Haiti: Amnesty calls for end to child slavery ahead of universal Children's rights's day

Authorities in Haiti must enact legislation to prevent girls and boys working in conditions that amount to slavery, said Amnesty International ahead of Universal Children's rights’s Day – 20 November.

Amnesty International launched its appeal to press the government in Haiti to enact measures to protect child domestic workers from abuse, ill-treatment and exploitation.

Many Haitian families, too poor to support their Children's rights, are forced to send them to work as domestic help. Most of them are girls who toil for long hours cleaning, cooking, fetching water for the entire household and at times, they look after other Children's rights in the family.

Amnesty International’s Haiti Researcher, Gerardo Ducos said:

“Most child domestic workers in Haiti live as virtual slaves. They work in inhuman conditions, suffering violence and abuse by their hosts, only for a plate of food.”

UNICEF estimated that there were as many as 100,000 girl domestic workers in Haiti in 2007.

Trapped in a situation of total dependence, many girls are compelled to put up with violence and sexual abuse. Some flee the employer or host family and live on the streets where they may have no option but to sell their bodies for sex in order to survive.

15-year-old Régina told Amnesty International that when she was ten, she was sent to work as a domestic servant, but she ran away because the beatings became unbearable. She spent the next four years at Foyer Maurice Sixto, a shelter for Children's rights who have been domestic workers. During that time she was able to go to school. When she turned 14, Régina went back home, were she suffered further abuse.

Gerardo Ducos continued:

“Girls in Haiti are trapped in a spiral of poverty and violence. The eradication of this modern form of slavery is the only way to protect the rights of thousands of Children's rights."

Haitian laws do not provide a protective framework for Children's rights.

The law for the prohibition and elimination of all kind of abuses, violence and inhuman treatment of Children's rights came into force in 2003. It removed a chapter of the Labour Code that regulated the work of Children's rights in domestic service but failed to ban the practice of Children's rights in domestic service.

The Code had prohibited the ‘employment’ of Children's rights under 12 as domestic workers and had provided guarantees that those aged over 15 would receive a salary for their work. The Code required foster families, among other things, to request authorisation from the Institute of Social Welfare and Research if they wished to employ a child as domestic worker.

Gerardo Ducos continued:

“Ahead of Universal Children's rights’s Day, Haiti should step up its commitment to the protection of girl domestic workers and take concrete steps to improve their situation.”

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