Tourism and Child Labour

Tourism is one of the fastest growing sectors in India and has received much impetus from the government as it is seen as a major contributor to the economy. Unfortunately, tourism is also one of the factors responsible for increase in trafficking, child labour and sexual exploitation of children. Unregulated and unaccountable tourism development with no protective measures has added to the exploitation of children in tourism. While the debate over the child sexual abuse and trafficking in the context of tourism has been ongoing, child labour undoubtedly exploits a much larger number of children which has not drawn serious condemnation or concerted action by this image conscious industry. In tourism sector millions of children around the country are trapped in a world of work, many of them are at risk from hazardous and exploitative labour denying their basic and fundamental right to education, health and childhood.

It is generally agreed that the children working in factories are vulnerable to sexual abuse by employers or adult co-workers. These children don’t live in a zone of constant sexual threats while the deep links of most of the child labour in the services sector with the travel and hotel industry makes them prone to abuse and sexual exploitation much more seriously than in secondary sector. While monitoring of a factory where children work is a partial solution for containing the gravity of the issue in the secondary sector, such mechanisms are dysfunctional in the spatially de-nucleated travel and tourism and hotel industries with an informally organized nature of work.

It is common to see children working in the service sector working in abysmal conditions1 in small restaurants and shacks, selling curios and trinkets, beach boys and girls, rag pickers, tourist guides, or begging rich tourists for money. In hotels, children work as bell-boys, waiters and waitresses, maids, house keeping workers while in catering, many are kitchen helpers or dish-washers or servers. Children also work as masseurs and prostitutes. In the travel business, they work as porters and coolies, cleaners and assistants and for carrying loads on treks.

Child working in unorganized sectors with regard to tourism related activities too works in extremely bad working conditions where they do not even have protection for their long strained working hours under unhealthy and dangerous conditions and most often under intimidation.