There are an estimated 250 million child workers globally and although the scourge is rampant in Asia, Western countries too witness the worst forms of child exploitation, a survey said Monday.
Noted Indian anti-child labor activist Kailash Satyarthi, chairman of the international committee of the Global March Against Child Labor, told a news conference here that the physical, emotional and sexual exploitation of the young was a worldwide phenomenon.
Satyarthi confessed to "mixed feelings" while releasing the report, which tabulates child labor, child prostitution and pornography, slavery and children forced to take up arms.
"On the one hand, we live in the age of the information technology revolution, globalization and overwhelming advances.
"But this goes side by side with slavery, prostitution, children being bought and sold like animals ... and creating wealth under appalling conditions not for themselves but for others."
Satyarthi said India, with about 120 million child laborers was the world's worst-affected country, followed by Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Brazil.
"But it's existence has been widely noted in Europe, the United States and Canada," he said.
Satyarthi cited the report to prove his claim.
"Of the 25 prostitutes known to be plying their trade in Sudbury, a town in Canada, half are under 15 and some as young as 11," he said.
The report says the estimated average age of girls who enter street prostitution in San Franscisco is 14.
Satyrathi said an estimated 400,000 children under 15 were working as full-time domestic servants in the Indonesian capital Jakarta, while in Uganda, some 4,000 children had been abducted from a single district to fight as child soldiers in the Lord's Resistance Army.
"About 3,000 Albanian children have been trafficked to Italy and Greece for begging and for cleaning windows and cars without pay," he said. "And 5,000 children were found working in hazardous industries such as fireworks units in Guatemala City."
The activist said despite legislation banning child labor, most Indians were unaware it was a crime.
"Law alone cannot change things. We need better enforcement, more awareness, a social movement and political will."
Sitaram Kumar, a 13-year-old boy rescued from a stone quarry in Faridabad on the outskirts of New Delhi, told the news conference of his trauma as a child worker.
Kumar, who lost two fingers in his right hand as a result of an explosion in the quarry, said his master had kept him working as bonded labor without pay for two years.
"I want all children in this world to be free, to go to school and for their parents to have jobs so none will have to go through my experience," he said -- NEW DELHI (AFP)
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