Way forward in the regional response for the elimination of worst forms of child labour – 2021 South Asia Forum on business and human rights

2021SouthAsiaForumNew

ECPAT International with the participation of the representatives of the South Asia Initiative to End Violence against Children (SAIEVAC), ILO’s South Asia sub-Regional Office in New Delhi, CWIN, Nepal, and The Code held a side event at the 2021 UN South Asia Forum on Business and Human Rights organised by United Nations Working Group on Business and Human Rights, UNDP and the ILO.

The session spotlighted key findings from ECPAT’s regional analysis covering Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka and discussed recommendations for governments and businesses on how to address the worst forms of child labour more effectively, while mitigating the devastating socio-economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some of the key takeaways from the session include:
• Children keep falling victims to trafficking and sexual exploitation, both online and offline, as a consequence of legal and policy gaps and aggravating drivers of the worst forms of child labor.
• The legal checklist accompanied by country analysis provides a baseline and gives practical guidance for governments and businesses on how to close these gaps – it will be internalized by the South Asia Initiative to End Violence Against Children (SAIEVAC) to help enforce changes, track and reflect progress in the region.
• Human rights due diligence processes need to include a child rights perspective to analyse a wide range of impacts that businesses may have through their practice, operations, and supply chains while taking into account evolving trends in various industries, that affect children.
• Important to go beyond policy and legal frameworks by engaging the general public and consumers on business accountability through awareness campaigns to strengthen demand for sustainable products and services with child protection in focus.
• Child sexual exploitation needs to be addressed as part of broader efforts on ending child labour through creating enabling and decent work opportunities, in cooperation with governments, businesses, and civil society organisations.

The session spotlighted key findings from the regional analysis covering Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. It discussed specific recommendations for governments and businesses on how to harmonise and improve legal and policy frameworks to address the worst forms of child labour more effectively.
Cooperation is key in the elimination of the worst forms of child labour that include trafficking and extraterritorial sexual exploitation of children, both online and offline. Across the region, there is an urgent need to harmonise and enforce legal and policy frameworks to effectively prevent these crimes. Child sex offenders that increasingly transitioned their offending to an online environment during the COVID-19 pandemic, are likely to follow it up with direct sexual abuse of the same victims when travel restrictions are eased. Considering that the vulnerabilities of children have been exacerbated by the pandemic, and the new ones are emerging, governments and businesses need to step-up measures aimed at the elimination of the worst forms of child labour.

The country analysis for South Asia conducted by ECPAT International is based on the 24-points legal checklist reflecting legal and policy frameworks that need to be in place and enforced to address all forms of sexual exploitation of children with its online elements more effectively.