Dominican and Haitian Child Labor: Same Problem with Different Intensity The Dominican Republic and the Republic of Haiti, even though divided by a border, both carry with the same burden, child exploitation. A restavek is a Haitian child, often from rural area, who moves in with a family in the city and become a “house slave”. The host family agrees to care for, educate, feed and clothe in exchange for the domestic labors. On the other hand, Dominicans kids are encouraged to work since they are able to do or help in any kind of work, or as soon as they develop a sort of ability.
Although in extremely different contexts, on the bottom these actions are the same, and fit perfectly under the tag of child exploitation. These are the same positions that ILO (International Labor Organization), and Timothy Janak adopt in their articles “Situation Diagnosis: Dominican Republic” and “Haiti’s Restavek slave children: Difficult choices, difficult lives … yet … Lespwa fe Viv” respectively. Child labor can be compared among countries under three criteria: economic and culture’s circumstances, sexual abuse, and treatments at work place.
Child exploitation in both countries has the same main roots: the economic situation and the cultural values. Haiti, American poorest country, is characterized for high unemployment and famine rates, causing the restavek system to be highly more severe than child labor in the D. R. The restavek system is extremely attached to Haitian culture, it is so normal to the masses the acceptance of this sort of slavery in which these kids lives. These are some Haitian words that Janak quote “I hope my daughter is alive.
I hated to give her up. I just have nothing to offer her … But she will at least live in a home with running water. I just pray to the Gods that she is not taken advantage of” Haiti has a 70% of unemployment rate, a life expectancy of 54% for both genders, and a 13% of the children dyeing before age five due to malnutrition; these facts are propellants of the restavek system. Furthermore, less than 50% of the population has access to health care in the metropolitan areas, and even less where the restaveks originate.
The parents of the restavek will foresee the advantage for their son or daughter of having its nutritional needs covered, so at least, the child would be sold for a little money, but with the guarantee that he or she will be able to eat (Janak, Restavek Slave Children, 323) On the Dominican side, the problem does not go so far like to be called slavery. It influences that the economic state is not as severe as in Haiti, but the culture values, in low social class, do requires kids to work.
On the country side of the Dominican Republic is a cultural custom that the kids must work on what their parents do, to learn that job. And this will be seen as to help them to be better man and woman. On the case of non-relatives hiring children is often due to the lack of adults willing to do what the kids do, for the price that they demand. In the Dominican Republic the nation health public system covers an 86. 9% of the population; the problem comes with the resources needed to attend to these centers, due to the fact that 56% the population lives under poverty.
Although the government tries to improve the quality of the services offered in the public hospitals, and this way improve children nutrition, it has an inconvenient with the medical personnel that provide the service due to the unions. Another way for the government to improve health and nutrition on Dominican kids is the school breakfast project that has been around on the last decade (ILO, Situation Diagnosis, 36) In one hand, the restavek system provides a severe sexual abuse to the children.
People believe restavek families offer protection for children, but no one denies that abuses of restaveks are an open secret. When parents send their child away to the city with a wealthier family, they expect a respectful treatment, but instead the children, especially girls, suffer sexual abuses. Psychologically speaking, these girls, who roles as the woman of the house, place themselves in a situation where their mind is years ahead from their physical reality.
It’s in this point where the girl gains a false sense of independence and maturity, and she will be forced or convinced to have sexual relations. Janak added that since it’s an existing tradition of sexual relation between master and servant, this is socially acceptable. In the other hand, sexual abuse in the Dominican’s children is not as usual and abusive as Haiti. Sexuality is more about prostitution than respect. It’s not seen in houses or workplace, but in tourist areas. Because of overty and lack of values, children often offer themselves, as a desperate act that could end in a fatal disease like AIDS. The abuse comes when these children are persuaded, sometimes drugged, to have sexual relationship with a stranger; in a worst case, also traded. Asuad, in charge of UNICEF in Dominican Republic, said that they are, and have, taken steps to eradicate this practice in children; and above all, to raise awareness to these children from the dangers they face when they’re driven by “friends” that convinces them to sell their dignity for nothing.
Finally, both authors agree on treatments given to children at their workplace, but differ on the main issue. On one side, and according to Janak, restavek’s main issue is the deprivation of human rights. Studies on Haitian child domestic labor prove that children are taken or sent into domestic service when they are very young; missing school, working for long hours, and often receiving nothing for compensation and denied of their rights.
These kids sleep in the floor away from the “host” family, can’t eat the same food – food that they’ve prepared; are beaten when they make mistakes, and not allowed to have friends or visitor over the house. Also, they aren’t allowed to look their “parents” face while taking to them. On the other side, and according to ILO’s report, Dominica’s main issues are the poor working conditions and injures they inflict to working children. Child labor takes places primarily in the informal economy, specifically in agriculture (37%), followed by commerce (31. %), and services, such as hotels (11. 5%). Within a certain number of children surveyed, most accepted that, at some point, they were injured during the workday (ILO, Situation Diagnosis, 15) There is no doubt, that this hole theme it’s pretty influenced by each country poverty. While more maddening is the economic situation within the countries, worst is the child labor. Certainly in both authors is notorious the importance they give to the economic situation and cultural context as the main factor that affect the magnitude of child labor.
One might think, child labor is not as detrimental, as long as, doesn’t go against their health and well-being, and does not keep the children from attending school and enjoying age-appropriate recreation activities and games Works Cited International Labor Organization (ILO) “Diagnostico de situacion. Republica Dominicana” 2002 Janak, Timothy C Haiti’s “Restavec” slave children: Difficult choices, difficult lives … yet … Lespwa fe Viv. International Journal of Children’s Rights, Vol. 8. 2000