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Egypt: Cotton Co-Ops Violate Child Labor Laws (Human Rights Watch)

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    Assalamu alaikum, Egypt: Cotton Co-Ops Violate Child Labor Laws Children overworked, mistreated, exposed to pesticides From: Human Rights Watch
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 31, 2001
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      Assalamu'alaikum,

      Egypt: Cotton Co-Ops Violate Child Labor Laws Children overworked,
      mistreated, exposed to pesticides

      From: Human Rights Watch <hrwatchnyc@...>

      (Cairo, January 31, 2001) -- Egyptian children employed by cotton-farming
      cooperatives work long hours, routinely face beatings at the hands of
      foremen, and are poorly protected against pesticides and heat, Human
      Rights Watch said in a new report released today. Most of the children are
      also well below the country's legal minimum age of twelve for seasonal
      agricultural work, the report charged.

      The children are employed under the authority of the Agriculture Ministry,
      and the Egyptian government has a responsibility to ensure compliance with
      the country's 1996 Child Law.

      "Egypt's Child Law was an important step forward, but its labor standards
      are not being applied to children working for the cooperatives," said Lois
      Whitman, executive director of the Children's Rights division of Human
      Rights Watch. "The way children are treated in the cotton fields is
      deplorable."

      The twenty-page report, "Underage and Unprotected: Child Labor in Egypt's
      Cotton Fields," documents conditions faced by more than one million rural
      children who are hired each year from May to July, largely during the
      school recess, to control cotton leafworm infestations. Working eleven
      hours a day, seven days a week, the children inspect cotton plants for
      leafworm eggs and manually remove infected portions of leaves. An
      agricultural engineer assigned to one of the cooperatives told Human
      Rights Watch that children were cheaper to hire, more obedient, and had
      the "appropriate height" for inspecting cotton plants.

      The children's working hours far exceed the maximum six hours per day for
      which they may be employed under the Child Law. A majority of the children
      are between the ages of seven and twelve. They earn on average three
      Egyptian pounds (about one U.S. dollar) each day. Temperatures in Nile
      Delta cotton fields can reach 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit).
      Requests for water are granted at the discretion of the foremen.

      Nearly all of the children whom Human Rights Watch interviewed recounted
      routine beatings with wooden switches by foremen whenever a child was
      perceived to be slowing down or overlooking leaves.

      Human Rights Watch also found that children resumed work on cotton fields
      either immediately after pesticide spraying or after twenty-four to
      forty-eight hours, a period that falls short of the recommended intervals
      for reentry after the use of certain pesticides registered for use in
      Egypt. Human Rights Watch welcomed the agriculture ministry's recent
      establishment of "learning groups" to educate farmers about pest
      management methods. It noted that the ministry had made significant
      strides in recent years to reduce the volume of pesticides applied on
      cotton, and had banned the use of several categories of hazardous
      pesticides.

      In its report, Human Rights Watch called on the government of Egypt to:

      -uphold its minimum age for seasonal agricultural employment and limits on
      working hours for children, -monitor the treatment of children engaged in
      leafworm control operations, -take disciplinary action against foremen
      found to have mistreated children in their care, -establish "reentry
      intervals" that reflect children's greater susceptibility to pesticide
      absorption and retention, and monitor spraying by farmers, -restrict the
      availability of pesticides considered highly hazardous by the World Health
      Organization.

      Under a 1965 agriculture ministry decree, farmers are required to provide
      at least one child to the local cooperative for paid leafworm control
      work. Although that decree no longer appears to be enforced, Human Rights
      Watch noted that it had a potentially coercive effect and called for its
      formal repeal in the report.

      The report released today is the second issued recently by Human Rights
      Watch on child agricultural labor. In a report issued in June 2000,
      Fingers to the Bone: United States Failure to Protect Child Farmworkers,
      Human Rights Watch found that there are hundreds of thousands of children
      and teenagers working as hired farm labor in the United States They risk
      pesticide poisoning, heat illness, and injuries, and receive fewer
      protections under U.S. law than children working in non-agricultural
      settings.

      The report, "Underage and Unprotected: Child Labor in Egypt's Cotton
      Fields," can be found at http://www.hrw.org/reports/2001/egypt/.

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