Author: Akriti Raina, Law centre-II, Faculty of Law, Delhi university
Child Labour is one of the serious social problems that haunt the Indian society and its progress towards a prosperous nation. Employing children into labour robs them of their right to healthy development by interfering with their mental, physical and emotional wellbeing. While there is ample focus on the problems of Child Labour that is prevalent in the socially weaker sections of the society, the other sector namely- entertainment, is often ignored from such discussions. This article focuses on the employment of children on television.
Synopsis of Child Labour laws in India:
The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 defines a child as a person who has not completed their 14th year of age. The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Act, 2016 extends the protection from certain occupations to adolescents in the age group of 14-18 years. These provisions are in sync with the ideals of Article 24 of the Indian constitution which prohibits employment of children below the age of fourteen years in any factory or mine or in any hazardous employment, Article 21A which aims at providing free and compulsory education to all children of the age of 6-14 years, in such a manner as the state may determine by law and Article 39(e) which states that the state policy should be directed towards securing that the health and strength of workers, men and women and the tender age of children are not abused and that citizens are not forced by economic necessity to enter avocations unsuited to their age or strength.
The broader idea behind these laws is to curb the exploitation of children in the labour market and employment sector, which often is done through compulsory and free education. However, employment in television and other forms of entertainment is exempted from such laws.
Causes of Child Labour- Economic and Educational:
Economic aspects :
Article 21 of the Indian constitution provides for the concept of basic needs, but, the sad reality of Indian society is poverty and hunger. Given the need for survival, children belonging to lower strata of society are often a victim of early age employment, for it is a better alternative than disease and death. However, thinking of survival as the only reason for pushing innocent children into employment, perhaps diverts our attention from the use of children as baits by the higher economic groups, in the field of entertainment. The very idea of using children as actors, influencers, models, etc. is nothing more than a luxury for parents who sell the so-called “talent” of their children to big media houses in exchange of a handsome sum of money. These children, who have little or no say in controlling their lives and are often a victim of the duality of labour laws, that on one hand prohibit employment of a child struggling to meet ends and on the other enables the already prosperous to push their children into the world of disguised labour.
Lack of education:
One of the reasons that can be attributed to child labour is the lack of awareness related to education. For those who cannot provide for their families, education is not seen as a mechanism of breaking the cycle of poverty but, as an added responsibility. Education is a seemingly slow process of change and thus, these families opt for survival and not change in their conditions through knowledge. The hurdles in achieving education are not only in terms of economic inability but also lack of quality and infrastructural availability in poverty-stricken areas. In contrast to this, are the children who sell their skills in exchange for appreciation, it is often considered normal for these children to skip school and pursue a journey of fame. They are devoid of their leisure time, robbed of their innocence at a very young age in trying to keep up with the expectations of their followers, who see them as “stars”.
Impacts of Child Labour:
The employment of children as labourers or workers is detrimental to their health both, Physically and Psychologically:
Pushing children into employment at a tender age, hampers their development.
Such children are not only vulnerable to malnutrition but, the burden of work takes a toll on their healthy development. They are devoid of playtime, devoid of social interactions, unlike their peers. They mature much earlier than their peers.
This stands true for both the entertainment sector and the children forced into labour to help their survival.
Unfortunately for these children, their value is momentary in their respective fields of employment. This is due to the population and availability of cheaper alternatives to their employers. Thus, stress is a very common phenomenon in these children as they are unable to balance their interests with the duties imposed on them. This is often elevated by the unhealthy competition that persists in the entertainment industry as there is always someone more talented to replace them. Thus, these children often develop body image issues, which compels these children to subject themselves to the unrealistic standards of society. The impact lasts a lifetime, as once they are no more valuable to the industry, they struggle to fit into a normal lifestyle.
On the other hand, the children belonging to the other spectrum are subjected to violence that not only scars them physically but also mentally. Thus, Child labour subjects children to a life of mental illness.
A child employed in labour is a very easy target for predators, especially the younger girls. They are often exploited sexually and are not in a position to seek justice. They are used in criminal acts such as pornography and trafficking. This is present in both organized as well as unorganized sectors of labour.
Since these children are occupied in the work sector from a very young age, they fail to provide adequate attention to their education. For most of them, the need to educate becomes secondary when compared to the monetary benefits of employment. This in turn interferes with their intellectual development.
The employment of children in the entertainment industry should be regulated to ensure that there is no exploitation. Before children are employed in such sectors, they should be examined by social workers and counselors, this would prevent forceful employment of children against their will.
Compulsory attendance criteria in schools with minimum exceptions to ensure that they are not allowed to neglect their education.
Social workers/officials to take care of sexual abuse in the entertainment industry. Such children should be educated about their bodily rights and have access to help in cases of exploitation.
Strict laws as to working hours and ensuring that these children get ample time to devote to other activities.
Mandatory mental and physical health checkups to ensure the healthy development of children.
The problem of Child Labour not only persists in the unorganized sectors of the country but is very much a reality of the organized sector as well. Children of television, media are at an equal risk of being taken advantage of, as are children of the informal and unorganized sectors. The need of the hour is to make stricter rules against such gross violations of human rights of younger children and enable them to live a prosperous life with good health, nutrition, adequate development and education.