UZBEKISTAN: Child labour still rife in cotton fields
Despite moves by retailers including Tesco, Marks & Spencer and C&A to ban the use of cotton from Uzbekistan in their clothing and textile lines, the use of forced child labour was still widespread in the country's most recent cotton harvest a new report claims.
Based on investigations carried out in Uzbekistan in October, the Environmental Justice Foundation's 'Still in the Fields' report says children were used to pick cotton in autumn 2008 - even though the Uzbek Government last year signed two ILO Conventions to combat child labour.
And the EJF is now calling is for more companies, consumers and governments to take a stand and help end the abuse.
"Forced child labour is unacceptable and is illegal under international and Uzbek national laws," says EJF executive director, Steve Trent.
"The Uzbek Government must do much more to ensure that commitments are reality and not just rhetoric."
The findings come despite Uzbekistan having signed and ratified two International Labour Organisation (ILO) Conventions - No 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labour, and No 138 on Minimum Age.
The Still in the Fields report reveals that children as young as ten years old are dispatched to the cotton fields for two months each year and are forced to survive on meagre rations and in dangerous conditions.
Each child is each given a high daily cotton quota to fulfil, earning just a few US cents per kilo for their efforts.
EJF's investigators estimate that in the four regions they visited, overall about 60% of the fields had children picking cotton. Security personnel or supervisors were seen in around 70-80% of the fields.
The Central Asian Republic of Uzbekistan is the world's third largest cotton exporter.
However, the Uzbek Government controls every aspect of cotton production, farmers are compelled to sell their cotton crop to the State, and Government-owned companies directly benefit from the estimated US$1bn in export earnings.
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