Cablegate: Gsp Child Labor Update for Sri Lanka

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.





E.O. 12958: N/A

Ref: (A) State 168607
(B) 01 Colombo 01719
(C) 00 Colombo 02105

1. Refs (B) and (C) contain comprehensive information on
child labor in Sri Lanka. Below is an update.

2. Responses keyed to Ref A.

(a) Whether the country has adequate laws and regulations
proscribing the worst forms of child labor:

Sri Lanka ratified ILO convention 182 for the immediate
elimination of the worst forms of child labor on March 1,
2001. It entered into force in March 2002. The National
Child Protection Authority (NCPA), with the assistance of
the ILO's International Program on Elimination of Child
Labor (IPEC), is moving to implement the convention.

Minimum age for employment is set at 14 years, which is
consistent with the age for completing school education.
Laws pertaining to employment of young persons between 14
and 18 regulate health and safety of workers in this age
group. There is no child labor or exploitation of children
within the formal or organized sector in Sri Lanka.

The Government has proposed to increase the penalties for
violation of child labor laws.

Sri Lanka participates in an IPEC sub-regional program to
combat the trafficking of children for exploitative
employment. The National Child Protection Authority, with
the assistance of the IPEC through a broad consultative
process has designed a national policy and a national plan
of action (NPA) to combat trafficking of children, the
facilitating mechanism of a wide range of the worst forms of
child labor. Sri Lankan authorities believe that
controlling child labor at its source is the most effective
way of eliminating child labor. The NPA has been integrated
into the NCPA's national plan of action, but Cabinet
approval has been delayed due to the current tensions
between the President and the Cabinet of Ministers.
Nonetheless, the Government of Sri Lanka actively supports
the IPEC's anti trafficking programs.

Sri Lanka has not yet identified worst forms of child labor
existing in Sri Lanka under Section 4 of the Convention 182.
ILO/IPEC together with GSL has scheduled a strategic
planning workshop in late October 2002 to identify the worst
forms of child labor existing in Sri Lanka. To assist this
process, a rapid assessment research is underway in four
selected geographical areas to provide insights into child
trafficking occurring in vulnerable areas. The authorities
also hope to design a program to rescue, rehabilitate and re-
integrate children engaged in the worst forms of child
labor. They will also design a parallel program for
prevention of the worst forms of child labor.

B) Whether the country has adequate laws and regulations for
the implementation and enforcement of such measures:

Minimum age for employment is set at 14 years, which is
consistent with the age for completing school education.
Penal code amendments in 1995 and 1998 - which deal with
child sex workers, pornography, trafficking of children for
sexual exploitation, employing of children to traffic in
restricted articles and causing cruelty and grievous hurt to
children - pre-date the ratification of ILO convention 182.
The Penal Code defines a child as a person under 18 years of
age in line with convention 182. According to ILO sources,
additional laws and regulations are necessary to eliminate
the worst forms of child labor. The Government has been
requested to amend the Penal Code, defense forces laws, and
the evidence ordinance to address these issues.

C) Whether the country has established formal
institutional mechanisms to investigate and address
complaints relating to allegations of the worst forms of
child labor:

Institutional mechanisms are in place to investigate
complaints regarding child labor (ref C). The Government,
with the assistance of other organizations, is continuing to
strengthen these mechanisms. The National Child Protection
Authority (NCPA) is the national focal point for
implementing ILO Convention 182. NCPA legislation defines a
child as a person under 18 in line with Convention 182. In
2001, NCPA established an anti trafficking unit that is
working to combat trafficking of children below 14,
especially in the areas of domestic labor and the sex
industry, by taking action against those who maintain the
supply chain. On October 1, 2002 the Government established
a special unit at the NCPA to combat child abuse. The unit
is manned by a team of 15 trained police personnel. It will
work closely with NCPA on investigation, monitoring and
prosecution of child workers. The NCPA also has a cyber
watch unit that scans websites for advertisements soliciting
local children. In addition, the NCPA and the Labor
Department have continued to carry out various training
programs for judicial, labor, probation and police officers
dealing with child labor and for media personnel with the
assistance of the ILO, UNICEF, Save the Children UK and
local NGOs. The Labor Department trained 300 officers in
2001 under ILO/IPEC program. In 2002, it hopes to train an
additional 300.

There has been an increase in prosecutions regarding child
labor violations by the Labor Department. The Labor
Department reported 194 complaints regarding child labor in
2000, with 79 of these cases withdrawn due to lack of
evidence or faulty complaints. The Department prosecuted 7
cases in 2000. In the first eight months of 2001, the Labor
Department reported 199 complaints, with 48 cases being
withdrawn and 40 prosecuted. (update)

D) Whether social programs exist in the country to prevent
the engagement of children in the worst forms of child labor
and assist in the removal of children engaged in worst forms
of child labor:

The Government hopes to eliminate child labor through
promotion of compulsory education through 14 years. The
Government is continuing to sponsor non-formal education
units to draw non-school going children to the education
system. A survey conducted in 1997/98 revealed that there
were about 61,000 non-school going children between the ages
of 5-14 years. This constituted 1.4% of children in that
age group.

NCPA has drawn its attention to assist children engaged in
worst forms of child labor. It has established a
rehabilitation center and offers vocational training and
counseling. NCPA also hopes to launch community empowerment
and family empowerment programs to curb trafficking and
worst forms of child labor.

ILO is engaged in raising awareness of Trade Unions and
community leaders about the ILO conventions dealing with the
worst forms of child labor.

UNICEF and other NGOs are working actively to raise
awareness of how to prevent sexual exploitation of children.
These programs are targeted towards both children and their
parents in high-risk areas such as beach resorts frequented
by tourists. According to recent reports, child
prostitution is falling in Sri Lanka, at least in certain
areas. The women and child protection unit of the Police
Department has said that open soliciting of children for sex
has declined. The decline in child prostitution has been
attributed to awareness and publicity given to pedophile

E) Whether the country has a comprehensive policy for the
elimination of the worst forms of child labor:

The Government has ratified ILO convention 182 on the
elimination of worst forms of child labor. The Government
has designed a comprehensive policy and a national action
plan on elimination of trafficking of children for
exploitative employment, which has been integrated into the
NCPA national plan of action. It has not been presented to
the Cabinet yet. Post will send the final draft of the
National Policy and the National Plan of Action to
Washington agencies.

F) Whether the country is making continual progress toward
eliminating the worst forms of child labor:
While efforts are being taken to combat child labor and
child trafficking, Sri Lanka continued to face a mounting
problem with recruitment of school children for armed
conflict by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam (LTTE)
through 2001 and early 2002. Reports indicated that some
children as young as 12 years were being abducted and
recruited by the LTTE. With the announcement of a cease-
fire in February 2002, and peace talks between the LTTE and
GSL in September 2002, there is considerable international
and domestic pressure on the LTTE to stop recruiting child
soldiers and to release child soldiers to their parents.
There are reports that this has begun to take place.


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