The U.S State Department’s annual country report on human rights identified child exploitation as an issue in Botswana. The report — which covers incidents reported in 2020 — highlighted that child labour occurred in domestic work and street vending, especially in the Ghanzi area.
“Despite laws and policies designed to protect children from exploitation in the workplace, child labour occurred mostly on small-scale cattle posts or farms, where employees lived with their children in family units, particularly in the Ghanzi region,” states part of the report.
The law in Botswana does not allow worst forms of child labour and the minimum age for work is 15. However, 14-year-old children could be employed in light work activities which is not risky to their “health and development” and can only work if permitted by a parent or guardian.
The report also noted the shortcomings of the law in Botswana with regards to the protection of children from child labour. As an example, the law does not clearly state in clear cut terms the types of permitted light work activities which children can do.
The Ministry of Employment, Labour Productivity, and Skills Development led by minister Tumiso Rakgare is in charge of implementing child labour laws and policies in all sectors. However the report pointed out that efforts to address child labour violations were marred by lack of resources which were “too limited for effective oversight in remote areas”. This means the true extent of child labour in Botswana is not known.
While the 2020 nationwide lockdown was designed to apparently give the government necessary powers to address the Covid-19 pandemic, the report pointed out that the restrictions had an impact on child labour. The report claims that human rights issues which arose during the lockdown period in 2020 included “the existence of the worst forms of child labour, including commercial sexual exploitation of children and forced child labour”. Furthermore, the report notes that other human rights issues raised included “serious restrictions on free expression, press, and the internet, including the existence of criminal slander and libel laws; substantial interference with freedom of association; serious acts of corruption”.
Despite laws and policies designed to protect children from exploitation in the workplace, the report states that were child labour occurred, it was mainly attributed to “lack of awareness of the law among parents and their employers”.
The 2020 annual country report on human rights seems to corroborate the findings from the U.S. State Department’s 2020 annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report which noted that: “Officials stated traffickers subject adults and children of the San ethnic minority group to labour conditions on private farms and cattle posts in Botswana’s rural west that may rise to the level of forced labour”.