Cablegate: Sri Lanka: Worst Forms of Child Labor Update - Nov 2007

DE RUEHLM #1603/01 3331101
O 291101Z NOV 07





E.O 12958: N/A

REF: A) STATE 149662 B) 06 COLOMBO 2072

1. As requested by Ref A, below is an update of the worst forms of
child labor information for Sri Lanka.

Child Labor Legislation

2. Sri Lanka ratified International Labor Organization (ILO)
Convention 138 on Minimum Age for Employment on November 2, 2000,
and ILO Convention 182 on Worst Forms of Child Labor on January 3,
2001. The conventions define a child as a person under 18 years
old. Under the Employment of Women, Young Persons and Children Act
of 1956, the minimum age for employment in Sri Lanka is 14 years.
Under the Act, children may be employed in family-run agricultural
enterprises or as part of technical training activities. Children,
however, cannot work during school hours. The law limits the work
hours of young people between 14 to 16 years to 9 hours per day, and
the work hours of young people ages 17 and 18 years to 10 hours per
day. Penalties for violation of the law are a fine of Sri Lankan
Rupees (Rs) 10,000 (approximately USD 90), or imprisonment of up to
12 months, or both; and payment of compensation as decided by

3. Worst forms of child labor: Sri Lanka has ratified ILO
Convention 182 on Worst Forms of Child Labor. The Penal Code
contains provisions prohibiting several forms of abuse against
children, including child pornography, prostitution and trafficking.
The government amended the Penal Code in 2006 to strengthen the
laws against child abuse and child labor in compliance with sections
3A, 3B and 3C of the ILO Convention 182 on Worst Forms of Child
Labor. The amendment prohibits the use or recruitment of children
(below 18 years) in armed conflict. It also prohibits forced labor,
debt bondage, and slavery in Sri Lanka. The amendment aims to
prevent sexual abuse of children via the internet as well as the
soliciting of children for sexual abuse. In addition, it expands
the definition of trafficking to conform to international standards.
A jail term of up to 20 years and a fine is prescribed for these
offenses covered by the Penal Code. If the victim is under 18
years, the jail term may be increased to 30 years. The Penal Code
amendment gives effect to Sri Lanka's obligations to the following
ILO/UN Conventions: The Slavery Convention; The Convention
Concerning Forced or Compulsory Labor; The Supplementary Convention
on the Abolition of Slavery; the Slave Trade and Institutions and
Practices Similar to Slavery; and The Convention on the Elimination
of Worst Forms of Child Labor.

4. In August 2006, the Parliament passed an amendment to the
Employment of Women, Young Persons and Children Act of 1956, that
enables the Minister of Labor to publish regulations that prohibit
the employment of persons below the age of 18 years in hazardous
occupations. Pursuant to section 3D and article 4 of ILO Convention
182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labor, the Government of Sri Lanka
compiled a list of 49 occupations in Sri Lanka that are considered
to be hazardous forms of child labor. Forty occupations are
unconditional and are to be completely prohibited for children aged
14-18 years, while the remaining nine occupations will be
conditionally prohibited upon the publication of the relevant
regulation. Penalties for violation of the law are a fine of Rs
10,000 (approximately USD 90), or imprisonment of up to 12 months,
or both; and payment of compensation as decided by courts.

Child Labor Law Enforcement

5. Enforcement Statistics: The following table presents data on
child labor complaints made to government agencies.

Year Dept of Labor(a) NCPA(b) Police (c)
Complaints Prosecutions Complaints Complaints

2000 194 7 184 -
2001 255 42 276 -
2002 161 26 386 -
2003 203 44 179 -
2004 147 48 409 -
2005 105 NA 315 -
2006 161 18 618 26
2007 Jan-June 52 8 NA 31

Sources: Department Of Labor,NCPA, Sri Lanka Police

COLOMBO 00001603 002 OF 003

NA: not available

(a) Employment of children below 14 years

(b) National Child Protection Authority (NCPA) receives complaints
on all forms of abuse against children below 18 years. Most of the
complaints concern sexual abuse, including child prostitution. In
2006, there were 69 complaints against employment of children below
14 years as domestic workers. All other complaints were regarding
child abuse, cruelty and trafficking of children below 18 years.

(c) Number of complaints on child domestic workers, below 14 years,
received by the Children and Women Division of Sri Lanka Police.

6. The National Child Protection Agency's cyber watch is
responsible for combating child pornography and pedophilia via the
internet. Since 2001, the unit has cracked down on foreign
pedophiles operating in Sri Lanka. As of mid-2006, however, the
efficiency of the cyber watch unit has seriously eroded due to
insufficient funding. Statistics on the cyber watch unit's
activities are below. Data in the parentheses indicate the number
of foreign suspects.

-- No of investigations No of arrests
2002 45 (17) 7 (4)
2003 40 (10) 2 (0)
2004 25 (7) 2 (2)
2005 43 (15) 2 (0)
2006 30 (15) 0 (0)

Source: National Child Protection Agency

Government Policies and Programs to Prevent Child Labor
--------------------------------------------- ----------

7. The Ministry of Child Development and Women's Empowerment was
established in November 2005. Under this Ministry is The National
Child Protection Authority (NCPA) -- the primary agency tasked with
the protection of children from child labor, abuse and exploitation.
The NCPA was less active in the last two years due to management
changes and insufficient funding, and is currently being reorganized
under a new chairperson and a new board of directors.

8. The Ministry of Labor is responsible for enforcing child labor
laws. It employs over 400 labor inspectors who are responsible for
enforcing labor laws in the country. The Women's and Children's
affairs division of the Ministry of Labor conducted eight training
programs in 2007, to improve the enforcement capacity of those
responsible for combating child labor. The program trained about
240 labor, police and probation officers. In addition, the Ministry
conducted approximately 150 awareness programs for school children,
parents, and social partners in the villages such as health workers,
teachers and government and non governmental organization officials.

9. The Government of Sri Lanka continues to demonstrate a strong
commitment to education, and strives to eliminate child labor
through education. The government provides free education as well
as free school textbooks, uniforms and subsidized transport. The
government also offers free breakfasts to over 500,000 school
children from low income families. Schooling is mandatory for all
children aged 6 to 14 years. According to unpublished data from the
Ministry of Education, net primary school enrollment in Sri Lanka
was 89 percent and primary completion rate was 90 percent in 2005.
The government now faces the challenges of expanding equitable
access to post-primary education and establishing a high quality
education system. To respond to these challenges, the government
developed an overarching Education Sector Development Framework and
Program (ESDFP) in 2006. Although not explicitly stated, child
labor will be discouraged through a key component of the project
which aims to promote school attendance and informal education by
activating school attendance committees and expanding informal
education centers, upgrading the school network in rural and estate
regions (key areas/sources of child labor), and offering special
education programs for children with special learning needs. The
ESDFP will be revised on a rolling 5-year basis with the latest
program covering 2007-2011. All donor assistance for the education
sector is channeled through the ESDFP. The World Bank is supporting
the ESDFP with grant funds of USD 60 million for the period
2006-2010. In addition, the Asian Development Bank is finalizing a
USD 80 million loan in support of ESDFP. The government is also

COLOMBO 00001603 003 OF 003

working with UNICEF and ILO to eliminate child labor by improving
access to education and the quality of both formal and informal

Vulnerable Sectors

10. Children of plantation workers are at a high risk of becoming
victims of child labor, as plantations traditionally employ child
laborers. The Ministry of Education has a program to improve
education for children of plantation workers. There are 819 schools
in the plantation sector whose primary medium of instruction is in
Tamil. The government has recruited over 3,100 teachers to
plantation schools in 2007, filling most of the teacher vacancies in
the primary and lower secondary sections. The Ministry reports
difficulties in finding suitable candidates to teach English,
science, and math in the upper secondary classes.

11. In January 2008, the ILO's International Program on the
Elimination of Child Labor (IPEC) will commence youth employment
projects in Sabaragamuwa province, an area with many tea and rubber
plantations. The ILO is collaborating with district level
government officials and various central government ministries
charged with vocational training and youth affairs. The project
aims to strengthen the employability of plantation youth by
providing training in plantation-related skills, life skills and
entrepreneurship. Plantations Human Development Trust (PHDT), a
semi-government company is working with plantation management
companies, provincial councils, Department of Child Care and
Probation (under the Ministry of Child Development and Women's
Empowerment) and donor agencies on various programs aimed at
reducing child labor coming from plantation areas.

12. Child Soldiers: Forced conscription by the ethnic separatist
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE, a U.S.-designated Foreign
Terrorist Organization) and by breakaway LTTE groups known as the
"Karuna" and "Pillaiyan" factions, continues to be the gravest
problem facing children in Sri Lanka. Despite a commitment to
release all children within their ranks, the LTTE and the Karuna
faction are still recruiting children. In April 2007, UNICEF
reported that it continued to receive reports on children being
recruited. According to UNICEF databases, there are 1,460
outstanding cases of under-age recruitment by the LTTE as of
September 2007. Of these, 306 are under the age of 18, and 1,154
were recruited when they were under 18 years but are now 18 years or
older. As of 30 September, there are 211 outstanding cases of
under-age recruitment by the Karuna faction. Of these, 160 are
under the age of 18, and 51 were recruited while under 18 but have
now passed that age. UNICEF estimates that its database reflects
only a third of the actual number of children recruited. The
international community, led by UNICEF, has repeatedly condemned the
recruitment of child combatants by the LTTE and Karuna faction. Sri
Lanka has prohibited the use of children less than 18 years in armed
conflict, thereby affirming that their recruitment is a punishable
crime under the law.

13. Child Sex Tourism: UNICEF estimates that a significant number
of Sri Lankan children are drawn into prostitution every year, the
majority of them boys. These children are exploited by both local
people and foreign tourists. In order to combat child sex tourism,
the Sri Lanka Tourist Board, the semi-government tourism promotion
agency, with UNICEF support, launched a two-year action plan in
mid-2006. The campaign targets tourists, children, adolescents,
hoteliers and journalists through mass media and advertisements with
the message that there is zero tolerance for child sex tourism. The
Tourist Police is also being assisted to combat child sex tourism
through this project.

New Developments

14. The last national survey on child labor was conducted in 1999.
Child labor advocates have repeatedly stressed the need to update
statistics, to take stock of the current child labor situation, and
to design programs and policies to address problems identified by
the survey. The US Department of Labor, through the ILO, is
expected to fund a new national estimation of child labor in Sri
Lanka to be completed in mid-2009. The program will include
research, a national estimation of child labor in key sectors, and
policy formulation.

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