Published on 8th December 2014 by

Childhood Lost – “We are not bothered by the opinions of other countries”

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Can a new law allowing children as young as 10 to work really help them, or will it put them at risk of abuse? This controversial new approach to child protection is dividing Bolivians of all ages.

“A defenceless child cannot make a decision to fully defend their rights”, decries Ombudsman Rolando Villena, a critic of the law recently passed that enshrines work for children in Bolivia. To him the dangers of permitting children into the world of work are clear: entrapment, exploitation, prostitution. But to kids like Eric the new law offers access to new rights that were never available to him before. “It’s a good idea. Some have debts, their parents don’t work… they go to work to help their families.” The change came after children led a protest demanding their right to work. Javier Zabaleta, who drafted the new law, is steadfast in his unconventional approach to child protection. He argues, “we are not bothered by the opinions of other countries – they can say what they want.”

SBS Dateline – Ref 6332

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