The following article and picture materials have been provided by the Embassy of the Republic of Uzbekistan in Seoul for publication by The Korea Post media, publisher of 3 English and 2 Korean-language news publications since 1985.—Ed.
By Nadir Tilavoldiev, Deputy of the Legislative Chamber of the Oliy Majlis
According to the International Labor Organization’s official data, about 28 million people worldwide became victims of forced labor in 2021. 11 million of them were women and about 4 million are children.
Let us recall the situation with forced labor in our country a few years ago. Until recently, teachers, doctors, social workers, soldiers, students, and most regrettably, schoolchildren were involved in forced labor, especially in cotton harvesting.
This is why our white cotton has been a "black spot" for us before the world community for many years. The situation has gone so far that human rights defenders in our country and abroad have signed a petition to declare a boycott of Uzbek cotton because of the use of forced labor, especially child labor, in cotton cultivation in Uzbekistan.
The petition was submitted to the UN Human Rights Council, the International Labor Organization, UNICEF, the World Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the European Union and major companies in the cotton export and textile industry. As a result, since 2010, the international Cotton Campaign Coalition has boycotted Uzbek cotton and refused to buy it.
A logical question arises: what have we achieved by forcibly involving teachers, nurses, students and schoolchildren in the cotton harvest or other agricultural, landscaping work, on duty? Nothing. We have only lost out. We have made schoolchildren and students illiterate. We forced teachers responsible for the development of society, medical workers responsible for the health of the population and the gene pool of the nation to take part in voluntary work.
This has caused not only our socio-economic situation, but also many years of losses in the development of the nation. Finally, in the new Uzbekistan, the complete abolition of forced labor was identified as one of the key tasks of state policy.
It was a correct political decision for children to study and doctors and teachers to be at work. The cessation of forced labor will have a positive impact on the daily lives of every Uzbek citizen, and as a result of economic and social development, the quality of life will improve.
Long years of hard work, steady progress towards the goal, the efforts of the National Commission on Combating Human Trafficking and Forced Labor, the implementation of revolutionary reforms in the agricultural sector, the systematic organization of administrative liability and the strengthening of liability and other measures in the Criminal Code for administrative coercion to work have borne fruit. On March 10, 2022, the Cotton Campaign Coalition repealed a 12-year boycott against Uzbekistan.
The fact that the prohibition of forced and child labor is enshrined in the Constitution demonstrates the permanence of this political decision. In this regard, the prohibition of any child labor that adversely affects the development of the mature generation is explicitly stated in our recently revised Constitution.
One of the key amendments to our Constitution is the complete abolition of forced labor, in particular forced labor of children. According to Article 44 “Forced labor shall prohibited, except in the manner of execution of the punishment imposed by the court or in other cases stipulated by the law”.
Any form of child labor that poses a threat to the health, safety, full physical, mental and spiritual development of the child, including those that prevent him or her from getting an education, shall be prohibited”.
Indeed, the prohibition of forced labor which adversely affects the development of children represents a political will which should be explicitly stated in our Basic Law, and further reinforces the achievements in this area. Uzbekistan’s greatest wealth is an important legal guarantee that our children will grow up healthy and mature.
This constitutional provision does not prohibit children from working in a way that does not endanger their health, safety, full physical, mental and spiritual development, or disrupt the educational process. After school or during vacations, a child can help his or her parents in domestic, family and agricultural work.
According to the new edition of the Labor Code, which will come into force in this April, it is allowed to hire students of general education schools, secondary special, vocational training institutions to perform light work that does not threaten their health, safety, full physical, mental and spiritual development, as well as does not disrupt the educational process in their free time from studies, after they turn fifteen years old, with the written consent of one of their parents or one of their substitutes.
In conclusion, it can be said that every norm of our changing Constitution will be a perfect legal basis, taking into account the interests of all population groups, uniting our society around the idea of building a new Uzbekistan, and serve the development of our country for many years.