Child labour, caste discrimination and poverty are closely linked in India, a senior United Nations official said in a report released on Tuesday.
Tomoya Obokata, the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, made the statement in a report published on July 19. The report was made public on August 16.
He said that child labour, including its “worst forms”, exists in all regions of the world.
“In Asia and the Pacific, the Middle East, the Americas and Europe, between 4% and 6% of children are said to be in child labour, and the percentage is much higher in Africa [21.6%], with the highest rate in sub-Saharan Africa [23.9%],” the report said. “In India, child labour, caste-based discrimination and poverty are closely interlinked.”
Obokata said that Dalit women in South Asia face severe discrimination, due to which they are “systematically denied choices and freedoms in all spheres of life”. He said that their access to services and resources is very limited, which increases their risk of being subjected to contemporary forms of slavery.
The report also stated that bonded labour remains prevalent among sections which face discrimination on the basis of work and descent, such as Dalits in South Asia.
“Intersecting forms of discrimination based on gender and descent should be also highlighted,” the United Nations official said. “Manual scavenging, predominantly carried out by Dalit women, is widely regarded as forced labour and a contemporary form of slavery, entailing harsh working conditions that have a negative impact on mental and physical health.”
The report said that people who face discrimination on the basis of work or descent are subjected to dehumanising discourses about “pollution” or untouchability”.
“Consequently, such people have limited freedom to renounce inherited occupations or degrading or hazardous work and are often subjected to debt bondage18 without sufficient access to justice,” the official said.