Police officer: Put child labour in the Constitution

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Claire Guy-Alleyne –

A senior police officer has said there should be an amendment to the Constitution to protect children from being victims of child labour.

W Supt Claire Guy-Alleyne made this suggestion during a public inquiry into child labour held by the Parliament’s Human Rights, Equality and Diversity Committee at the Red House on Friday.

She told committee members about collaboration between the police and entities such as the Labour Ministry and the Children’s Authority where child labour was involved.

Guy-Alleyne then made this comment to JSC members.

“When it comes to child labour, the definition is so vague, I think we need to widen the scope of what exactly we should consider to be child labour. “I think it should be in the legislation and more so the Constitution.

She said this was necessary to define light work (work where child labour is permitted within certain limits).

Guy-Alleyne suggested there should be a list of what is considered light work and what is hazardous work, where no child labour is allowed under any circumstances.

She said because oof the lax law, children were exposed to a lot of harm even by “very, very close family members.

“So having it in the legislation is critical to me.”

She believed there should be mandatory reporting of any offences against children.

“I think the scope of mandatory reporting should not be just for sexual abuse only. It should be for child labour. Any citizen or any person, not certain categories of persons alone.”

She also felt all adults should take responsibility for children, “whether that child is your child or another person’s child, every citizen has a responsibility to care for that child.”

She appealed to people who have any information about children being exploited in any way (sexually, physically, child labour etc) to report it to the police.

“You should report it if you are suspicious and let the police or the Labour Inspectorate (of the Labour Ministry) investigate the matters.”

Guy-Alleyne said there were many instances where the police receive information about potential child abuse through child labour and it was reported “under suspicion.”

Once the police are able “to get that intervention in a timely manner, we may be able to protect that child.”

Guy-Alleyne said this would allow a child in an abusive situation to be nurtured into becoming a productive citizen.

Earlier in the meeting, Port of Spain South MP Keith Scotland said many different laws deal with the protection of children.

He also observed that a season of constitutional reform is in progress and the time may be right to consider amending the Constitution to treat specifically with child labour.

Sections 4 and 5 of the Constitution deal with the recognition and protection of fundamental human rights and freedoms. Neither of these sections includes anything specifically related to protecting children from any kind of abuse.

The Prime Minister announced a national consultation advisory committee on constitutional reform at a news conference on January 18.

The committee is chaired by former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Barendra Sinanan, SC, and has embarked on public consultations.

One took place at Port of Spain City Hall on Friday.

Dr Rowley believed it was an appropriate time to evaluate, amend and generally upgrade the Constitution, as many people had called for it.

On February 16, Sinanan said the committee was focused on completing its report on these consultations by June. That report will guide a national conference on constitutional reform in that same month.

OPM Gender and Child Affairs Division monitoring and evaluation co-ordinator Makandal Caesar said the national steering committee on child labour, formed in 2019, is consulting with different groups on the issue.

While there may be a need for certain legislative amendments to deal more effectively with child labour, Caesar said it was premature to say what those amendments would be and whether they involved any changes to the Constitution.

Labour Ministry chief labour inspector specialist Farouk Mohammed said the committee is hoping to be able to produce a draft child labour policy by year’s end.