Pandemic may drive more child exploitation

Selling roses in the scorching heat of New Delhi and collecting plastic bottles around train tracks to sell as scrap, child laborers reveal the darkest part of the Indian capital's underbelly and the global health crisis could make things even worse.

Kailash Satyarthi has rescued thousands from slavery and trafficking, he won the Nobel Peace Prize for it in 2014. He's warning that the pandemic could trigger a dramatic rise in the country's child exploitation numbers.

"The biggest threat is that millions of children may fall back into slavery, trafficking, child labor, child marriages. School would be denied, so, it is very serious problem."

The United Nations children's agency, UNICEF, says there are around 10 million child laborers in India, many less than nine years old.

As the pandemic pushes millions of people into poverty, families are under immense pressure to force their children out of education to work for survival.

Satyarthi estimates that the number of cases of child sexual abuse or production of child pornographic material has almost doubled during the pandemic with a majority going unreported.

"Once they fall into that trap, they could be pulled into prostitution and could be trafficked easily, so this is another danger which governments have to address now."

Earlier this month, Satyarthi's organization backed by police, rescued dozens of girls during a raid on a shrimp processing unit in western India.

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