ILO report finds prostitution in local secondary schools
The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) report has identified the forced prostitution of women and children, especially in the mining areas, as one of the ugly features of the Guyana labour scene.
The report states that a study by the Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations (CEACR) identifies “child prostitution as one of the worst forms of child labour in Guyana.”
It was also revealed that a survey done by UNICEF in 1996 concluded “that there is an alarming degree of prostitution within the Guyanese Secondary School system.”
According to the report, the Factories Act and the Employment of Young Persons and Children Act set minimum age requirements for employment at the age of 14, although for most sectors such as mining, manufacturing, construction, utilities, sanitation, transportation, and commercial agriculture, the minimum age is 15 years. The minimum does not apply when family members are employed in the same enterprise or when the child works in the family business.
The Ministry of Labour has issued a list of 22 “hazardous occupations and processes” that could jeopardise the health, safety, morals or personal development of working youth.
According to the report, the field of application excludes children and young persons, but not everyone who is less than 18 years of age. Local law defines as “child” a person under the age of 15 and as “young person” a person who is between 15 and 16 years old. The CEACR has raised its concerns and the government has said it is amending the law to comply with international standards.
Education is compulsory between the ages of five and 14 and the net enrolment ratios in primary schools appear to be 94 per cent, of which 59 per cent reach the last grade of primary school.
However, legislation on compulsory education and on the minimum age for work is not enforced effectively.
The report quoted the UNICEF survey which revealed that about one-fifth of the children between five and 14 years old are working with the Committee on the Rights of the Child.
The report noted that in 2002, it was observed that 37 per cent of children, aged one to 14 were working.
“The government admits that child labour may exist in informal and unprotected activities, but says it is not easy to detect because of the remoteness of the places it occurs, and that it involves mostly the children of people in the enterprise.
“The government has stated in its correspondence with the CEACR that it lacks human resources to monitor observance of child labour and other labour laws.”
According to the report by the ITUC, child labour in informal activities is a serious problem, and very young children are engaged in street vending. Apart from street vendors, children are usually found as porters, domestic servants, wait staff in bars and restaurants and vendors in shops.
The report went on to state that there are reports of children found working in mining, logging, farming, fishing, and manufacturing industries doing possibly hazardous work and conducting illicit drug trade and prostitution.
The UNICEF survey estimates that three per cent of the children are involved in commercial sexual activity.
The CEACR refers to evidence of forced prostitution of women and girls, and to reports of child prostitution in cities and in remote mining areas. “Indeed several studies identify child prostitution as one of the worst forms of child labour in Guyana.”
It was revealed that a 1996 UNICEF survey answered by pupils revealed that 26 per cent and 17 per cent of the respondents knew female and male students respectively who accepted returns in exchange for sexual favours.
The study concluded that there is an alarming degree of prostitution within the Guyanese secondary school system.
In this regard, the report stated that the Guyanese Government participates in various programmes to address aspects of the child labour problem.
It was noted that the US Department of Labour funded a project implemented by “Partners of the Americas” to combat child labour through education, and aims to withdraw and protect about 3000 children from exploitive labour while building the capacity of the Guyanese government to combat child labour. 23
The government participates in a regional project funded by Canada and implemented by ILO-IPEC aimed at combating the worst forms of child labour.
According to the report in July 2005, the ILO assisted the National Steering Committee on Child Labour to build policy-making capacity. The Steering Committee prepared a draft outline of an action plan to eliminate and prevent child labour.