In an attempt to focus attention on child labour, the Indian arm of international nonprofit Save the Children has kickstarted a provocative campaign largely centred on a microsite called childrenforhire.com.
The site, which “auctions” off children, offers discounts on older children, and claims to be a “one stop destination for all your child labour needs” was dreamed up as part of Save the Children’s 45-day anti-child labour campaign that began April 30--Anti Child Labour Day in India-- and runs until June 12--International Child Labour Day.
“The biggest challenge to addressing the issue of child labour is the social and cultural acceptance that allows the scourge of child labour to continue,” says Priya Subramanian, a spokesperson for Save the Children. “We conceived of this idea to shock and provoke people into thinking.”
While according to the 2001 census there are about 13 million children under the age of 14 engaged in child labour, Subramanian, estimates this number as being closer to 40 million.
Child labour is regulated in India under the Child Labour Prohibition and Regulation Act (CLPRA). “The act makes quite an arbitrary distinction between what constitutes hazardous child labour and is hence banned and what is not hazardous and not banned. But you really can’t make this distinction for any category of child labour under 14,” says Subramanian.
She points to the contradictory coexistence of the Right to Education (RTE) act, which guarantees free and compulsory education to all children upto the age of 14, with laws that regulate, rather than ban, child labour. “The CLPRA is in direct conflict with the RTE Act. It needs to be amended. The ‘regulation’ part of the CLPRA needs to be done away with. No child under 14 should be working in any form of child labour.”
The microsite asks people to sign a pledge that they will play an active role in ending child labour in India.