Laws ‘failing’ PNG children

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By Glenda Awikiak
CHILD labour is real in Papua New Guinea but its laws are insufficient and weak to protect children, according to a US report on the matter.
Bureau of International Labour Affairs (US Department of Labour) findings of 2016 reported that PNG did not have laws that prohibited using, procuring or offering a child for illicit activities, including the production and trafficking of drugs.
The law does not protect children from commercial sexual exploitation, as the use, procuring and offering of a child for pornographic performances are not criminally prohibited, the report said.
The report said it did not find information on whether labour law enforcement agencies in PNG took action to combat child labour.
Employers Federation of PNG executive director Florence Willie, during Labour Day yesterday, said the country lacked sufficient research and data collection on child labour which was affecting the agencies and partners trying to address the issue.
Willie said the most obvious child labour seen was street work, including vending, chopping firewood for sale, moving furniture, scavenging for scrap metal, gathering scrap food for pig feed and begging.
“Some children from rural areas are sent to live with relatives where they may be forced to perform domestic work to pay off family debts,” she said. “There has been some research and data collection from certain places like UN Children’s Fund (Unicef) and a study by a Fijian woman on certain aspects of issues affecting children, but in terms on child labour there is no real data.
“That is something that all partners under the national action plan 2017-2019 needs to work together on to effect programmes and activities to help our children who are forced into labour work.”
Department of Labour Secretary Mary Morola said in 2012 there were a number of roadshows conducted and labour committees were established at provincial levels to uptake the strategy for child labour.
She said it was a preliminary three-year programme to combat child labour.
“The government has established institutional mechanisms for the enforcement of laws and regulations on child labour, including its worst forms, however gaps in labour law and criminal law enforcement remain a challenge for us to protect our children,”she said.
“PNG has ratified some key international conventions concerning child labour, including the International Labour Organisation Convention, minimum age, worst forms of child labour and UN Convention on the Rights of Children, optional protocol on armed conflict and optional protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.”

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