It’s 3:15 am in Bhimnagar, India. With the family’s newest infant addition latched to her side, Kalawati* wakes up her husband, six-year-old daughter, and eight-year-old son to eat breakfast – a small handful of rice. The meal won’t satisfy anyone’s hunger but it’s all Kalawati’s children will eat until 1pm. They’re not heading to school; the whole family needs to begin their 18-hour work day at the brick kiln before the sun rises.
Today will be the same for Kalawati’s children as the last – hauling buckets of water, mixing mud to make bricks, putting the mixture into brick moulds, a lunch of molasses and water, stacking bricks into piles, digging up soil for the next day’s bricks. At the end of the day, both children will try to rub the ache out of their backs while Kalawati helplessly suggests they try walking around to ease the pain knowing that it won’t work.
That’s not the extreme in the possible tortures of a day in the life of a child slave in India. There are days when children are beaten to force them into submission; days when a mother is forced to watch a brick kiln owner dangle her son over a 700°C flame simply to frighten her. Rather, it’s just the typical day that the Indian Parliament could act on to make a distant memory for every Indian child forever.
The Indian Parliament has extended their session to Friday, 6 September to progress a number of important bills before they prepare for election. They are paying attention to what voters are saying as well as the opinions of activists rallying all over the world in defence of the child slaves of India.
If passed, the Child and Adolescent Labour Abolition Bill would:
1) prohibit employment of children under 14 years of age;
2) outline harsh sentences for violators; and
3) provide for monitoring of suspected cases of child slavery.
This legislation would put an end to the enslavement of children in India, but it risks not passing without a demonstration of mass public support.
Kalawati wants the same futures for her children as every other parent. And she has one more wish – that her children will know a life outside of slavery.
Debra, Ryan, Jessica, Kate, Mich, Amy and the Walk Free Team