“The “Protection of Vulnberable Persons” law, SB 1816, states that anyone who suspects a child is being abused must report it. Currently, Florida law mandates the reporting of child abuse when the suspect is a parent or caretaker. In addition, failure to report suspected child abuse is now a…
Statement from Special Representative Ms. Radhika Coomaraswamy:
I am pleased to see such a lively discussion on an issue that is often under-reported. If people want to help, they can support programs for children—-who have escaped the LRA—-to rebuild their lives and their communities throughout Central Africa. Any military action against LRA should pay heed to the fact that Kony’s army is largely comprised of children.
At least 20,000 children work in Malian artisanal gold mines under extremely harsh and dangerous conditions, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. The Malian government and international donors should take action to end child labor in artisanal mines, Human Rights Watch said. Artisanal miners rely on low-tech methods and often organize informally.
The 108-page report, “A Poisonous Mix: Child Labor, Mercury, and Artisanal Gold Mining in Mali,” reveals that children as young as six dig mining shafts, work underground, pull up heavy weights of ore, and carry, crush, and pan ore. Many children also work with mercury, a toxic substance, to separate the gold from the ore. Mercury attacks the central nervous system and is particularly harmful to children.
“These children literally risk life and limb”, said Juliane Kippenberg, senior children’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. “They carry loads heavier than their own weight, climb into unstable shafts, and touch and inhale mercury, one of the most toxic substances on earth.”
Of 33 child laborers interviewed by Human Rights Watch, 21 said that they suffered from regular pain in the back, head, neck, arms, or joints.Children also suffer from coughing and respiratory disease. One boy about six years old described the pain he felt when digging shafts with a pickaxe for hours on end. Another boy said that “everything hurts” when he comes home after a day’s work underground.
Most children work alongside their parents to supplement the little income adult miners get from selling gold to local traders. Other children migrate to the mines by themselves, and end up being exploited and abused by relatives or strangers who take their pay. Some girls are sexually abused or engage in sex work to survive. Children come to the mines from other parts of Mali, as well as from Guinea, Burkina Faso, and other neighboring countries.
Figures obtained by Human Rights Watch from the Malian Ministry of Mines put the amount of artisanally mined gold exported per year at around four metric tons, worth around US$218 million at November 2011 prices. Most of this gold is exported to Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates, Dubai in particular.
For an hour, in the sanctum of an apartment in El Jadida, the maid was beaten with the hose of a gas cylinder. Her screams and supplications brought her aggressor, the daughter of her employer who “borrowed” her to help around the house, to a frothing rage; she repeatedly struck her over the head and face with the heel of a shoe until she collapsed on the floor she had so thoroughly scrubbed lifeless. The maid’s name is Khadija. She was eleven years old. She hailed from Tagadirt, a small village southwest of Marrakesh. According to the police report, the killer, a thirty-one year old educated Moroccan woman, was upset Khadija ruined her dress shirt while washing it.
Khadija’s path into child labor is not unique. It is the same path taken by Zainab Shtit, Najwa Bent Bouazza, and many others. Being illiterate, their parents didn’t see the added value in sending them to school; famine and disease are daily realities and survival is a primary focus. They, like many other mostly rural parents who are economically depleted, circumvent the Malthusian constraint by putting their children to work as soon as they are physically capable. For boys, the work is often seasonal menial labor in fields and construction sites or as ambulant cigarette hawkers and shoe shiners; girls are sent off to the city to work as maids and professional panhandlers. When Khadija turned nine years old, she was sent to Marrakech to work as a maid. Her father would show up once a month to collect her measly salary – less than fifty dollars. She was eventually fired from that job. Thanks to a “samsara,” a headhunter who provides maids to customers, she was soon relocated to Casablanca where she was recruited by the mother of her murderer.
An estimated 20,000 children were born of rapes that occurred during the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Fifteen years later, the mothers of these children still face enormous challenges, not least of which is the stigma of bearing and raising a child fathered by a Hutu militiaman. Over the past three years, photographer Jonathan Torgovnik has made repeated visits to Rwanda to document the stories of these women. The portraits and testimonies featured in Intended Consequences offer intensely personal and honest accounts of these survivors’ experiences of the genocide, as well as their conflicted feelings about raising a child who is a palpable reminder of horrors endured.