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Protecting children from slavery in India and worldwide

As a new bill outlaws all forms of child labour in India, campaigning groups are joining other international organisations to form a new coalition on child slavery.

Last month, India’s parliament passed a landmark law against trafficking. The Criminal Law Amendment Bill, 2013, prohibits all forms of trafficking, including physical and sexual exploitation and slavery. The law also introduces severe sentences for such crimes, with a minimum of seven years for trafficking and a possible extension to life imprisonment.

Parliament’s approval of the law was hailed by Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA), India’s ‘Save the Childhood Movement’, as “a huge leap forward for India in its efforts against slavery, child abuse, child labour and all forms of violence against women and children”. Established in 1980, BBA has long campaigned for such legislation after its founders witnessed the atrocities inflicted on child labourers. Only this month, the organisation rescued 17 children from garment factories in Tamil Nadu, where boys aged from nine upwards were forced to work in deplorable conditions for 14 hours a day for slave wages of 50 rupees per week.

Now BBA will join other child rights organisations from across the world in the global fight to end child slavery. The new coalition, which includes the Global March Against Child Labour, Walk Free and a number of national groups such as Shakti Samuha in Nepal and Cultura de Paz in San Salvador, met in Washington last week to call for action which will ban child slavery.

The group argue that with less than 1,000 days to go before the millennium development goals expire, the needs of the most vulnerable children such as bonded labourers, street children, child brides and trafficked teenagers, are still being neglected. The coalition wants to make sure that these groups are recognised and included in any post-2015 development framework.

In an article in the Guardian, the former UK prime minister and UN special envoy for global education, Gordon Brown, highlights the work of the new coalition. Mr Brown calls for development resources in the future to be better and “sufficiently targeted” at the most marginalised. Mr Brown suggests that the best way to do this is to focus resources on the young themselves, such as the “wedding busters” of Bangladesh, arguing that ultimately “it is the resistance of child slaves themselves [which] will force the end of slavery”.

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