Cablegate: Sri Lanka Child Labor Information For

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: STATE 193266

1. Following is information on Child Labor in Sri
Lanka for GSP Trade and Development Act.

2. Responses are keyed to Reftel.

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

Sri Lanka has shown its commitment to protecting
children from various forms of exploitative
employment and abuse. Sri Lanka was one of the
first member countries to ratify the UN convention
on the rights of the child in 1990. A Sri Lankan
"Children's Charter" was adopted in 1992. In 1997,
the National Child Protection Authority (NCPA) was
established under the purview of the President. The
Sri Lanka Constitution of 1978, Article 27(13)
states that "children shall be protected" and
Article 12(14) states "action shall be taken to
guarantee this protection".

-- The government continues to take steps to protect
children from 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. Sri Lanka also ratified
ILO convention 105 on the abolition of forced labor
on January 7, 2003. In 1999, Sri Lanka ratified ILO
convention 138 on minimum age for admission for

-- The minimum age for employment is set at 14
years, which is consistent with the age for
completing school education in Sri Lanka. The
Employment of Women, Young Persons and Children Act
(EWYC) and the Factories Ordinance (FO) govern
employment of young persons between the ages of 14
and 18, and lay down guidelines protecting their
health, safety and welfare. Penal code amendments
in 1995 and 1998 provide legal protection to
children from criminal exploitation.

-- The worst forms of child labor or hazardous work
for children between 14 and 18 years are not clearly
defined. There are various restrictions, however,
to protect workers in this age group from dangerous
work. Under the EWYC, night work is generally
prohibited for persons under 18 years; working hours
of young persons below 16 years and below 18 years
are limited to 9 hours and 10 hours per day,
respectively. Minimum age for employment at sea is
15 years. The Factories Ordinance permits
employment of children 14-18 years. It calls for
medical certification of those below 16 and
prohibits persons below 18 years from engaging in
harmful employment.

-- In 2003, the government took further action to
protect children from exploitative employment
through amendments to the EWYC Act -- Employment of
Women and Young Persons and Children (Amendment Act)
No. 8 of 2003. Under the amendments, children below
14 are allowed to work outside school hours only in
part-time family agricultural work or to engage in
technical training. They are prohibited from
working in any family-operated industrial
undertaking or in any other vocation. The
prohibition on working at sea for children under 15
years has been extended to cover working in family-
owned vessels. The age for public performance,
endangering life or limb, is increased from 16 to 18
years. The age for training for performances of a
dangerous nature is increased from 14 years to 16
years. A special license is required for such
training by persons aged 16 to 18.
-- Penal Code amendments in 1995 and 1998 deal with
child sex workers, child pornography, cruelty and
grievous hurt, and trafficking of children for
sexual exploitation, illegal adoption, begging or
trading in restricted articles. The Penal Code
defines a child as a person below 18 years of age,
in line with convention 182. The Government intends
to expand the Penal code coverage on trafficking of
children to cover trafficking for all types of

-- Since December 1997, Sri Lanka has been
participating in the ILO/IPEC program. Sri Lanka
also participates in IPEC's Trafficking in Children-
South Asia (TICSA) program, funded by the USDOL.
With ILO/IPEC assistance, Sri Lanka is in the
process of finalizing a list of occupations
considered to be the worst forms of child labor
existing in Sri Lanka, as called for in Article 4 of
the Convention 182. The list is to be released in
September 2003. In order to identify the nature of
the worst forms of child labor existing in the
country, rapid assessment studies on trafficking of
children, child domestic workers and the commercial
sexual exploitation of children were commissioned by
IPEC under TICSA-phase I project. Sri Lanka has
already done extensive work in combating
trafficking, which, under IPEC programs, is seen as
the facilitating mechanism for 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

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.

-- In March 2003, the Government increased the
penalties for child labor violations through
Employment of Women, Young Persons and Children
(Amendment) Act No. 8 pf 2003. Penalties (fines and
prison sentences) for violating laws governing
employment of children below 18 years under the EWYC
were increased from Rs 1,000 (approx. $10) and/or
six months imprisonment to Rs 10,000 (approx $100)
and/or 12 months imprisonment. In addition, new
provisions require the offenders to pay compensation
to the victims.

-- The Penal Code contains provisions which can be
used to deal with the problem of child sex workers,
pornography, trafficking of children for sexual
exploitation, and illegal adoptions. Procuring
children for begging or acting as procurers for
sexual intercourse and trafficking in restricted
articles is also punishable under the Penal Code.
Penalties include imprisonment and fines or both.
The Police Department and the Attorney General's
Office are responsible for prosecuting violations of
the Penal Code.

-- According to ILO sources, additional laws and
regulations are necessary to eliminate the worst
forms of child labor. The National Child Protection
Authority (NCPA) appointed a subcommittee on legal
reforms in October 2002. This subcommittee has
recommended new laws governing obscene publications,
juvenile justice, and legislation to prevent
exposure of children to pornography through the
Internet and sexual solicitation. The committee is
also striving to introduce child-friendly court
procedures and to expand the use of video evidence
in cases involving children.

-- According to interlocutors, due to various
governmental and NGO programs, awareness regarding
child rights and the need to protect children from
various forms of abuses has increased significantly.
This is clearly shown by an increase in complaints
received by the NCPA, which deals with all forms of
child abuse. The Department of Labor has observed a
declining trend in employment of children under 14
years. According to sources, enforcement has
improved, but problems still exist due to lack of
evidence, false charges and sometimes the lack of
birth certificates - a common problem with the rural
poor. Further, while most of the enforcement
officers have been trained, enforcement agencies are
not able to respond adequately to all of the
complaints due to lack of infrastructure. Also,
because of the hidden nature of the child labor problem
within the informal sectors, enforcement is weak.
According to the Department of Labor, during routine
labor department inspections, business premises are
checked for adherence to labor laws applying to
children below 18 years. Under TICSA - Phase II
which is to begin later this year, judicial follow
up will be improved to improve law enforcement. US
Department of State and Department of Justice
recently approved grants to GSL agencies to enhance
investigative techniques, civil and police
coordination for child trafficking cases and
assistance in court management.

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. The
Government, with the assistance of other
organizations, is continuing to strengthen these

-- NCPA: 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. The basic goal of the NCPA is the elimination
of child abuse in all its forms and manifestations.
The NCPA operates in four main areas: protection,
advocacy, rehabilitation, and legal reforms. In
2001, the NCPA established an anti-trafficking unit.
It carried out 160 investigations between May 2001
and December 2002. NCPA also has a cyber watch unit
that scans the Internet for pedophiles soliciting
local children. Its goal is to protect children
from child pornography and other forms of commercial
sexual exploitation. This unit has been successful
in tracking down pedophiles. In October 2002, the
Government established a special police unit at the
NCPA to combat child abuse. The unit is manned by a
team of 16 trained police personnel, and works
closely with NCPA on investigation and prosecution.
NCPA received 276 complaints of child abuse in 2001
and 386 complaints in 2002. NCPA has established 11
district child protection committees. NCPA reports
directly to the President. Direct government
funding for NCPA has been constrained due to a lack
of resources and, reportedly, because of political
differences between the President and the UNF

-- In addition to the NCPA, Departments of Police
(through Women and Children's Desks at all police
stations and hotline), Labor, Probation and
Childcare, and District Child Protection committees
all receive complaints of child labor. The labor
department and the probation department have the
powers to prosecute offenders in the magistrate
courts under EWYC. The police department and the
attorney general's department prosecute violations
of the Penal Code. Child prostitution and
pornography, trafficking of children for sexual
exploitation, illegal adoptions, and procuring
children for begging or acting as procurers for
sexual exploitation and trafficking in restricted
articles are all punishable offences under the penal


Table 1

The following table presents data on child labor
complaints made to various government departments.

Year Dept of Labor(a) NCPA(c) Police
2000 194 184 391
2001 255 276 23
2002 161 386 0
2003 102(b) 179(d) 7(e)

a) Employment of Children below 14 years. In years
2000, 2001, 2002, and 2003, the number of cases
prosecuted, respectively, was 7, 42, 26 and 23.
nd 23.
About 95 percent of the prosecutions result in
convictions. During these years, 127, 141, 72 and
14 complaints were withdrawn due to lack of evidence
or false information.
b) From January to July, 2003
c) NCPA numbers reflect all forms of abuse against
children below 18 years. Most of the complaints are
on sexual abuse. In 2002, NCPA received 46
complaints on child labor, 198 on sexual abuse, and
84 on physical abuse.
d) From January to May, 2003
e) From January to June, 2003
Sources: Women's and Children's Division of the
Department of Labor, Statistics Division of the NCPA
and the Women's and Children's Division of the
Department of Police.

-- The NCPA and the Labor Department continue to
carry out training programs for judicial, labor,
medical, education, probation and police officers
dealing with child labor and for media personnel,
with the assistance of the ILO/IPEC, UNICEF, Save
the Children UK and local NGOs.

-- During 2002, the Labor Department trained 790
school principals, teachers, and religious leaders
on the elimination of child labor. The Department
also conducted three public awareness seminars
during the year. In 2003, the Labor Department
plans to train over 600 people including police
officers, probation officers, and labor officers
charged with investigating child labor, under the
IPEC program. It also hopes to conduct a program
for eliminating child domestic workers with ILO

-- The NCPA strives to raise awareness of child
rights through poster campaigns and media. Some of
its recent plans to broadcast programs have been
hampered by the lack of funds. The NCPA has
commenced a pilot project to establish Child
Protection Committees (CPC) in schools. These
committees, comprised of parents and students, are
responsible for creating awareness of child abuse,
child rights and child labor and attempt to
strengthen child-family-school interactions.
Representatives from the NCPA attend CPC meetings,
present lectures and investigate complaints
received. Within the next two years, this project
is to be expanded to schools across the country.

-- Other NCPA programs: Induction training program
on psycho-social counseling for newly recruited
child care officers funded by ILO/IPEC;
Multidisciplinary workshop for child care
professionals; Skills development workshops for
members of district child protection committees
funded by ILO/IPEC; NCPA also provided continues
training to police officers assigned to Children's
Bureau as well as other professionals working in the
field. The training is designed to increase the
skills required to ensure admissibility of taped
testimonies into court and skills for communicating
with children.
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:

-- Education: The Government of Sri Lanka
demonstrates a strong commitment to education and
strives to eliminate child labor through education.
The law requires children between ages of 5 and 14
to attend school. According to Regaining Sri Lanka,
a Government policy document prepared in 2002, net
primary enrollment rate (grades 1 to 9) is about 85-
90 percent. The government continues to support
programs which promote children's access to primary
schooling as well as quality and relevance of
schooling. The government provides universal free
education from primary school to university level.
School text-books are provided free of charge to all
school children following local educational
curricular. School uniform material is provided for
needy students and a school feeding program provides
one meal daily for 20,800 first year students in
areas having very high rates of malnutrition.

Further, scholarships are provided for gifted
students from needy families. Health care,
including immunization, is also free. In order to
improve the quality and relevance of education, the
Ministry of Education began a 6-year primary
education development plan in 1999, with World Bank
assistance. It contained extensive curriculum
reforms in Grade 1 through Grade 5, which were
implemented on a staggered basis from 1999-2003.
All primary school teachers were trained under the
project. All parents of grade one students are
briefed on the importance of education. These
measures have helped to promote enrollment and have
shown a marked decline in dropout rates in the
primary cycle (through grade 5). According to the
Education Ministry, the dropout rate is around 0.1
percent in the primary cycle. Secondary education
reforms are also underway, funded by the World Bank
and the Asian Development Bank. Despite budgetary
constraints, the Government has increased funding
for education in 2002 and 2003.

-- Government spending on education (RS million):

Year Total Education Primary Education
2000 30,929 NA
2001 28,286 8,943
2002 37,209 9,962
2003 42,045 NA
Exchange rate: US 1= Rs 75.78(2000), Rs
89.36(2001), Rs 95.66 (2002), Rs 96.00 (2003).
Sources: Ministry of Finance estimates provided to
the Embassy and Central Bank Annual Report 2002.

-- World Bank and the Asian Development Bank are the
major donors assisting government efforts to
modernize education. Ongoing World Bank IDA loans
provide $70 million for general education (with 55%
of funding allocated for primary education) and $64
million for teacher education and teacher
deployment. In addition, the IDA pipeline includes
$50 million for general education and $30 million
for undergraduate education in the next few years.
ADB has provided $48 million for secondary education
modernization. Proposed ADB loans include $50
million for post-secondary education modernization
(distance learning) and $40 million for secondary
education computerization.

-- The Government is continuing to sponsor non-
formal education units to draw non-school going
children to the education system. With the rapid
decrease in school dropout rates in primary classes,
some of the non-formal education units are being
upgraded from literacy centers to functional
literacy centers in order to provide job-oriented
skills to older students.

-- UNICEF supports non-formal education centers run
by the Education Ministry and functional training
centers run by NGOs. In early 2003, UNICEF
conducted two media campaigns on education, focused
on compulsory education for children below 14 years
and prevention of sexual and physical abuse of
children. The latter included the issue of child
domestics. UNICEF also sponsors a pilot program on
the child-friendly school environment concept in 124
schools in two districts. This program focuses on
reforms, quality of education, improving access to
education, sanitation, health, protection and child-
centered learning.

-- The NCPA also assists children affected by the
worst forms of child labor. It has established a
rehabilitation center and offers vocational training
and counseling for victims of trafficking. The NCPA
also hopes to launch community empowerment and
family empowerment programs to curb trafficking and
the worst forms of child labor. ILO/IPEC and UNICEF
are working with Don Bosco Center, a local NGO in
conducting remedial classes for children at risk in
areas bordering conflict zones. ILO/IPEC also runs
similar programs together with trade unions on the

-- The plantation sector has been identified by
various studies as an area of origination for
trafficked children, especially for domestic
employment. Under ILO/IPEC, 30 social mobilizers in
the plantation areas have been trained to campaign
against child trafficking and raise trade union
awareness. They are expected to reach 3000
plantation families.

-- Children in north and east: Sri Lanka continues
to face problems with recruitment of children for
armed conflict by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil
Ealam (LTTE). The LTTE uses child soldiers and
recruits children, sometimes forcibly, for use in
battlefield support and in combat. In May 1998, the
LTTE gave assurances to the Special Representative
of the UN Secretary General for Children in armed
combat, that it would not recruit children under the
age of 17. The LTTE has not honored this pledge.
With the announcement of a cease-fire in February
2002, there is considerable international and
domestic pressure on the LTTE to stop recruiting
child soldiers and to release child soldiers to
their parents. As of August 2003, credible reports of child
conscription by the LTTE continue.

-- The peace negotiations have given rise to new
challenges and opportunities for the protection of
children affected by conflict as well as child
soldiers recruited by the LTTE. It has given access
to government, international organizations and NGOs
to previously unaccessible areas affected by war.
UNICEF is scaling up its response to address the
rights of children affected by armed conflict and to
meet the immediate needs of returning internally
displaced persons. UNICEF has focused its strategic
response on education, water and sanitation and
child protection. In collaboration with WHO, UNICEF
will also support maternal and child health recovery
programs in areas with a high number of returnees.

-- In April 2003, UNICEF facilitated a workshop
between the Government of Sri Lanka, the LTTE, and
local and international organizations to agree on a
plan of action to address the needs of children
affected by war. The plan aims to restore and
ensure normalcy to these children, including child
recruits. Child rights training to LTTE, Government
armed forces and communities is one component of the
plan. It will also provide for the release and re-
integration of child soldiers with UNICEF
assistance. UNICEF is supporting transit centers
for child recruits released by the LTTE.

-- Sexual exploitation of children, including
commercial sexual exploitation, has come into focus
recently. In 2002, NCPA received 198 complaints on
child sexual abuse. A further 84 cases involved
physical abuse. According to UNICEF and NCPA, most
sexual exploitation and abuse occurs within the
privacy of family. Sexual activity is often seen as
a private matter, which makes communities reluctant
to act and intervene. UNICEF and other NGOs are
working actively to raise awareness of how to
prevent sexual exploitation of children. They are
also engaged in rehabilitating and counseling
children at risk. To end the tolerance of sexual
abuse, UNICEF acts to improve community attitudes,
customs and practices towards children and their
rights via TV, radio and newspapers.

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

-- The Government has ratified ILO convention 182 on
the elimination of worst forms of child labor. As a
first step, the NCPA has adopted a comprehensive
national policy and a national action plan on
elimination of trafficking of children for
exploitative employment. It hopes to combat
trafficking of children for exploitative employment
over a period of 10 years. The plan is being
implemented through various agencies.

-- The NCPA and other stakeholders with ILO/IPEC
assistance is in the process of identifying the
worst forms of child labor existing in Sri Lanka.
In order to determine the nature of worst forms of
child labor, rapid assessment research was completed
on child trafficking, commercial sexual exploitation
and child domestic workers under TICSA project.
Stakeholder consultations to draft the national
policy on worst forms of child labor have also
commenced. The draft plan will be discussed at a
workshop later this year.

F) Whether the country is making continual progress
toward eliminating the worst forms of child labor:

-- Sri Lanka is one of few developing countries that
does not employ children in the formal sector.
There are no reports that children are employed in
the Export Processing Zones, the garment industry,
or any other export industry, although children
sometimes are employed during harvest periods in the
plantation sectors and in non-plantation
agriculture. Although there is much concern about
the need to eliminate child labor, child labor still
exists in the informal sector, and the magnitude of
the problem cannot be fully assessed, as much of it
remains hidden. According to a child activity
survey carried out in 1998 and 1999 by the
Department of Census, the estimated child population
of the years 5 to 14 years was 3.2 million in 1999.
The survey found that almost 11,000 children of this
age group were working full time and another 15,000
were engaged in both economic activity and
housekeeping without attending school. This
represented about .8 percent of the child
population. The survey found 450,000 children
employed part-time by their families, primarily in
seasonal agricultural work, while attending school.
These statistics have not been updated since then.

-- Some Sri Lankan children are trafficked
internally to work as domestics and for sexual
exploitation. Many NGOs attribute the problem of
child exploitation to weaknesses in law enforcement.
According to the child activity survey, over 19,000
children below 18 years worked as child domestics,
although this situation is not regulated or
documented. A 1997 study reported that child
domestic servants are employed in 8.6 percent of
homes in the Southern Province. The same study
reported that child laborers in the domestic service
sector often are deprived of an education. Many
child domestics reportedly are subjected to
physical, sexual, and emotional abuse, and work long
hours. Consequently, there is discussion currently
among child right activists regarding inclusion of
domestic service in the list of worst forms of child
labor existing in Sri Lanka. Regular employment of
children also occurs in the informal sector and in
family enterprises such as family farms, crafts,
small trade establishments, restaurants, and repair
shops. Government inspections have been unable to
eliminate these forms of child labor, although an
awareness campaign coupled with the establishment of
hot lines for reporting child labor has led to an
increase in complaints regarding child labor
violations. According to the Department of Labor,
employment of children below 14 years is on a
declining trend.

-- Children are also exploited for sex activities.
Protecting Environment and Children Everywhere
(PEACE), a domestic NGO engaged in combating
hazardous child work, estimated that in 2003 there
were 5,000-6,000 children between the ages of 8 and
15 years who were engaged as sex workers. About 70%
of them are boys. They belong to socially deprived
communities living in poverty, and usually live in
urban slums. Overall, awareness, reporting and
prosecution of child sexual abuse cases have
increased according to PEACE. PEACE also reports
that protection given to children has expanded due
to increased awareness. Although the country has a
reputation as a destination for foreign pedophiles,
most clients are locals. The government has
occasionally prosecuted foreign pedophiles, and
there have been some convictions; however there were
no such convictions during 2002. Arrests of
foreigners for child abuse were 4 in 1999, 4 in
2000, 2 in 2001 0 in 2002, and there is one ongoing
case in 2003. No information was given about
convictions resulting from these arrests. There was
evidence of continuing, but reduced, international
interest in Sri Lankan children for the sex trade as
evidenced in tourism by foreign pedophiles, and in
Internet sites featuring child pornography involving
the country's children.

-- The LTTE continued to use high school-age
children for work as cooks, messengers, and clerks.
In some cases, the children reportedly help build
fortifications. Despite repeated claims to the
contrary by the LTTE, there were credible reports
that the LTTE continued to forcibly recruit children
throughout 2002 and 2003. The government, together
with UNICEF and other international donors, is
continuing to press for the release of child

3. As requested, post will send via diplomatic pouch
to DOL/ILAB Tina Faulkner the following supporting
1. Employment of Women, Young Persons and Children
(Amendment) Act, No 8 of 2003.
2. Report on trafficking in children for
exploitative employment including sexual
exploitation published by the ILO/IPEC project.
Contains national plan of action to combat
trafficking of children for exploitative employment
in Sri Lanka.
3. The Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children:
A Rapid Assessment- Sri Lanka published by the ILO

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