The Punjab province government in Pakistan has through a landmark ordinance banned employment of children and restricted the recruitment of adolescents, 15 to 18 years of age, for hazardous occupations and processes.
The Punjab Restriction on Employment of Children Ordinance, 2016, which was promulgated yesterday, significantly protects children and adolescents against any form of slavery or practices such as their sale and trafficking, debt bondage and serfdom, forced or compulsory labour, including forced or compulsory recruitment for use in armed conflicts.
It bans the use, procuring or offering of a child or adolescent for prostitution, production of pornography or for pornographic performances, and illicit activities, particularly the production and trafficking of drugs.
Its third major aspect is the regulation of the work of adolescents at occupations and processes which are not hazardous to guard against their exploitation.
The ordinance regulates the employment of adolescents for work that is not hazardous by different means, also fixing their working hours.
It says an employer shall not require or permit an adolescent to work in the establishment in excess of such number of hours as may be prescribed. The employer shall fix the period of work of an adolescent on each day which shall not exceed three hours. And if he is required to work for more than three hours in a day, the occupier shall provide a mandatory interval of at least one hour for rest to him immediately after three hours of work.
The total period of work of an adolescent in a day, including mandatory interval for rest, shall not exceed seven hours. The ordinance disallows work of an adolescent between 7pm and 8am, or overtime and says the working hours should not clash with the school or educational institution timings of the adolescent, allowing him a weekly holiday. Employing or permitting to work a child in an establishment is punishable with up to six- month imprisonment which shall not be less than seven days, and with up to Rs50,000 fine which shall not be less than Rs10,000.
There is up to six-month imprisonment, up to Rs75,000 fine or both for employing or permitting any adolescent to indulge in any hazardous work. The second conviction means up to five-year imprisonment which shall not be less than three months.
Enslaving children and adolescents or using them for immoral activities, prostitution, drug production or trafficking shall be punished with up to Rs1mn fine which is not less than Rs200,000 or up to five-year imprisonment, or with both.
The guardians or parents in whose immediate presence the children and adolescents are found working in contravention of this ordinance shall be equally punished along with the employer.
Presence of a child or an adolescent within the working premises of an establishment shall be presumed as his employment.
The ordinance defines the hazardous work as transport of passengers, goods or mail, catering establishment at a railway station involving the movement of a vendor or any other employee of the establishment from one platform to another or into or out of a moving train, construction of a railway station or with any other work where such work is done in close proximity to or between the railway lines, a port authority within the limits of any port, inside underground mines and above ground quarries including blasting and assisting in blasting, power driven cutting machinery like saws, shears, guillotines and agricultural machines, threshers, fodder cutting machines, live electrical wires over 50 volts.
Other occupations include all operations related to leather tanning process, mixing and manufacture of pesticides and insecticides, and fumigation, sandblasting and other work involving exposure to free silica, exposure to all toxic, explosive and carcinogenic chemicals, cement dust in cement industry and coal dust, manufacture and sale of fireworks and explosives, work at the sites where Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) and Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) is filled in cylinders, work on glass and metal furnaces, glass bangles manufacturing, cloth weaving, printing, dyeing and fishing sections, inside sewer pipelines, pits and storage tanks, stone crushing, lifting and carrying of heavy weight (15kg and above) specially in transport industry, carpet weaving, working two meters or more above the floor, scavenging including hospital waste, tobacco processing and manufacturing including niswar and biri making, commercial fishing and processing of fish and sea-food, sheep casing and wool industry, surgical instruments manufacturing specially in vendors’ workshops, spice grinding, work in boiler house, work in cinemas, mini cinemas and cyber clubs, soap manufacturing, building and construction industry.
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