On the occasion of World Day Against Child Labour, child rights organisations collectively raised concern about the protection of child artists in the entertainment industry.
Child rights organisations CRY (Child Rights and You), The United Nations Children's Fund is a United Nations (UNICEF) and State Commission of Protection of Child Rights (SCPCR) hosted a panel discussion to address the issue and to create a safer environment for child artistes.
'Protecting Our Child Artists,' a discussion held in Mumbai, had representatives from Bollywood, television and NGO sector on the same platform speaking on creating better working conditions for children in the entertainment industry.
Present at the panel discussion were Chairperson of Maharashtra State Commission for Protection of Child Rights Pravin Ghuge, Additional Commissioner Konkan Division- Labour Department Ashwin Kakatkar, actor and filmmaker Amole Gupte, actor and author Divya Dutta, Clinical Psychologist and Trauma Expert Seema Hingorrany along with Kreeanne Rabadi, Regional Director, CRY and Rajeshwari Chandrasekar Chief, UNICEF, Maharashtra.
Although the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Act, 2016 prohibits employment of children below the age of 14 years, it creates an exception for children working in the audio - visual entertainment industry.
People within the industry have begun to acknowledge the potential and possibilities of exploitation of children that can occur while working in television reality shows, advertising and films. Many areas have been brought to light - children often miss school over shooting schedules, moreover these shoots last for hours.
There are several emotional and psychological pressures and challenges. Children's rights are violated as they face grueling competition, pressure to perform, long and erratic hours of work that keeps them away from schools and education, and exposure which robs their childhood of innocence and often their personal safety and dignity.
Since there hasn't been enough discussion on this issue, the organisers thought it is time to engage and create awareness the exploitation of children within the entertainment industry, on developing the State Rules, implementation of the Rules and effective ways for regulating this sector.
Kreeanne Rabadi, Regional Director, CRY-West said, "The demand for programming that has children has grown considerably in the last few years and broadcasters especially are catering to this demand.
Children are hence becoming more visible on reality shows, fiction shows on television and in commercials as well."
"There is always a possibility of exploitation of these children, and they can lose out on their formative years of growing up. In this context, there is not enough discussion on this issue and it is time we engage and create awareness, evolve best practices and establish and implement effectively rules to regulate this sector. For the SCPCR, UNICEF and CRY - this panel discussion is the start of doing just that," added Rabadi.
Rajeshwari Chandrasekar, Chief of Field Office, Maharashtra said, "With the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Act 2016 making an exception and allowing children to work in the entertainment industry, it has become important to ensure that the engagement of children in this industry is regulated. The State Rules will require to include measures that are age appropriate."
Chandrasekar added, "A child or adolescent's willingness and consent to work should also be independently ascertained by a mental health professional. In addition, films featuring children should be certified for there being no abuse, neglect or exploitation of the child artists during its production.
Parents of the child artists and production houses have an important role to ensure that children's participation in the entertainment industry does not infringe on children's rights to safety, education and dignity."