Artistic and sports child labor also harms children. Production: Manuel Indart
Child labor is a very serious issue and, in fact, talking about this makes me nervous. I worry about saying something that is later misunderstood or taken out of context. I am also the father of two children under 10 years of age and to think that there are millions of children like them without childhood, without care and without freedom to play, I find it inhuman.
But this problem is also wrapped in prejudices and views from one side of society. Because child labor is present in all social classes, and has consequences that the human being should never suffer. The most visible is the one that is associated with low-income families, with those who have to work in the harvest or those who ask in the street, and do so with children who join those tasks.
But there are also other children's jobs, linked to artistic or sports work, that go unnoticed and are even seen as a value for the middle or upper classes.
It is true that child labor hits the most excluded social classes of the formal economy, those who have worse access to rights such as health, justice and education. When a person is in a situation of limited economic resources and is left alone with their children, many times working for that mother or father implies taking those children with them. That is why in Argentina we see parents or mothers with children trying to sell something or asking for money in many corners.
My mother, for example, took me with her every time I had to go clean a house. Clearly, I helped her. I saw her cleaning every corner of the house that was not ours and I felt useful being able to give a hand to my mother so she would not get so tired because of the work she had to do.
But there is also another type of child labor that seems not to bother society too much. Every time I see more model children, wearing adult clothes, competing to be models of beauty and perfection. I always wonder if those children are happy posing and dedicating hours to the production of photos or parading on the catwalks.
It's not just the children. There are also models of 14, 15, 16 years who have to pursue that image of the perfect woman. The most unfortunate case of this phenomenon is that of our sister country Colombia, where girls at age 15 ask for a gift as an aesthetic operation to increase their breasts and tail, rather than a party or go on a trip to Disney.
Another extreme are the realities where they reward the beauty of the girls and they can be seen suffering for fulfilling the demands of the program. You see the parents exploiting the daughters to achieve the goals that the program imposes. I remember a program in which they competed to see who was the best chef, then it was time for the elimination and the jury decided to throw a child who had made all the effort to cook. The crying of that creature, in addition to the crying of his companions, was very hard. As a father I do not know if I would expose my son to go through this difficult situation, in front of thousands of people who look at him and enjoy that situation.
Another scenario is that of the children actors. Many of them in their adolescence end up with problems of drugs and alcohol or becoming people who fail to stabilize their social life, after the media exposure that gives them fame at such an early age.
In the world of sport, child labor is naturalized. When my son was 5 years old, we decided to take him to a club because he is a football fan. Seeing him one day in his practice, we were in the gallery with the other parents, and at recess we saw a father holding his son's arm and telling him not to neglect his goal which was the ball and not to be distracted by playing with the rest. It shook him in a really violent way. Imagine the pressure of these children when their parents channel in them the frustration they have with the sport.
We need that all children, of any condition, can feel love, create healthy bonds, enjoy the fantasy of the games and not lose their innocence until they stop being children. For this to be achieved there is much to be done, on the one hand guaranteeing quality access to education, health, justice and other goods and rights; on the other hand, not allowing the logic of the market and capital to dominate their lives.