Mr Speaker, I rise to make a few comments in respect of the Statement made by the Hon Deputy Minister.
Mr Speaker, when talking about rights of the child -- child labour -- while I concede that our culture and social interactions should serve as a guide in determining whether a child is involved in labour or not, we must also recognise that we are members of the world and of course, we are signatories to certain international conventions.
Coming home, we have a Children's Act which was enacted by the Second Parliament and accented to by the President in December, 1998. In that Act, which is the Children's Act of 1998, a “child” is defined as “a person below the age of 18 years.” And in there, Part (5), it deals with the employment of children. And what the law says is that a person shall not engage a child in an exploitative labour, which is considered to be labour, which deprives the child of its health, education or development. There are extensive provisions.
I urge the Ministry, together with all actors in the governance of this country, including Hon Members of Parliament, to educate the general public as to its provisions.
Some may say that: “Well, it is part of our culture; oh yes, it is apprenticeship”. But then the law determines what sort of employment a child should be engaged in. So, if you are the child of a cocoa farmer and you are even assisting your parents in their vocation or you are being trained, it should not affect your health, your education or your development, sim- pliciter. And children must not be engaged in hazardous labour and the minimum age for hazardous labour is 18 years.
So, if an Hon Member of Parliament knows that in his constituency children under 18 years are engaged in hazardous labour, it is his duty as the leading opinion -- He is talking about opinion leaders. The Hon Member of Parliament is the
leader in his or her constituency and he or she ought to take necessary action. He is the leader so far as the constituency is concerned. This is because he or she is the representative of the constituency in Parliament. A chief, yes, may be a leading opinion leader but he has not the right to ensure that the law is enforced.
So, in celebrating this day, I urge all of us, with the Ministry taking the lead, to educate our people about the law. Children should not be engaged in selling iced water. This is because, insofar as they are running through and out of traffic, it is hazardous. Children should not be engaged in fishing, diving and removing nets. Whatever it is, even if it is to support their parents, it is hazardous labour. So, let us realise that the situation is different.
While I am urging all parents and guardians to train their children properly, to train them with their hands, they should also realise that in the context of new trends, children also have rights that ought to be protected.
I thank you very much.