Let’s End Teen Exploitation Now

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By; LordiaAggrey-Otoo, Student, Ghana Institute of Journalism

Article 24(2) of the 1992 constitution states that ‘every worker shall be assured of rest, leisure and reasonable limitation of working hours and periods of holidays with pay, as well as remuneration for public holidays’.

The wisdom of this constitutional provision is for the individuals to enjoy better conditions of service to advance their course.

For every couple, a child is a beautiful gift from God that must be cherished and adored as it brings joy to welcome a new member into the family.

Every child, irrespective of where he or she is born, has the right to grow freely and happily without any form of restrictions and discrimination on the grounds of gender, race, age, religion, health status, custom, ethnic origin, rural or urban background, birth or other status, socio-economic status or because the child is a refugee.

That notwithstanding, child labour or child exploitation is real in our homes and children who are exploited do not often receive education— which is their right— and end up with short-lived dreams.

 

The Laws

Under the Ghana Children Act 1998, minimum age for admission of children into employment is fifteen 15 years but children may be employed at the age of thirteen 13 to do light work. The minimum age for engagement of persons in hazardous work is eighteen (18).

However, the attitude of some so-called enlightened members of the society to exploit the underprivileged is disheartening. They engage the services of children who come from very poor background by employing them as house helps with very poor conditions of service.

It starts with the pretense of footing their bills in school and results in often maltreatment, demeaned and overworked with meager salaries. Others serve as aids to the visually-impaired who beg for alms instead of being in school.

Unfortunately, these act are often perpetuated by some prominent people who should know better encouraging as the nation strives to encourage children and the youth to embrace education and acquire knowledge to enhance themselves.

The children in their homes do long hours of house cores as house helps including, selling on the streets, baby sittings at the peril of their lives.

Sadly, such employment agreements are often not documented. It is illegal and morally wrong for the wealthy in society to exploit helpless children and house helps they employ.

 

Sexual exploitation

Some female teens are also engaged in commercial sex exploitation of children (CSEC) – exposing them to all dangers, child abuse and inherent health risk associated with child prostitution.

The spate of sexual exploitation of children with special needs in some in some communities is alarming and needs a well coordinated approach to end sexual exploitation and child abuse, especially against children with special needs.

Child abuse go beyond just the sexual abuse of children as there were instances where some parents often locked up their children with disabilities in their rooms.

Such teen victims and children vulnerable to CSEC needs to be reintegrated through education or vocational training to enable them live meaningful lives.

Research indicates that, over 750,000 teenagers become pregnant annually in Ghana, and poverty remained the major cause in these teenage pregnancies.

Most of these sexual exploitations of the girl child are poverty, inadequate knowledge on reproductive health, child rights issues, education, low self-esteem, early age pregnancy, absence of parent figures and single parenthood, which makes children from homes very vulnerable.

Child exploitation was also due to the operation of illegal night clubs in such areas, increase in activities of drug cartels, inadequate law enforcement, high influx of migrant youth looking for employment, rapid growth of urban slums, poverty and economic challenges.

They need to be supported with learning materials including school uniforms, sewing machines, books, and tuition fees to prevent them from depending on men who will demand something in exchange for such hell.

Parents and children with special needs not to give up but to take inspiration from worthy models and work hard to prevent them from unscrupulous persons who often capitalized on the weaknesses of such children with special needs to abuse them

 

Pretense culture

In all of this, the most dangerous thing is the pretense culture in Ghana.  We are witnesses to several of these atrocities committed on daily basis but shamefully pay blind-eyes to them, yet, we claim to be staunch Christians and Muslims.

It is for this reason I am calling on the religious bodies to start the process of job creation to end the rising poverty levels among youth. After all, the judgment of God according to the Christian faith starts from the house of God.

The creation of jobs and the solution to the poverty pandemic starts from the house of God. How are these millionaire churches and pastors supporting and creating employment.

It is evidently, clear that, about 45 per cent of the earnings of dedicated Christians go to church in the form of offertory, tithes and donations. Therefore, the church has become one of the social groups that make money a lot in this era.

Instead of using those monies to buy expensive cars, and mansions, they should set up funds from which the unemployed members would be assisted to set up their businesses. It is said the devil finds job for the idle hands. God bless Ghana.

 

Government

Government, community leaders, Non-governmental organisations and the ordinary citizen must extend helping hands towards needy children, who are vulnerable when it comes to sexual abuse and other negative acts, to help develop the community and Ghana as a whole.

Government has passed the Human Trafficking Prohibition Regulation L.I 2219 to standardize the implementation of the Human Trafficking Act which aims to prevent and combat human trafficking, protect and assist victims of human trafficking and to investigate and prosecute offenders of human trafficking.

Undoubtedly, a lot has been done; yet more needs to be done and it is, therefore, up to families, government, civil society organisations and individuals to ensure that every child grows as required or prescribed under the Children’s Act.

In other words, the fight against all forms of child labour and exploitation requires collaboration and concerted efforts by all stakeholders. Individuals must make up their minds to report offences against children as well as take it upon themselves to support such children to find their way in life.

The communities, for example, can set up Neighborhood Watchdog or Citizen Vigilante Groups to prevent crime as well as prevent child exploitation.

In deprived communities, government, through the Information Services Department and the National Commission for Civic Education  could sensitize residents, using documentaries, vivid images and sketches or drama to enable them understand the need to protect children and serve as an alert against indulgence.

 

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