although the Government’s PRSP does not explicitly discuss child labor, together with other poverty alleviation programs, it emphasizes child retention in school as a means to ensure equal opportunity for all.(10)

The question of whether these policies have an impact on the worst forms of child labor does not appear to have been addressed.

The Government is currently developing a comprehensive national child protection strategy to establish a coordinated response to child protection issues.(4)



Social Programs to Eliminate or Prevent the Worst Forms of Child Labor

The Government carries out a number of activities to prevent child sexual abuse and exploitation, including widespread public awareness raising in schools and community centers, as well as on the radio and on television. The Government also holds workshops commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) for vulnerable groups, and participates in working groups with private sector and civil society actors on anti-trafficking and CSEC issues.(5,19, 24) The Ministry of Tourism publishes and distributes pamphlets on trafficking to tourism companies, including tour operators and hotels.( 23)

In the area of victim services, the Government operates drop-in centers that provide counseling and education to victims of sexual abuse, including commercial sexual exploitation and trafficking of children.(23, 30) When victims report such abuses, child welfare officers are available to accompany them as they receive immediate medical care. These officers then work in conjunction with the police if an official statement is needed.( 6) The CDU provides a variety of follow-up support services, including counseling, legal support and reintegration, although it does face significant resource constraints as noted above.( 5, 31 )

If institutional care is needed, victims are referred to government or NGO shelters, many of which receive government funding.(5,23, 30) However, these facilities are overcrowded, service providers are overtaxed and the facilities lack appropriate training, and institutions do not have appropriate standards of care, leading to inadequate rehabilitative services for this vulnerable population.(5, 6) In addition, child victims of prostitution are sometimes placed, by court order, in residential centers for youth on probation. The UN Special Rapporteur has expressed concern about child victims of prostitution placed in such facilities, where they may not receive appropriate treatment.( 5)

The Government provides free school materials, lunches and medical examinations to economically underprivileged students.( 32) The ZEP Program, initially piloted on Rodrigues and Agalega Islands, is being scaled up to primary schools throughout the country. This Program has been shown to reduce school drop-outs through enhanced community participation in education.(19, 29) The Government's Strategy for Special Education Needs and Inclusive Education in Mauritius includes a program for at-risk primary school students outside of school hours that focuses on physical education and the arts.( 25) In 2011, the MGE launched a Child Mentoring Scheme that provides one-on-on counseling to at-risk children through a Government-selected mentor.(3, 19) The public school system also includes a pre-vocational track for youth who are at risk of exploitation or of becoming drop-outs.(19, 22)

The Ministry of Finance operates the Trust Fund for the Social Integration of Vulnerable Groups, which provides funding to NGOs for community development and family livelihood improvement programs.(3, 9) The MGE also operates the National Parental Empowerment Program to strengthen overall family livelihoods.( 32)

The question of whether these programs have an impact on child labor does not appear to have been addressed.



Based on the reporting above, the following actions would advance the elimination of the worst forms of child labor in Mauritius:

Area

Suggested Actions

Year(s) Action Recommended

Coordination and Enforcement

Ensure that all government efforts to address the worst forms of child labor are coordinated by the National Child Protection Committee and that any overlap in coordination is addressed.

2012

Establish a formal and permanent structure to coordinate anti-TIP efforts and increase anti-TIP training for government officials.

2012

Increase investigations and prosecutions of CSEC crimes, and punish offenders.

2010, 2011, 2012

Provide necessary resources to the Child Development Unit to ensure adequate service delivery for victims.

2011, 2012

Make information publicly available on the number of labor inspections conducted.

2012

Policies

Assess the impact that existing policies have had on the worst forms of child labor.

2010, 2011, 2012

Social Programs

Ensure that victims of CSEC have access to comprehensive, quality services.

2010, 2011, 2012

Refrain from placing CSEC victims in facilities designed for youth on probation.

2011, 2012

Assess the impact that existing programs may have on addressing child labor, particularly CSEC.

2009, 2010, 2011, 2012



1. UNESCO Institute for Statistics. Gross intake ratio to the last grade of primary. Total.; accessed February 4, 2013; http://www.uis.unesco.org/Pages/default.aspx?SPSLanguage=EN. Data provided is the gross intake ratio to the last grade of primary school. This measure is a proxy measure for primary completion. For more information, please see the "Children's Work and Education Statistics: Sources and Definitions" section of this report.

2. UCW. Analysis of Child Economic Activity and School Attendance Statistics from National Household or Child Labor Surveys. February 5, 2013. Reliable statistical data on the worst forms of child labor are especially difficult to collect given the often hidden or illegal nature of the worst forms. As a result, statistics on children's work in general are reported in this chart, which may or may not include the worst forms of child labor. For more information on sources used, the definition of working children and other indicators used in this report, please see the "Children's Work and Education Statistics: Sources and Definitions" section of this report.

3. U.S. Embassy- Port Louis. reporting, February 17, 2012.

4. U.S. Embassy- Port Louis. reporting, January 29, 2013.

5. U.S. Embassy- Port Louis. reporting, February 19, 2013.

6. United Nations Human Rights Council. Report of the Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, Najat Maalla M'jid. New York; November 9, 2011. Report No. A/HRC/19/63/Add.1. http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/Children/SR/A.HRC.19.63.Add.1.pdf.

7. U.S. Department of State. "Mauritius," in Trafficking in Persons Report- 2012. Washington DC; June 19, 2012; http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/192596.pdf.

8. ECPAT International. Global Monitoring Report on the status of action against commercial sexual exploitation of children: Mauritius. Bangkok; 2007. http://www.ecpat.net/A4A_2005/PDF/AF/Global_Monitoring_Report-MAURITIUS.pdf.

9. U.S. Embassy- Port Louis. reporting, January 15, 2009.

10. Government of Mauritius. Written communication. Submitted in response to U.S. Department of Labor Federal Register Notice "Request for Information on Efforts by Certain Countries to Eliminate the Worst Forms of Child Labor". Washington, DC, February 11, 2009. [Hard Copy on File].

11. International Labour Office. Farming, International Labour Organization, [online] January 31, 2012 [cited November 2, 2012]; http://www.ilo.org/ipec/areas/Agriculture/WCMS_172416/lang--en/index.htm.

12. International Labour Office. Children in hazardous work: What we know, What we need to do. Geneva, International Labour Organization; 2011. While country-specific information on the dangers children face in agriculture is not available, research studies and other reports have documented the dangerous nature of tasks in agriculture and their accompanying occupational exposures, injuries and potential health consequences to children working in the sector.

13. International Labour Office. Children in hazardous work: What we know, What we need to do. Geneva, International Labour Organization; 2011. While country-specific information on the dangers children face in domestic work is not available, research studies and other reports have documented the dangerous nature of tasks in domestic work and their accompanying occupational exposures, injuries and potential health consequences to children working in the sector.

14. International Labour Office. Domestic Labour, International Labour Organization, [online] January 31, 2012 [cited November 2, 2012]; http://www.ilo.org/ipec/areas/Childdomesticlabour/lang--en/index.htm.

15. Government of Mauritius. Employment Rights Act, Act No. 33 of 2008, enacted September 19, 2008. http://www.gov.mu/portal/goc/labour/file/employment%20rights%20act%202008.pdf.

16. The Occupational Safety and Health Act, Act No. 28 of 2005, enacted October 28, 2005. http://www.gov.mu/portal/sites/legaldb/files/occupational%20safety%20&%20health%20act%202005.doc.

17. Government of Mauritius. Constitution of the Republic of Mauritius, enacted March 12, 1968. http://www.gov.mu/portal/site/AssemblySite/menuitem.ee3d58b2c32c60451251701065c521ca/?content_id=03654555fc808010VgnVCM100000ca6a12acRCRD#pro.

18. Government of Mauritius. The Combating of Trafficking in Persons Act 2009, enacted May 8, 2009. http://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/---ed_protect/---protrav/---ilo_aids/documents/legaldocument/wcms_126787.pdf.

19. Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers. "Mauritius," in Child Soldiers Global Report. London; 2008; http://www.childsoldiersglobalreport.org/files/country_pdfs/FINAL_2008_Global_Report.pdf.

20. Child Soldiers International. "Appendix II: Data Summary Table on Recruitment Ages of National Armies," in Louder Than Words: An Agenda For Action to End State Use of Child Soldiers. London; 2012; http://www.child-soldiers.org/global_report_reader.php?id=562.

21. U.S. Department of State. E-mail communication to USDOL official. June 18, 2013.

22. U.S. Department of State. "Mauritius," in Country Reports on Human Rights Practices- 2012. Washington, DC; April 19, 2013; http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/humanrightsreport/index.htm#wrapper.

23. UNESCO. EFA Global Monitoring Report: The Hidden Crisis: Armed Conflict and Education. Paris; 2011. http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0019/001907/190743e.pdf.

24. Mauritius Ministry of Labour, Industrial Relations and Employment. Updated Report Following the 2010 US Report–Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labour; July 19, 2012. [Hard Copy on File].

25. Government of Mauritius. Written communication Port Louis, January 11, 2013. [Hard Copy on File].

26. U.S. Embassy- Colombo official. E-mail communication to USDOL official. February 3, 2012.

27. Government of Mauritius. The Ombudsperson for Children Act, Act No. 41 of 2003, enacted November 10, 2003. http://www.gov.mu/portal/goc/educationsite/file/The%20Ombudsperson%20for%20Children%20Act%20(updated)%202003.pdf.

28. Government of Mauritius. The Ombudsperson for Children Annual Report. Annual Report. Reduit; September 30, 2012. Report No. OCO/RPT/118. http://www.gov.mu/portal/sites/ncb/oco/report2012.htm.

29. ILO Committee of Experts. Individual Direct Request concerning Worst Forms of Child Labor Convention, 1999 (No. 182) Mauritius (ratification: 2000) Submitted: 2008; accessed February 20, 2013; http://www.ilo.org/dyn/normlex/en.

30. Government of Mauritius. Written communication Submitted in response to U.S. Department of Labor Federal Register Notice "Request for Information on Efforts by Certain Countries to Eliminate the Worst Forms of Child Labor". Port Louis, January 19, 2010. [Hard Copy on File].

31. U.S. Embassy- Port Louis. reporting, December 7, 2010.

32. ILO Committee of Experts. Individual Observation concerning Worst Forms of Child Labor Convention, 1999 (No. 182) Mauritius (ratification: 2000) Published: 2008; accessed February 20, 2013; http://www.ilo.org/dyn/normlex/en.

33. Government of Mauritius- Ministry of Women's Rights, Child Development, Family Welfare and Consumer Protection. National Policy Paper on the Family. Port Louis; 2010. www.gov.mu/portal/goc/women/files/family_policy.doc.

34. Government of Mauritius. Education and Human Resources Strategy Plan 2008-2020. Port Louis; October 2009. http://www.gov.mu/portal/goc/educationsite/file/EHRSP%202008-2020.pdf.

35. UNDP and UNFP. Draft country programme for the Republic of Mauritius (2009-2011). New York; June 2008. http://airhost.ca/~unintnet/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=63&Itemid=78.

36. U.S. Embassy- Port Louis. reporting, February 18, 2010.

37. Government of Mauritius- Ministry of Gender Equality, Child Development and Family Welfare. Child Development Unit, Ministry of Gender Equality, Child Development and Family Welfare, [online] January 12, 2012 [cited February 20, 2013]; http://www.gov.mu/portal/site/women-site/menuitem.e164bad248cb0d54a3a5b31000b521ca/.

38. U.S. Embassy- Port Louis. reporting, January 29, 2010.

39. U.S. Embassy- Port Louis. reporting, January 20, 2012.