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The Tanzania government says it is committed to cracking down on child labor in gold mines, calling the practice a “serious problem.” Its response follows a Human Rights Watch report released on Wednesday.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) claimed on Wednesday that thousands of children as young as eight are being used in small-scale gold mines in Tanzania, the African continent's fourth-largest gold producer.
The report said boys were being used to “dig and drill in deep, unstable pits” for shifts as long as 24 hours, while girls were subject to sexual harassment and were often forced to become prostitutes.
HRW produced the report based on interviews with more than 200 miners - including 61 children - in eleven mines in the Geita, Shinyanga and Mbeya regions.
"Tanzanian boys and girls are lured to the gold mines in the hopes of a better life, but find themselves stuck in a dead-end cycle of danger and despair," said HRW children's expert Janine Morna.
Tanzania's deputy energy and minerals minister Stephen Masele said the government was being proactive in its fight against child labor.
‘Surprise inspections' by government
The practice of child labor in dangerous mining work is considered among the worst forms of the practice, according to several international agreements signed by Tanzania.
"Child labor is a serious problem in small-scale mines," Masele told Reuters. "More advocacy is needed to ensure parents understand the importance of education for their children," he said. "We have been carrying out frequent surprise inspections at mines to crack down on this problem."
Those words are unlikely to appease HRW, with Morna earlier on Wednesday challenging Tanzania's government to up its efforts.
"On paper, Tanzania has strong laws prohibiting child labor in mining, but the government has done far too little to enforce them," Morna said. "Labor inspectors need to visit both licensed and unlicensed mines regularly and ensure employers face sanctions for using child labor.”
ph/ipj,ph (AFP, dpa, Reuters)