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Child Labor in Gaza by Rana Al-Shami

The Israeli occupation, and the violence and socio-economic decline that result from it, are having a profound and lasting impact on Palestinian children. Child labor is spreading throughout Gaza. Forced to endure these tragic circumstances, our children are deprived of their innocence and of a peaceful childhood.

They are forced to work in domestic service and farming, mining, construction and manufacturing industries. Some are seen scavenging and begging on the streets. Others are trapped in forms of slavery, forced labor, debt bondage (to pay off debts incurred by parents and grandparents), sexual exploitation, drug trafficking and organized begging. Child labor is especially harmful and violates the childís human rights.

Sometimes children receive no monetary compensation for their work, only food and a place to sleep. Child labor deprives the child of education. Children have no rights if they are injured or become ill and have no protection from physical abuse and other forms of mistreatment, such as verbal attacks, bullying and humiliation.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child is a human rights treaty which establishes the civil, political, economic, social, health and cultural rights of children. The Convention defines a child as any human being under the age of 18, unless the age of majority is attained earlier under a state's own domestic legislation. Nations that ratify this convention are bound to it by international law. Israel ratified the Convention in 1991. In 2010, UNICEF criticized Israel for its failure to create a government-appointed commission on children's rights or to adopt a national children's rights strategy or program in order to implement various Israeli laws addressing children's rights. The report criticized Israel for holding that the Convention does not apply in the West Bank and for defining Palestinians under the age of 16 in the occupied territories as children, even though Israeli law defines a child as being under 18, in line with the Convention. In 2012, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child criticized Israel for its bombing attacks on Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, stating, "Destruction of homes and damage to schools, streets and other public facilities gravely affect children" and called them "gross violations of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, its Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict and international humanitarian law." It also criticized Palestinian rocket attacks from Gaza on southern Israel which traumatized Israeli children, calling on all parties to protect children.

Israelís blockade and its control over the lives of Gazans has reduced Gaza to a poverty-stricken open-air prison, which has created the deplorable conditions out of which most forms of child labor in Gaza have evolved.

And what about the women of Gaza and their perspective towards having babies? How can children survive and thrive in this hell? Many Palestinian women are afraid to bring babies into this inferno, especially after Israel's latest offensive against Gaza. Israel used illegal weapons against my people. which affected women's fertility and physical appearance. Using prohibited weapons is a clear violation of the 1980 Protocol to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, to which Israel is a signatory.

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