Understanding trends in the worst forms of child labour and the state's legal responses: a descriptive analysis

Author:Mashele Rapatsa
Understanding trends in the worst forms of child labour
and the state’s legal responses: a descriptive analysis
Lecturer Mashele RAPATSA1
This article discusses trends in the worst forms of child labour. It also examines
state’s legal respon ses designed to eradicate child economic exploitation. This is premised
on the Constitution transformative ideal of accelera ting social transformation and human
development. The exploitative nature of th e worst forms of child labour is amongst the most
disconcerting aspects in social, educational and economic realities. Most repugnant forms
include children being subjected to Commercial Sexual Exploitation, Children being Used
to Commit Illicit Activities, bondage labour and other hazardous economic activities. Such
activities often result in unalterab le physical and psychological harm or even worse,
threaten children’s lives. Thus, it is a human rights issue, which infringes children’s core
rights such righ t to dignity, life, social security and fr eedom. Widespread anecdotal
evidence suggests that no country in the world is immune from this scourge, and so is South
Africa. Hence, the need to highlight the nature and extent of prevalence, and the efficacy of
the rights-based legal instruments adopted against ch ild economic exploitation. It is
asserted that factors that proliferates child economic exploitation manifests in the form of
primary factors (those with direct impact such as social deprivation s, e.g. poverty) and
secondary factors (those that relate with action or inaction of governments, e.g. corruption,
lack of state capacity). It is argued that legal instruments will be of no effect lest these
direct and indirect causes are not interrupted. Widespread awareness campaigns also
remain indispensable in order to conscientise society regarding the urg ency of the problem.
Keywords: child exploitation, child well-being, children’s rights, transformation,
JEL Classification: K10, K31
1. Introduction
The worst forms of child labour (WFCL) is amongst society’s major
human development inhibitors. It forms part and parcel of disconcerting socio-
economic challenges facing the entire global community. The central purpose of
this article is to present a selected South African experience with regard to this
problem. The problem is noted to be amongst the factors hindering the country’s
welfare and development of children.2 A South African experience with regard to
1 Mashele Rapatsa - School of Law, University of Limpopo, South Africa. LLB (UL) LLM
(UCT), (PhD candidate University of Groningen, Netherlands), mashele.rapatsa@ul.ac.za.
2 Dawie Bosch et al, White Paper (draft) on a National Child Labour Action Programme, (2003)
p. 2.

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