Prosecute perpetrators of child labour – Churches urge gov’t

Some Christian missions have charged government to demonstrate its seriousness on combating child labour with the arrest and prosecution of perpetrators of the practice.

The Missions; the Methodist Church Ghana, the A.M.E Zion Church and the Ghana Baptist Convention, say excessive lip service has been paid to stopping the practice in the past and thus called for immediate action.

In a brief press encounter to announce a partnership between the Christian Missions and an International Organisation, International Justice Mission (IJM) in the fight against child labour in Ghana, the churches were alarmed at the prevalence of the practice especially, in parts of the Volta Region.

Immediate past General Secretary of the Christian Council of Ghana, and Senior Pastor with the Ghana Baptist Convention Rev. Dr. Fred Degbe, noted that, the prosecution of child labour related offences has become more problematic due to the lack of protection for whistle blowers and vulnerable witnesses.

Rev. Dr. Fred Degbe

Rev. Dr. Fred Degbe

“There are times a case is made to the police, and the police turn around and ask the child or his guardian to go and identify the perpetrator when they all live in the same community. Victims may become unwilling for fear of intimidation and victimization. This does not help in the identification, arrest and prosecution of the perpetrators.”

Legal Manager of IJM, Ama Norman, said it was inexcusable that people would blame the prevalence of child labour on poverty. She said inasmuch as poverty was a problem in Ghana, there is the need to distinguish between the two issues.

“We must separate the problem of poverty from the problem of child labour. We need to deal with the problem of poverty, yes, but we also need to protect the most vulnerable of our society. These children are vulnerable.”

Background: The Ugly Face of Child Labour

In 2009, the Government of Ghana approved the first National Plan of Action (NPA1) on the Elimination of Worst forms of Child Labour (2009-2015).

Over 11,000 children in forced labour are reported to have been withdrawn and supported through the NPA1.

This notwithstanding, child labour is still prevalent in Ghana in various forms.

According to the Ghana Living Standards Survey Round 6 (GLSS 6) Report, 1.9 million children (21.8%) aged between 9 and 17 years of age, are involved in child labour; while 1.2 million (14.2%) of them, are engaged in some hazardous forms of child labour.

The report further says the prevalence of the practice is more worrying in rural Ghana than in Urban Ghana.

Thus, 92.2% of children within that age brackets in rural Ghana suffer various forms of abuse and labour, and 89.6% of them are engaged in hazardous work. This is higher than the 87.2% of children in urban Ghana engaged in labour and being abused; and the 80.2% of them engaged in hazardous labour.

The Deputy Minister of Employment and Labour Relations, Baba Jamal, recently remarked at the World Day against Child Labour, that the Ghana government was finalizing the review of NAP1 to fight child labour.

By: Sixtus Dong Ullo / /Ghana

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