Chennai: Child Labour Act to be covered till 18 years

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Chennai, Oct 31: Demanding that child labour should be covered till the age group of 18, KM Ramathal, Chairperson, Tamil Nadu State Commission for Women said, "The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act 1986 does not cover children between 15 and 18 years of age. Does this imply that children above 14 years can be allowed to work?". She was speaking at the inauguration of the Tamil Nadu State Consultation on the Right to Education and Abolition of Child Labour, a two-day event that began on Thursday, Oct 30.

“If children are not taken care of between 15 and 18, how can we expect progress?" asked KM Ramathal, Chairperson, Tamil Nadu State Commission for Women, who delivered the inaugural address. It is not sufficient to ensure children are enrolled in schools, she said, adding that the educational system needs to be revamped such that different abilities of children are honed. “We need to remind ourselves that education is different from literacy," she said.

Discussing various issues resulting out of the absence of compulsory education beyond 14 years, R. Revathi, film maker, said that many children end up getting stuck in a vacuum. As they lose the skills that helped them find a livelihood before entering school, some children “end up going from nowhere to nowhere," she said.

Many children who do not continue their education belong to SC/ST category. As these children do not obtain secondary education, even the benefits of reservation cannot reach them, said Ms. Revathi. “Right to equality does not mean anything if there is no equal opportunity," she said. Though, the situation on the ground may not change by modifying the law to raise the age criterion, it would be a step in the right direction, she said.

“Those who create laws, come from the same society," said Aruna Rathnam, Project Officer – Education, UNICEF, talking about the need for society to change as a whole.

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