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Government of India Ban on Domestic Child Labour and Child Labour in the Hospitality Sector: One Year On

On 10 October 2006, the employment of children under 14 as domestic servants and in dhabas, restaurants, hotels, and other hospitality sectors was banned with the coming into force of two notifications to the Child Labour Prohibition (and Regulation) Act, 1986.

UNICEF reiterates its view that the addition of these notifications constitutes an essential step forward, as no systematic action can be taken to address child labour in these two categories without a rigorous legal framework.

The introduction of these notifications has helped to re-position the issue of child labour at the centre of public debate, within civil society, the media, parliament and other fora. This is an important development as increased discourse and awareness are essential to bringing about change for children. This increased public discourse is also important in operational terms as it draws attention to existing interventions, helping to identify best practices that can be scaled up and reproduced.

However, one year down the line, enormous challenges remain in translating the law into practice. Available data and estimates indicate that few additional cases have been registered in the past year. Many children can still be seen hard at work in restaurants, hotels, tea stalls, etc. all over the country, while others continue to work behind closed doors as domestic child labourers. Positive efforts have been made in some states for the prevention of child labour and the protection of child labourers as defined in the notifications introduced one year ago. While structured systems for this purpose have, for example, been put in place in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, there is an urgent need for acceleration in the development of such systems in other parts of the country.

The persistence of these challenges highlights once more the complex nature of the issue of child labour and the need for it to be tackled on a number of fronts, including, but not limited to, the legal sphere. Beyond legislation and its implementation, issues such as the rehabilitation of child labourers after their removal from labour, the long-term tracking of these children to prevent their return to labour as well as tackling entrenched attitudes and beliefs, must also be taken into consideration and addressed simultaneously for the issue of child labour to be resolved in a meaningful and sustainable manner.

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