At the end of March and in early April this year, Uzbekistan’s parliament ratified the ILO Convention on Minimal Age of Employment (No. 138, 1973) and the Convention on Prohibition and Immediate Action for Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour (No. 182, 1999). The very next month, however, under the direction of Uzbekistan’s central government, local authorities and school administrations forced thousands of children out to the fields for spring agricultural work.
In temperatures of up to 35 degrees Celsius (96 Fahrenheit) children as young as 12 - 15 performed heavy labor, such as hoeing, weeding, applying fertilizer and pesticides and transplanting young cotton plants. Children suffered heatstroke, burns, and a variety of infectious diseases from the poor working conditions, long hours, and lack of clean water and basic sanitation. School hours were truncated and for some periods schools closed altogether to spur children into the fields.
Following up on their investigation of forced child labor in the fall cotton harvest, a group of Uzbek human rights defenders documented children’s participation in spring farm labor. In addition to their report, view a video shot by the activists here.