Cablegate: Response to 2007 Dol Request for Information On

DE RUEHKA #1959/01 3530927
R 190927Z DEC 07





E.O. 12958: N/A


1. SUMMARY: This cable responds to a request for information
regarding child labor in Bangladesh. (REFTEL) Post is
forwarding other primary sources of information by email and
courier directly to the Department of Labor. END SUMMARY.

2. (U) The following sections repeat the original query
format and provide corresponding responses.

A) Laws and regulations proscribing the worst forms of child
labor. What laws have been promulgated on child labor, such
as minimum age(s) for employment or hazardous forms of work?

RESPONSE: Per Bangladesh Labor Law, 2006 (Act No. 42 of
2006), citing prior precedent: Child workers are defined as
those less than 14 years of age. Adolescents are defined at
those between ages 14 and 18. Per Section 34(1), child
labor is prohibited in all establishments and

Bangladesh,s labor law defines particularly hazardous work
(prohibited for children and adolescents) as: cleaning and
lubrication of machinery while it is in motion (Section 39),
and underground (mining) and under-water work (Section 42).
A forthcoming child labor policy identifies a list of some 45
other types of hazardous work, per International Labor
Organization (ILO) guidelines.

Are there exceptions to the minimum age law?

RESPONSE: In a newly added section of the 2006 labor law
(Section 44), a provision allows employment of children aged
12 to 13 years of age, in such light work as not to
endanger his health and development or interfere with his
education., In separate provisions, the law provides for
the employment of adolescents (age 14 to 17) as a vocational
trainees or apprentices, under certification provisions that
include a medical examination to establish age.

What laws have been promulgated on the worst forms of child
labor, such as forced child labor and trafficking or child
prostitution and pornography?

RESPONSE: Per Section 35 of the Bangladesh Labor Law of 2006,
the pledging of labor (through contract) by the parents of
guardians of a child is prohibited.

Child trafficking is prohibited by the Women and Child
Repression Prevention Act of 2000. (Act 8 of 2000, also
translated as the Suppression of Violence against Women and
Children Act of 2000). The law criminalizes the trafficking
of women and children, and Section 6 details that persons
convicted of child trafficking or child prostitution can
receive the death sentence, life imprisonment, and fines.
Under Section 7 of the Act, abduction of women or children is
punishable by life imprisonment or a minimum sentence of 14
years imprisonment.

Child prostitution is criminalized in the Bangladesh Penal
Code, defined as the sale of a minor (under 18 years of age)
for prostitution (Section 372) or the buying of a minor for
purposes of prostitution (Section 373). Under Section 42 of
the Children Act of 1974, females under the age of 16 are not
permitted to work as sex workers, either willingly or by
means of coercion.

The laws of Bangladesh address pornography in a general
manner, through section 292 of the Bangladesh Criminal Code,
which criminalizes the sale and production of obscene
materials for gain. In the past year, enforcement activities
have occurred against purveyors of pornographic DVDs. Post
has no information on child pornography in Bangladesh.

What is the minimum age for military recruitment?

RESPONSE: The minimum age of military recruitment is 18.

If the country has ratified Convention 182, has it developed
a list of occupations considered to be worst forms of child
labor, as called for in article 4 of the Convention?

RESPONSE: Bangladesh has ratified ILO Convention 182, and has
developed a list of 45 occupations considered to be the worst
forms of child labor.

B) Regulations for implementation and enforcement of
proscriptions against the worst forms of child labor. What

DHAKA 00001959 002 OF 007

legal remedies are available to government agencies that
enforce child labor laws (criminal penalties, civil fines,
court orders), and are they adequate to punish and deter

RESPONSE: Two labor law enforcement bodies exist. The
Directorate of Labor has enforcement capabilities, which are
not commonly used. Enforcement of labor laws is primarily
conducted by the Chief Inspector, of the Department of
Factories and Establishments. During the course of routine
inspections, if labor violations are discovered (including
the illicit use of child labor), the violations are presented
to the factory owner for remedy within 21 days. The
situation is then checked, and if no remedy has been made, a
second letter is issued. If no action is taken, then legal
action is taken in the form of complaint to a labor court. A
court enforcement action takes at least 4 to 5 months, and
can take as long as 2 to 3 years. The Chief Inspector
reports that most violations are remedied with a simply
verbal warning at the time of inspection. However,
provisions exist for fines of 5,000 taka per violation.
Overall, the Chief Inspector comments that the law is
sufficient, but his department does not have adequate
resources to monitor and enforce labor law compliance for the
entire country.

To what extent are complaints investigated and violations

RESPONSE: Complaints regarding child labor largely originate
from the Ministry of Labor, under the Chief Inspector, of the
Department of Factories and Establishments. The Chief
Inspector notes that they do not get complaints from NGOs,
and state that parents generally want their children to work
(so do not file complaints.) Violations are addressed in the
above described process.

What level of resources does the government devote to
investigating child labor cases throughout the country?

RESPONSE: The entity responsible for enforcing all labor laws
(including child labor laws) is the Chief Inspectorate of the
Department of Factories and Establishments, which has 31
offices through the country, including a head office,
divisional, regional, and branch offices. Inspectors at
various levels are assigned a specific number of factories
for inspection each month. In a given month, a Chief
Inspector inspects at least three factories; an Assistant
Chief Inspector inspects 12 factories and five establishments
(e.g. insurance company offices, banks); Engineer Inspectors
and Medical Inspectors inspect 15 factories; and Dock Safety
Officer Inspectors inspect 15 ships and jetties.

How many inspectors does the government employ to address
child labor issues?

RESPONSE: No specially designated body exists for
investigating child labor exclusively. Currently, the Chief
Inspectorate of the Department of Factories and
Establishments staff includes 150 inspectors and related
support staff. They have just received permission to expand
the inspectorate staff by 59 persons, for a staff total of
209 persons devoted to enforcing all of Bangladesh,s labor
laws. This staff is responsible for investigating child
labor as part of its broader responsibilities.

How many child labor investigations have been conducted over
the past year?

RESPONSE: Between January 2007 and November 2007, a total of
36,075 labor inspections were conducted across Bangladesh.
During these inspections, all aspects of applicable labor
laws are reviewed, including laws dealing with child labor.

How many have resulted in fines, penalties, or convictions?

RESPONSE: No statistics are available for child labor law
violations specifically. In the past year, 3,817 labor cases
been disposed by the labor courts, resulting in total fines
of 810,000 taka ($12,000). Currently, there are 377 cases are
currently pending in the labor courts. Based on verbal
feedback, very few of the total cases filed by the Chief
Inspector of the Department of Factories and Establishments
relate to child labor law violations.

Has the government provided awareness raising and/or training
activities for officials charged with enforcing child labor

DHAKA 00001959 003 OF 007

RESPONSE: The Ministry of Labor reports that labor inspectors
receive general training on labor law, which includes child
labor provisions. At the ministry and policy level,
officials receive additional training from the ILO, often in
Italy. Field staff get additional training on child labor on
an ad-hoc basis, as provided by NGOs, the ILO, and during
periodic courses at government training institutes. Post has
not reviewed the curricula of these courses.

C) Whether there are social programs specifically designed to
prevent and withdraw children from the worst forms of child
labor. What initiatives has the government supported to
prevent children from entering exploitive work situations, to
withdraw children engaged in such labor, and to advocate on
behalf of children involved in such employment and their

RESPONSE: The Government of Bangladesh (GOB), under the
Ministry of Labor, funds its own national program entitled
Eradication of Hazardous Child Labor in Bangladesh, which is
being implemented by NGOs, and covers 21 sectors in which
child labor occurs: rickshaw driving, printing, domestic
work, welding and fabrication, automotive repair, brick and
stone breaking, machine shops, hotels and restaurants,
cigarette manufacture, match factories, tanneries, salt
factories, daily labor, battery factories, dyeing operations,
potters assistance, blacksmith assistance, minibus
assistance, construction, shrimp factories, and saw mills.
Currently in its second phase, this program has been
allocated 298 million taka (USD 4.2 million) for three years
of operation. Given prior delays in implementation, the
program is going to stretch its funds to a fourth year of
operations and is currently set to expire in June 2009. This
program has at least three elements. The primary focus is on
providing non-formal education and skills training. A
reported 30,000 children working in 21 designated hazardous
labor categories have been trained in the 24 month courses
since its inception. The program,s purpose is to transition
these children out of hazardous labor conditions through the
provision of additional skills. Secondly, the program
includes a micro-credit component that provides the
children,s families with alternative income generating
opportunities. So far 5,000 families have received loans
ranging from 5 to 10 thousand taka (USD 75 to 150) and
additional 20,000 families will receive loans in the next
year. Finally, the program has a public information
dimension, which has included anti-child labor pamphlets;
other areas of mass media messaging are currently being
developed. At least one of the implementing NGOs involved in
this project conducts parallel non-formal education
activities focusing on child workers. For example, ESDO
(Eco-Social Development Organization), a local NGO, is
conducting a non-formal education program for 35,185 children
to eradicate hazardous child labor in a north west area of

The GOB also enables NGOs working to remove children from the
worst forms of child labor. UNICEF,s Basic Education for
Hard to Reach Urban Children (BEHTRUC) provides 351,000 urban
working children in six divisional cities with two years of
non-formal education, specifically targeting urban children
aged 8-14 employed in hazardous working conditions.

D) Does the country have a comprehensive policy aimed at the
elimination of the worst forms of child labor?

RESPONSE: A new, national child labor policy originally
drafted in 2006 is currently in the final stages of approval.
It specifically addresses the worst forms of child labor.

Does the country have a comprehensive policy or national
program of action on child labor or specific forms of child

RESPONSE: The Third National Plan of Action for Children
(2005-2010) includes child labor within broader objectives.
Administered by Bangladesh,s Ministry of Women and Children
Affairs, the plan identifies five areas of action: Food and
Nutrition, Health, Education, Protection, and Physical
Environment. Child labor is addressed within the Protection
area of action. The national action plan employs a
rights-based model and seeks to develop district-level child
rights monitoring functions. The Ministry of Women and
Children Affairs is seeking to coordinate with all relevant
ministries and district committees to enhance awareness and
generate actions in protection of child rights. To implement
this plan, the Ministry of Women and Children,s Affairs is

DHAKA 00001959 004 OF 007

working with UNICED on a (2006-2010) project entitled
Capacity Building for Monitoring Child Rights.

Does the country incorporate child labor specifically as an
issue to be addressed in poverty reduction, development,
educational or other social policies or programs, such as
Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers, etc? If so, to what
degree has the country implemented the policy and/or program
of action and achieved its goals and objectives?

RESPONSE: The Government of Bangladesh,s 2005 National
Strategy for Accelerated Poverty Reduction specifically
articulates Child Rights as a priority in section 4.K, and
addresses child labor in section 4.43. Children related
issues are also detailed in the in the Supporting Strategy
section 5.F.2. Section 5.397 specifically focuses on issues
related to child labor.

On the implementation side, multiple strategic goals address
specific aspects of child labor, education, preventing child
abuse, and protecting designated at risk groups, such as
street children. Within Bangladesh,s 2005 National Strategy
for Accelerated Poverty Reduction, policy matrix 17, Children
Advancement and Rights, Section F, Protection against Abuse,
Exploitation and Violence, part 1, Reduce Social Violence
against Under-privileged Children, subpart xi states the
following: Take immediate and effective measures to eliminate
the worst forms of child labor as defined in International
Labor Organization Convention No. 138. The associated key
target is stated: Increase knowledge base about child labor
and rights. The action taken / underway are stated:
strengthen knowledge base about the worst forms of child
labor. The PRSP policy agenda for FY05 to FY07 has two
parts. Part one is to: mobilize adults e.g. employers, local
officials, police, parents, professional associations, etc,
to improve working conditions and prevent exploitation. Part
two is to: introduce a minimum wage policy for child labor.
The future priority is also stated: amend country,s labor
codes in line with CRC and ILO-182.

Is education free in law and in practice? Is education
compulsory in law and in practice?

RESPONSE: Per the Compulsory Primary Education Act of 1990,
primary education is compulsory for children aged 6 to 10
years, ending in the fifth grade. The GOB estimates that 53%
of students attending government schools complete grades one
through five. Primary education is free in government
schools. Government direct transfers to families based on
children,s school attendance provides a positive incentive
for benefiting families and has contributed to higher rates
of school attendance, especially in secondary schools (above
fifth grade) for girls. The government has a limited ability
to enforce compulsory education, especially where parents
prefer to keep their children at home to do chores, or
working outside the home for wages. For secondary education,
de facto fees and associated costs for school supplies act as
a disincentive for poor families to send their children to

E) Is the country making continual progress toward
eliminating the worst forms of child labor? Posts are
requested to ask national statistical offices when
appropriate for any recent child labor data sets. Posts are
asked to indicate in what sectors/work activities/goods are
children involved and how has this changed over the past
year. Please provide information on industries where child
labor occurs as well as specific tasks in which children are
involved and goods they produce, if available.

RESPONSE: Focusing on hazardous work, in 2006, the ILO
released the Baseline Survey for Determining Hazardous Child
Labor Sectors in Bangladesh (2005), jointly published by the
Bangladesh Bureau and Statistics and the ILO. The report
identified 45 sectors, along with an estimated number of
child workers in each sector. The top seven sectors were as
follows (with estimates of children employed in each):
restaurant / tea stall (153,345); rickshaw/van puller
(123,115); fishing / fish drying (78,592); carpentry
(56,010); welding works (20,949); automobile workshop
(18,878); rice/ spices milling (17,690). The study estimates
a total of 539,403 children are employed in Bangladesh across
45 listed sectors. (NOTE: Post will forward the entire
study in hard copy format. END NOTE.)

Labor groups assert that child labor is used in fish and
sea-food processing operations, specifically Bangladesh,s
shrimp export industry. Regarding the ready-made garment

DHAKA 00001959 005 OF 007

(RMG) industry, worker advocacy groups agree that within
Export Processing Zones (where many garments are produced),
child labor is absent. However, the groups question the
claim that all subcontracting and supply operations serving
the garment industry have fully eliminated child labor. For
example, children may be involved with assisting their
parents in performing garment piece work, or in ancillary
support roles such as serving tea and making deliveries.

Based on GOB efforts, donor funded efforts and NGO programs
to combat the worst forms of child labor, it appears that
progress in addressing child labor is being made in
Bangladesh. However, in the absence of reliable or
consistent annual surveys it is impossible to provide
quantitative analysis to assess the impact of GOB and NGO
efforts to combat the worst forms of child labor. While
anecdotal evidence continues to expose in Bangladesh the
rampant incidence of child labor and stories of child victims
of trafficking and labor exploitation, insufficient data
constrains the assessment of overall trends.

Please also provide information on age and gender of working
children, disaggregated by industry/work activity/good, if

RESPONSE: Information will be provided by hard copy from the
Baseline Survey for Determining Hazardous Child Labour
Sectors in Bangladesh (2005), jointly published by the
Bangladesh Bureau and Statistics and the ILO. (NOTE: The
data, in chart form, does not usefully translate to cable
format. END NOTE.)

To what extent are children working in slavery or practices
similar to slavery, such as debt bondage, serfdom, and forced
or compulsory labor? Please indicate industries where this
occurs and, if applicable, specific goods that such children
produce. To what extent are children trafficked to work? Are
children trafficked for commercial sex or for labor
exploitation? If labor-related, what specific industries or
for the production of what specific goods are children known
to be trafficked?

RESPONSE: Estimates on the number of underage girls
trafficked on an annual basis range between 10,000 and
29,000. The Center for Women and Child Services reports that
trafficked boys are generally under 10 years of age and
trafficked girls are generally adolescents between 11 and 16
years of age. External trafficking of children is for both
labor and sexual exploitation.

The internal trafficking of children within Bangladesh often
takes the form of bonded labor. Government officials confirm
orally that internal trafficking of children contributes to
the following labor sectors in Bangladesh: household labor,
sexual exploitation, fish processing, automotive repair, and
welding shops.

Illustrating internal trafficking in the fish processing
sector, the press in November 2007 reported the Bangladesh
Navy rescued a group of 13 boys, aged 15 to 23, from
Dublachar Island, in southwestern Bangladesh. Lured to the
area under false pretenses, the boys were assaulted, robbed,
and then sold to fish traders who forced them to work for up
to 16 hours a day without payment. The boys were reportedly
subjected to physical abuse and torture if they refused to
perform labor. A local government official from the area
stated that at least 192 boys have been rescued from islands
off the coast of Bangladesh and estimated that an additional
2,000 boys were being held in the surrounding coastal areas
in similar conditions of forced labor.

Household servitude is a prevalent form of child labor in
Bangladesh. While some children are treated well by the
families they work for, others are subjected to mistreatment
and abuse. Given the working conditions, trafficking-like
situations can arise when individual child workers have no
actual ability to exercise their legal rights or to leave the
employing household. In 2006, a study by the Bangladesh
Institute of Labor Studies indicated that attacks on domestic
child workers accounted for 50% of the deaths, injuries and
sexual attacks suffered by domestic workers. The government
occasionally takes legal action against employers who abuse
domestic servants.

Are they trafficked across national borders or within the
country (specify source, destination and transit
countries/regions/communities, if possible)?

DHAKA 00001959 006 OF 007

RESPONSE: Trafficking of children for labor and sexual
exploitation occurs within Bangladesh and internationally
between Bangladesh and India and then between India and
Pakistan and Persian Gulf countries. Within Bangladesh, the
trafficking is generally from rural areas or urban slums to
Dhaka or other cities, or to specific sites where seasonal
work is conducted, e.g. fishing. Internationally,
trafficking of children out of Bangladesh is generally by
road to Kolkata or Mumbai. From India, onward trafficking of
children is conducted, often by boat, to Karachi, Pakistan,
the UAE, and other Persian Gulf countries.

The rescue of children trafficked for service as camel
jockeys is a priority area for the GOB. Since August of
2005, collaborative efforts between the GOB, the United Arab
Emirates and NGOs have resulted in the repatriation of 199
children who had been trafficked to serve as camel jockeys.
The boys have been housed in government or NGO-run shelters,
and have been provided vocational training and compensation
packages of 104,000 taka (USD 1,500). In conjunction with
UNICEF, the GOB is working on a second phase to ensure the
sustainable rehabilitation and reintegration of former camel
jockeys. The second phase will address all former camel
jockeys (since 1993), including an identified total of 345
former victims who returned to Bangladesh prior to the 2005
repatriation program and all camel jockeys who suffered
handicapping injuries during the course of their
exploitation. Injured former camel jockeys will receive
compensation packages of 300,000 to 500,000 taka (USD 4,400
to 7,200). The use of children in camel races has been
banned in the United Arab Emirates. Informally, some
organizations report that child camel jockeys might still be
exploited in Oman and Saudi Arabia. Overall, Bangladesh can
report success in curtailing the trafficking of boys for
forced service as camel jockeys.

The statistics on trafficking cases and prosecutions
generally combine women and children. Two disaggregated data
points are available: between June 14, 2004, and December
10, 2007, the Bangladesh Ministry of Home Affairs reports
that they rescued and rehabilitated 296 child victims of
trafficking (excluding former camel jockeys), and initiated
261 new child trafficking cases for prosecution. In
combating the overall trafficking of women and children, the
Government of Bangladesh reports for the period between June
14, 2004, and December 10, 2007 a total of 186 convicted
individuals; 8 were sentenced to death sentence, 136 were
sentenced to life in prison, and 42 received other sentences.
As of December 2007, there are 23 cases under investigation,
and 555 trafficking cases still being tried (some of which
have been pending since before 2004).

One area of diplomatic progress in addressing trafficking can
be reported: the Governments of India and Bangladesh have in
the past year worked on a joint plan of action to facilitate
the safe and humane repatriation of child victims of

With the assistance of international donors and NGOs, the GOB
is taking additional steps to train and sensitize its foreign
diplomats to the plight of victims of human trafficking. The
GOB is also cutting down on the international trafficking of
child by air through increased airport vigilance and
additional scrutinizing of child passport applications
separate from their natural parents.


3. (SBU) The prevalence of child labor in Bangladesh is a
direct result of the country,s level of economic
development; the high incidence of poverty is the primary
factor that contributes to child labor practices. In many
cases, the opportunity costs of sending a child to school
instead of work is insurmountable without monetary
incentives. The size and scope of the informal economy
(especially in its linkages to the formal economy) combined
with a low capacity for effective legal enforcement of child
labor laws are factors that constrain regulatory approaches
to the problem of child labor.

4. (SBU) The GOB makes a clear distinction between child
labor in general and its worst exploitative forms. While
child labor as a consequence of Bangladesh,s poverty is
acknowledged, the GOB focuses its limited resources on
specific policy and program steps to ameliorate the worst
forms of child labor, trafficking and exploitation.

DHAKA 00001959 007 OF 007

5. (SBU) Overall, the GOB,s current approach to child labor
is focused on awareness building, creating educational
opportunities, and the use of positive incentives to deter
child labor. Negative incentives against child labor (in the
form of legal sanctions in the labor law, detailing fines and
imprisonment) are viewed as having limited effectiveness.
Resource constraints limit the GOB,s ability to enforce its
labor laws, and child labor is currently treated as another
aspect of labor law. Furthermore, the country,s labor laws
do not apply to the informal sector which includes household
servants, family-based farming and fishing, small scale rural
industries and construction, and any occupation in which no
wage or salary is provided. However, on the issue of child
trafficking (illegal under a separate law) the GOB is far
more active in pursuing legal sanctions and criminal

6. (SBU) Specific possibilities for further progress can be
identified. First, Bangladesh law as it pertains to informal
economic activities could be strengthened, particularly in
addressing the household labor sector in which children work
and are susceptible to trafficking-like conditions. Second,
enforcement of child labor laws would be enhanced by the
creation of a specially-trained child labor enforcement cell,
combined with provisions for a mobile court mechanism.
Finally, better coordination between labor policy and
education policy and programming is needed to reconcile the
economic reality of child labor (in its legal forms) with
appropriate informal education and technical skills training.
By creating positive integrated models for work and study,
the GOB may be able to stem the worst forms of child labor.


© Scoop Media

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