Sample Paper on Violations of the Rights of the Child in Bolivia

Violations of the Rights of the Child in Bolivia

Children in Bolivia

In Bolivia, children constitute almost half the total population and most of them live in poverty. There has been some advancement that has been achieved but much more needs to be accomplished to improve the living conditions of children in Bolivia. According to a 2011 census, there are 1,529,689 children in Bolivia who are aged below six years with a majority living at risk due to the vulnerability of their rights (Ramirez 3). The culture of respect for the rights of children does not exist yet in Bolivia since their daily lives reflect that children are perceived as being objects or even the property of parents. A large proportion of the population still considers it normal to discipline children by beating them so that they respect their elders. Internationally recognized rights of children are violated extensively in Bolivia and the government needs to ensure that it can enact novice laws that can ensure these rights are upheld.

Children in Bolivia pass through a myriad of problems considering the country is among the poorest nations in Latin America. There is extreme poverty within the nation with a particular emphasis on the rural areas that have an adverse effect on children. The level of poverty faced by the nation has a negative effect on the quality of life and effectively limits fundamental rights like access to education, access to clean drinking water, and even the right to live in an environment that encourages personal development. Indigenous children are the hardest hit since they are victims of significant inequalities in society. This group is considered vulnerable since their human rights are frequently undermined and totally disregarded.

When indigenous children get an opportunity to access education, they are motivated to work hard in a bid to improve their living conditions and that of their families. However, their opportunities are further limited by inadequate education infrastructure and an almost total absence of libraries and teaching materials. The communities they live in are characterized by excessive alcohol intake and violence that is orchestrated by a lack of opportunities for employment thus most of them often run away to be street children. Bolivian children are therefore exposed to the risk of domestic violence, child labor, crime, alcohol and drug abuse, sexual violence, and human trafficking in addition to being denied their basic rights like the right to education and health (UNICEF 1).

The most prevalent violation of the rights of children in Bolivia is child labor where children are involved in the vilest forms of child labor that include hazardous activities in mining and agriculture. In agriculture, for instance, children are often subjected to hazardous undertakings during the production of corn. These children use dangerous tools, are forced to carry heavy loads, and most times apply dangerous pesticides without wearing any protective gear. Children usually work alongside their families for long hours without rest, and this has an adverse effect on their physical and mental growth. Most times these children are indebted to their employers and have to work for a long period until their debt is fully paid. The practice is quite common in indigenous Guarani families who have often worked in debt bondage and force their kids to toil on cattle ranches in the Chaco region until their debt is fully settled (Inter-American Commission on Human Rights 12).

Children working the mining sector is a common in Bolivia where children work in tin, gold, silver, and zinc mines for long hours in enclosed spaces thereby getting exposed to dangerous chemicals and tools. Furthermore, children work as shoe shiners, transportation assistants, and even street vendors as a means to earn a living for themselves and their families. Operations on the streets exposes these children to numerous dangers like severe weather conditions, automobile accidents, and criminal activities. The construction industry solicits for child labor as a cheaper alternative thereby forcing them to work long hours while utilizing dangerous machinery and tools. These are the wickedest forms of child labor that are widely practiced in Bolivia, and the government has to take bold steps in terms of legal action so as to mitigate on them.

In addition to child labor, Bolivia children are further exposed to inhumane activities that deny them fundamental human rights. Most kids especially those from rural regions are forced to be domestic helps in third-party homes under surroundings that leads to indentured serfdom. A major delinquent in Bolivia is the profitmaking sexual mistreatment of children especially in the Santa Cruz and Cochabamba region. The children forced to participate in these activities are often trafficked internally and sometimes trafficked from Bolivia to neighboring countries for commercial sexual exploitation and labor.

Apparently, families in Bolivia seem to be a contributory factor to these vice since they are the ones who rent out or even sell their children to engage in these activities. The child in Bolivia continues to be exposed to high rates of abuse of their rights due to widespread poverty and the incapability of the government to properly protect and safeguard the rights of the children (UNICEF 2). International law conventions have been at the forefront of championing the civil liberties of the child and actively support third world countries to recognize and safeguard these rights and ensure the child can develop to a holistic adult who can proactively improve the state of the nation.

International laws on children rights

A basic human right that is laid down in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is that all human beings are born with their freedom and are equal in rights and dignity. However, there are specific groups of people who are particularly threatened, and special considerations have to be made in law to guarantee their protection. These vulnerable groups include indigenous people, women, and children who are assigned special protection by the UN legal framework. The fortification of the civil rights of the child can be drawn back to 1924 when the Declaration of the Rights of the Child was first embraced (Fortin 8). At the time, it included only five principle that member countries had to adopt as a guide towards safeguarding the welfare of the child. This provision has subsequently been revised, and children continue to enjoy protection by way of general human rights provisions.

In Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it is stated that childhood is entitled to special care and assistance. The UN encompasses four legally binding instruments that are tailor made to protect the civil liberties of children. These are the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography (CRC-OPSC), the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict (CRC-OPAC) and the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons. An analysis on the four is carried out to establish their provisions as regards to safeguarding the rights of children with a bias towards Bolivia.


  1. Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)

The CRC is the most prominent UN manifestation that is meant to advance the rights of children. Resolution 44/252 of November 1989 at the 44th session of UN General Assembly ratified this Convention and it was systematically put into force on the 2nd of September, 1990 in accordance with article 49(1). The article consists of 54 articles that incorporates a full range of human rights and creates an international foundation for the advancement and protection of fundamental rights and freedoms of all person who are aged below the age of 18. The CRC represents a widespread recognition that children should be entirely prepared to live as individuals in society and be nurtured in the spirit of tolerance, equality, and solidarity (Brett 236).

There are four provisions contained in the Convention these being Article 2,3,6 and 12  that build on the foundation of all children’s rights and contain the following principles. The first principle is the right to equality that states that no child may be discriminated against by religion, language, sex, or race. They should not be victimized based on political and social origin or even on the base of property or birth status. The second principle is the best interest of the child, which has to prevail in any situation where decisions are being taken that have an impact on them. This principle is taken into account at all stages and applies to the family and as well as to state action. The third principle is the right to life and development where every member of the State has to ensure to the maximum extent possible that they aid in the survival and the growth of the child by providing access to education and healthcare and protecting the child from social and economic exploitation (Swepston 34).

The fourth principle is the respect for children’s views where children need to be respected and taken seriously. It is imperative that children are involved in decision-making processes based on their age and maturity. All the four principles are the basis for the CRC and a holistic approach is taken that recognizes that these rights are anchored in the Convention and are therefore interrelated and indivisible and have an equal importance attached to all of them (Castle 29).

  1. Optional Protocol to the Convention of the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography (CRC-OPSC)

The CRC-OPSC was adopted in May 2000 by the UN and entered into force on the 18th of January 2002 in accordance with Article 14(1). The CRC-OPSC consists of 17 Articles that aim at extending the measures that State Parties should take in order to guarantee child protection from being sold, used for pornography, or even prostituted. Numerous people have questioned the need for the protocol, but assertions have been made on its adoption due to the concern that there are significant and increasing international traffic in children (Buck 56). The aim of this protocol is to address the need for legislation that holds citizens accountable for sexual crimes. Such an accountability can be created by determining the extent of extraterritorial jurisdiction on crimes committed in other countries. Member states are urged to address the matter of commercial sexual exploitation by enacting laws that criminalize the use, offer, employ, or even procure a child for commercial sexual exploitation (Castle 39).

  • Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict (CRC-OPAC)

The CRC-OPAC was adopted in May 2000 and entered into force on the 12th of February 2002 in accordance with Article 10(1). The CRC-OPAC comprises of 13 Articles that aim at strengthening the implementation of the CRC and ensuring that the child is protected during a time of armed conflicts. The motivation for the Protocol lies in a conflict where member states agreed on the age of 18 when defining a child but later protocols specified that 15 years old could be recruited into armies. The CRC-OPAC prohibits compulsory enrolment of individuals below the 18 years and countries are urged to take legal processes in an effort to prohibit independent equipped groups from using or recruiting children in any conflict. State parties are therefore urged to set forth the minimum age for voluntary recruitment into the armed forces and make descriptions of the safeguards they adopt to ensure that such recruitment is not coerced or even forced (Castle 52).

  1. Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons.

The Protocol focuses especially on women and children and supplements the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime having been adopted on 15th November 2000 and entered into force on 25th December 2003. Despite thereby being a variety of international instruments that contain rules and practical measures towards combating the exploitation of women and children, there still is not a universal instrument that addresses all aspects of trafficking in human beings. The Protocol aims to thwart and battle trading in children and support the victims of such trafficking. The Protocol, therefore, urges states to adopt legislative or any other measures they can put in place so as to establish the trafficking in individuals as a criminal offense (Castle 63).

In addition to the UN Conventions on the rights of Children, there is consideration of the rights of children based on the International Labor Organization (ILO). At the core of ILO’s mandate are human rights where members of the ILO have an obligation to respect, promote, and realize the doctrines of freedom of association and the recognition of the right to collective bargaining. Other principles include the abolition of all forms of forced labor, effective eradication of child labor, and the eradication of discrimination in occupation and employment (ILO Committee of Experts 2). There are eight conventions that are fundamental to human rights within and outside and two are dedicated to the protection of children’s civil liberties. The two are the ILO Minimum Age Convention and the ILO Convention Concerning the Prohibition and Immediate Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labor.

  1. ILO Minimum Age Convention

The ILO estimates that a total of 182 million children below the age of 14 years are working all over the world. The Minimum Age Convention is among the eight Fundamental human rights Conventions that are found under the ILO umbrella and is ratified by 151 countries. The Convention was agreed upon in 1973 and was upheld by the Committee on the Rights of the Child and was deemed an appropriate standard that provides principles that apply to all sectors of economic activity. All signatories of the Convention are mandated to fix the minimum age for admission to employment and to pursue a national policy that is designed to ensure the successful abolition of child labor. Members are further obliged to progressively raise the minimum age that is required for admission to employment to a level that is suited to the fullest mental and physical development of young individuals (Buck 63).

  1. ILO Convention Concerning the Prohibition and Immediate Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labor.

The ILO convention is very categorical on the worst practices of child labor since it bans all of them including slavery, sale and debt bondage, forced labor, recruitment for prostitution, armed forces, drug trafficking, or recruitment for any work that harms the health, morals, and safety of children. This Convention was adopted on the 17th of June 1999 and has been ratified by over 170 members Bolivia being among them. The Convention was adopted in recognition of the ideology that effective elimination of child labor depends on economic factors and can, therefore, take time to be accomplished. Nonetheless, there are specific practices of child labor that cannot be tolerated and there needs to be immediate action to secure the prohibition and successful elimination of these worst forms of child labor irrespective of the economic situation of the country. The vilest forms of child labor that all persons under of 18 should be protected from comprise of all forms of slavery, use of children in armed skirmishes, child prostitution, and use of children in illegitimate events, and work that harms the morals of children (ILO-IPEC 35).

Bolivia’s adherence to international laws on children’s rights

Bolivia has made a moderate attempt at eradicating the worst practices of child labor specifically in 2012 when it passed the Comprehensive Law against Human Trafficking and Smuggling. The law dictates several novice plans and policies that are intended at reducing the trafficking of minors for labor and commercial sexual manipulation. The law essentially increases the penalties for traffickers, expands the support services for victims, and enhances efforts towards prevention of trafficking. The Government of Bolivia has also increased funding for a conditional cash transfer program that is the Juancito Pinto subsidy program that is aimed at increasing school attendance (Autogestión 13).

Furthermore, the Bolivian government supports the efforts of international organizations and the private sector towards combatting child labor. Even though there are gains that have been made in a bid to safeguard the rights of children, child labor inspections remain insufficient in relation to the scope of the calamity within the nation. The government does not want to make key information publicly available like the statistics on child trafficking cases or even the penalties applied to employers for child labor violations.  The government has a national plan to eradicate child labor and uphold the rights of children essentially expired in 2010 and is yet to be updated, and yet children continue to experience the worst forms of violations of their rights.

In Bolivia, the Child and Adolescent Code sets the lowest age for employment at 14 excluding apprenticeships. Even though the Labor Code and the Child and Adolescent Code regulate some aspects of apprenticeships to ensure that child apprentices can attend school, the ILO points out that the law has not established a minimum age for apprenticeships. Children under 18 need to have permission from government authorities or their parents before engaging in work. The Child and Adolescent Code prohibits children who are under 18 from taking part in any hazardous activities that comprise of carrying excessive loads, working with pesticides, harvesting of cotton, sugarcane and Brazil nuts, and working underground (Turriago 3). The Code requires that all employers should grant time off to workers who are aged 14 to 17 so that they can attend school during normal school hours. The Constitution requires that children should complete secondary school that ends at approximately 17. The 2010 Avelino Sinani-Elizardo Perez Education Law ensures that there is equal educational prospects for everyone including those who are behind in schoolwork.

The constitution of Bolivia prohibits exploitative compulsory child labor or any kind of labor that does not have fair compensation. The minimum age for joining the military is 18 and no one below the age of 18 is permitted to engage in combat. The 2010 Law for the Legal Protection of Children and Adolescents penalizes anyone that engages in child labor or procures minors for purposes of trafficking or prostitution. The government has approved a Comprehensive Law against Human Trafficking and Smuggling thereby increasing penalties for trafficking minors and those who produce, possess or even distribute child pornography. The Law further mandates government agencies to provide victim support services and expand its efforts to human trafficking. The Comprehensive Law against Human Smuggling and Trafficking further defines human trafficking to include any form of forced labor, servitude, employment in criminal activities and begging. It further prohibits child pornography and the trafficking of minors for exploitation in illegal activities and prostitution.

There are institutional mechanisms that the Bolivian government has put in place to coordinate and enforce the law as regards to children’s rights. The Ministry of Labor (MOL) is responsible for developing policies that concern child labor and leads the Inter-Institutional Commission to eradicate child labor. The MOL has the mandate to coordinate and develop policies to eradicate any form of servitude and enforce child labor laws. The MOL investigates any practice of child labor in Bolivia and fines violator or even send them to labor courts. A Steering Committee is present for Zero Child Labor in Sugarcane Production made with the support of the MOL and Bolivian municipal governments and the government of Santa Cruz. In addition, the government of Bolivia supports exertions to eradicate child labor specifically in mines by raising awareness, increasing educational opportunities, and providing economic alternatives to families. The government further works in collaboration with international organizations like UNICEF to promote an educational strategy that aims at reaching more than 3,000 children who are working sugarcane areas (Turriago 3). Though the Bolivian government still faces high rates of violation of children rights within its borders, it is constantly taking bold steps towards embracing them and ensuring that children can experience a better life.


Work Cited

Autogestión, Desarrollo y. “Combating Exploitive Child Labor through Education in Bolivia (Phase II): Project Document;.” 2011.

Brett, R. “Rights of the child.” Krause, C & M Scheinin. International protection of human rights: A textbook. Åbo Akademi University,: Institute for Human Rights, 2009. 227-246.

Buck, Trevor. International child law. London: Cavendish Publishing Limited, 2005.

Castle, Caroline, and John Burningham. For Every Child: The Un Convention on the Rights of the Child in Words and Pictures. London: Red Fox, 2002. Print.

Fortin, Jane. Children’s rights and the developing law (Second Edition). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005.

ILO Committee of Experts. “Individual Observation concerning Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No. 182) Bolivia (ratification: 2003).” 2009.

ILO-IPEC. ” Project to combat the worst forms of child labor through horizontal cooperation in South America: Project Document.” 2009.

Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. “Captive Communities: Situation of the Guaraní Indigenous People and Contemporary Forms of Slavery in the Bolivian Chaco.” 2009.

Ramirez, Mae. Children of Bolivia Realizing Children’s Rights in Bolivia. Bolivia: Humanium, 2015.

Swepston, Lee. Article 32: Protection from Economic Exploitation. Leiden: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 2012. Print.

Turriago, Nora. “Bolivia’s New Child Labor law.” International Political Forum (2015): 1-3.

UNICEF. The Situation of Children in Bolivia. Bolivia: UNICEF, 2015.