December 20, 2005

XI. The Government Response

Since 2000 Morocco has significantly expanded its arsenal of legislation that could be used to combat exploitive child labor.[185]It has also devoted significant expenditures to addressing some of the underlying factors driving child labor, through poverty alleviation programs and ambitious educational reform plans.[186] These efforts are laudable, but they do not constitute the integrated strategy for combating the worst forms of child labor that Morocco needs, and in many cases they fail to meet the test of "immediate and effective measures" required by international law.[187] Child domestic workers are excluded from key legislation providing protection to other forms of child labor, and police, prosecutors, and judges rarely enforce protections in other legislation in cases involving child domestics. Government efforts to address child protection have largely neglected child domestic labor, and those that do address child domestic labor frequently suffer from a lack of coordination across ministries and sectors, between government and nongovernmental and international actors, and among NGOs, and a lack of a clear budget for implementation. Little detailed data exists on child labor nationally, and especially on "hidden" forms of labor like domestic work. Few programs exist to provide direct assistance for the removal of children from the worst forms of child labor, including domestic labor, and those that do exist have been largely pilot programs with limited scope and success.

Exclusion from protection of the law and failures of enforcement

As noted above, all domestic workers-adults and children- are excluded from Morocco's Labor Code and do not enjoy the minimum protections afforded to other workers in the industrial, commercial, and agricultural sectors. This exclusion leaves abusive employers free to set whatever working conditions they choose, to change those conditions at will, and to engage in abuse and exploitation of domestic workers without fear of prosecution. The impact of this exclusion falls disproportionately on women and girls, who comprise the largest percentage of household workers. While Moroccan criminal law contains provisions that could be used to punish child abuse, forced labor, sexual exploitation, and trafficking of children, these provisions are rarely invoked against those who abuse child domestics.

The 2003 amendments to the Labor Code provide for separate legislation governing conditions of employment for domestic workers, but as of this writing no draft of this legislation has been made public.[188] A Ministry of Employment and Professional Development official told Human Rights Watch in May 2005 that she did not expect legislation to be issued soon, as during interministerial discussions of the initial draft "many ministries didn't like the draft domestic labor law. It caused great debate among the ministries. It will take time before they are in agreement on the final draft."[189] Activists with whom Human Rights Watch spoke also doubted the ability of the government to formulate a law regulating child domestic labor that would be consistent with its obligations under the CRC.Khaled Belkoh, director of l'Espace Associatif's Children's Rights Project, told Human Rights Watch, "The Ministry of Employment says that the domestics law will be ready by December [2005] but of course that is not likely. Part of the problem is that they lack a clear definition of ill-treatment of a child, and it will be hard to define working hours."[190]

According to the Ministry of Employment and Professional Development, even in the absence of specialized legislation on domestic work, the Labor Code's prohibition on the employment of children under fifteen applies to all children, including child domestics.[191] However, the Ministry of Employment and Professional Development has done little to enforce the current or previous minimum age legislation in cases involving child domestic workers. According to a July 2004 report by the U.S. Department of Labor,

The Ministry of Employment, Social Affairs, and Solidarity is responsible for implementing and enforcing child labor laws and regulations. However, with only a small number of labor inspectors, limited investigative powers, limited awareness of the child labor issue, and a lack of resources, the Ministry [of Employment]'s enforcement activities [on child labor] have been severely constrained.Furthermore, although the new Labor Code does empower inspectors to bring charges for employing children under age 15, inspectors have limited ability to monitor the work of children in the informal sector, including the work of child maids.Courts can take action once two witnesses file a complaint, but few employers of child maids have been prosecuted.In the few cases where legal sanctions for child labor violations are applied, they are generally insufficient to act as effective deterrents.[192]

The greatest barrier to enforcement, government officials and activists both agree, is the Labor Code's lack of effective mechanisms for enforcement of the law in private homes. According to a Ministry of Employment and Professional Development official responsible for child labor issues, the ministry is unable to enforce the ban on children under fifteen working as child domestics because it lacks the legal authority to investigate violations in private homes, and even if it had the authority its resources are limited. "The only monitoring [of the Labor Code] is via the labor inspectors. The unions, social assistants, and other bodies must study the issue and come up with a way for monitoring to work in houses because the inspector doesn't have the power to do this now. The [Ministry cannot take action because the] system and the law must be in agreement."[193]

Morocco amended its Penal Code in 2003, strengthening provisions on child abuse and sexual exploitation, forced labor, and the sale of children.[194]However, some of these articles are limited in scope, and activists told Human Rights Watch that police rarely intervene to protect child domestics because they lack authority to enter private houses unless they have received a complaint of severe abuse, and when they do investigate they are more likely to believe employers than children.[195] In addition, a number of factors limit the number of complaints police receive. Child domestics themselves are unlikely to complain to police while working because they have few opportunities to do so, and may fear the police because of employers' threats to turn them over to the police for punishment. Girls who have run away from abusive employers may refuse to identify their former workplaces out of fear of being returned to their abusers, or may be unable to do so because of illiteracy and unfamiliarity with the city. Children's families also may be unable or unwilling to bring a complaint, whether because they themselves lack access to their daughters, out of fear of stigma in the case of sexual violence, or because they assume that it will lead to a time-consuming, expensive process that will provide them no benefit. Social worker Rajae al Meskouri told Human Rights Watch that even in the case of the girl severely burned by her employer, mentioned above, "The family refused to bring a legal complaint. They said it would require an investigation (sin wa jim) and bribes and wouldn't result in anything. They said, 'now we have our daughter back alive and that is enough.'"[196]ILO-IPEC told Human Rights Watch, "We did a workshop for prosecutors. Prosecutors aren't willing to push families who aren't willing to push for trial. There is also the question of whether going to trial will do more damage to the child-it may help combat the phenomenon but it could hurt the individual child by creating a fuss around the child who will have to go back to a village where everyone knows what has happened."[197]

NGOs Human Rights Watch spoke with said that they rarely made legal complaints on behalf of child domestics because they lacked the human and financial resources to pursue them and because judges and prosecutors were rarely interested in pursuing cases of child domestics. Amina Kamri, the vice president of an NGO working with child domestics in Marrakech, told us, "During the first year we were able to get some cases to court, but they were postponed or the abuser was a tourist. The problem is that there are no specialized judges for child victims. When the victim is a child the judges don't know what to do-the juvenile courts are for children who commit crimes [not for child victims]."[198] Rajae al Meskouri told us, "The problem is always in enforcement of the law. It depends on the judge, or the employer may move, and the process is slow we don't have the resources to pursue legal cases."[199] Dr. Wafiya al `Anteri of the Moroccan League for the Protection of Children told us that few prosecutions of employers who abused child domestics were successful because judges were sympathetic with employers: "The judge now takes into account the circumstances of the case. The government doesn't want to focus on just punishments but on raising awareness."[200] The director of one of the few NGOs to have successfully brought legal complaints against employers who abused child domestics told us, "The procedures for implementing the laws on children are still not clear, unlike those for women. The biggest problem is implementation: there isn't implementation of the laws affecting children."[201]

Several NGOs Human Rights Watch spoke with told us they refer cases of abuse to Morocco's National Observatory on Children's Rights (Observatoire National sur les Droits de l'Enfant, ONDE). The ONDE, created in 1995 by King Hassan II and headed by his daughter, Princess Lalla Meryem, strives to promote implementation of the CRC through research, campaigns, and pilot programs.[202] Since 1999 it has operated a telephone hotline for abused children, and its activities in this area have made it a de facto ombudsman for issues of child abuse. While the ONDE's close association with the royal family gives it a social weight that undoubtedly contributes to its ability to mobilize support, it lacks a clear legal mandate to play a coordinating or ombudsman role. Lack of clear legal status and authority to intervene is also a problem for social workers, NGOs, and private parties who may learn of child domestics being abused. Khaled Belkoh told Human Rights Watch,

The problem with the status of social assistants is part of a larger problem: there is a law on public sector employees and a law on private sector employees and if you aren't in one of those sectors you don't have legal status, for example, NGO employees don't have legal status. There are four kinds of institutions that have social assistants: the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Employment, the Army, and the Ministry of Youth and Sport. Each has its own system and training. Also, they don't work in the same sector: some are for profit, some are not. Also, the government doesn't believe that social work is important.[203]

The LMPE told Human Rights Watch in May 2005 that they were currently at the workshop stage of a project to draft legislation on social assistants, and expected it to be quite some time before they completed a draft.[204]

Neglect of child domestics in national child protection policies

Morocco's strategy to address child labor is outlined in its 1999 National and Sectoral Plan of Action against Child Labor.[205] Progress in implementing the plan has been slow, with the greatest progress thus far occurring in legislation addressing child labor and education. However, key provisions of the new laws exclude domestic workers or are rarely enforced, as we discuss below.

Among the major barriers to implementation of the 1999 plan of action is its generality and its emphasis on consciousness raising rather than legal enforcement. The plan provides little guidance on what specific activities should be undertaken, which agencies are responsible for them, how they would be funded, and what mechanisms would be used for coordination. In addition to general recommendations for combating child labor the plan includes child domestic labor, grouped with transport, maintenance, and marginal activities, among the six areas it prioritizes for intervention. It then lists twelve proposed activities to combat child domestic labor, and four proposed activities to improve working conditions for child domestics.[206] Not one of the proposals calls for criminal prosecution of those who abuse child domestics or enforcement of minimum age legislation. Instead, the majority of proposals call for "sensitization" of employers, parents, children, and the general public, and for broad poverty alleviation programs in rural areas.

Child domestic labor is also likely to be excluded from the time-bound program that Morocco is currently developing for the elimination of the worst forms of child labor. Time-bound programs are "a set of integrated and coordinated policies and interventions with clear goals, specific targets and a defined time frame, aimed at preventing and eliminating a country's [worst forms of child labor]" undertaken by countries with assistance from ILO-IPEC.[207] According to ILO-IPEC, inclusion of child domestics is unlikely because while IPEC considers all child domestic labor to be among the worst forms of child labor, "[t]he Moroccan governmentdoesn't consider child domestic labor by children over fifteen to be hazardous labor."[208]

Morocco's Secretariat of State for Family, Solidarity, and Social Action is in the process of preparing a ten-year National Plan of Action on Childhood, which reportedly will include child labor as part of its program on child protection from abuse, exploitation, and violence, and discuss the role of brokers in trafficking of child domestics.[209] While the details of this plan were still vague in May 2005 (and remain so as of this writing), activists we spoke with expressed concern that, like the 1999 plan of action, it lacked the specificity and mechanisms to be effective. An activist who had seen a draft told Human Rights Watch, "The [draft] National Plan is not a unified plan, and doesn't have detail or a strategic plan or a timeline or a budget."[210] UNICEF's child protection officer told Human Rights Watch in November 2005 that subsequent versions of the draft had been amended to include a focus on eliminating the worst forms of child labor, including child domestic labor, but that the plan still lacked a budget to implement its recommendations.[211]

Lack of coordination across agencies and between government and NGOs

Lack of coordination among government agencies and between the government and NGOs working on child labor is a major barrier to developing and implementing an integrated response to child labor. Since its creation in 2002, the Secretariat of State for Family, Solidarity, and Social Action, also known as the Secretariat for Family, Childhood, and Handicapped Persons, has been responsible for coordination of government programs "on all areas related to children."[212] However, the Secretariat lacks legal authority to force other agencies to take action, and its small budget and staff make it reliant on other agencies and on NGOs to implement its programs. The head of the Secretariat's Division on Women and Childhood told Human Rights Watch, "We don't have a ministry that has oversight over other ministries. We wrote into the [National Action Plan on Childhood] a committee to have oversight but not power and we are considering a recommendation for something like an ombudsman. We have 120 people on staff total, and the children's section is the smallest section. We would need to have more staff to have an oversight role."[213]

These deficiencies also limit the Secretariat's ability to maximize the resources currently available for child labor work in Morocco. Activists we spoke with stressed that there was virtually no evaluation of existing child labor initiatives, only limited training opportunities for NGOs working in this field, and no means of preventing duplication of services. Dr. Najat Mjid, director of Association Bayti, an NGO with ten years of experience working with street children, child domestics, and other children in difficult circumstances, told Human Rights Watch, "We need networking and coordination of local authorities and NGO services, and a clear division of labor. We need a global approach for children, including children in difficult circumstances, that focuses on prevention, and we need coordination between government agencies. The Ministry of [National] Education is in the midst of an educational reform plan but has not coordinated with literacy programs. There is confusion over the role of the Ministry of Social Development and the Secretariat of State [for Family, Solidarity, and Social Action].Donors come with their own plans without paying attention to the needs of the country. They have programs according to what is in fashion. There isn't evaluation of civil society activities."[214] Dr. Lahcen Haddad told us, "We need a secretariat with a special mission to look into coordination, and a system to monitor individual children to avoid duplication of services and to follow up on what happens to them over time.The government sees NGOs as the solution. We are throwing money at associations but they need capacity building, and the government needs to take the lead."[215]

The Committee on the Rights of the Child echoed many of these concerns in its 2003 review of Morocco, saying that,

The Committee notes the establishment of the Office of the Secretary of State for Family Affairs and Social Welfare to coordinate all actions regarding children.However, the Committee, noting the information by the delegation that the change of title from Minister of State to Secretary of State does not change its level in the government hierarchy or its mandate, remains concerned that this body does not have the financial and human resources to coordinate the implementation of the Convention throughout the State party effectively.
The Committee recommends that the State party empower and provide the necessary financial and human resources to the Office of the Secretary of State for Family Affairs and Social Welfare so that it can effectively and efficiently coordinate the implementation of all areas of the Convention, both between ministries and between national, regional and local authorities.[216]

Lack of a strategy for rehabilitation

Morocco lacks a clear, integrated strategy for the rehabilitation of child domestic workers, and particularly for those children under the minimum age for work. NGOs have taken up an increasingly large share of the task of rehabilitation and reintegration of child domestics, but their work is largely uncoordinated and they lack the financing, human resources, and legal status to make a significant impact.[217] More importantly, NGOs should not be expected to resolve larger structural problems that push children to work.

Current practice is for girls who run away from abusive employers to be sent to the government's `AbdelsalemBennaniCenter, a closed juvenile detention facility that also accepts abandoned children, pending return to their families or their reaching majority.[218] Detention in a closed facility is clearly an inappropriate solution for children in need of care, and in practice larger numbers of girls are now finding their way to NGOs that offer residential services for street children, child domestics, and other children in need of protection. However, information about how to access these services is not systematically provided to those likely to have contact with child domestics, and is largely dependant on NGOs' own efforts to foster relationships with police and judicial authorities. Dr. Najat Mjid told Human Rights Watch that the child protection system was fraught with gaps: "There is a lack of alternatives. When a doctor sees a victim he doesn't have the number of the judge and the judge doesn't have places to send the child."[219] She and other activists we spoke with also said that their capacity to accept children in need of residential care was limited, and that although they effectively acted as guardians to the girls in their care they lacked the legal status to do so, placing them at risk should harm befall a child.

The lack of appropriate residential care for former child domestics is especially acute for girls who become pregnant as a result of rape or sexual exploitation. Nabila Tbeur, director of the National Institute for Solidarity with Women in Distress, told Human Rights Watch,

The problem is with the girls under eighteen who cannot be returned to their families. We have only capacity to keep girls for six months and these girls need care for a longer period. We refer them to the Women's Union (al Ittihad al Nisawi). It is the NGO with a three-year program, but it also has great difficulty in succeeding with these girls because they are too young to work and to take care of their children. Usually the problem is that the families refuse to take them back out of shame.

[185]For example, ratification of ILO Convention No. 138 concerning the Minimum Age for Admission to Employment (ratified January 6, 2000), ILO Convention No. 182 concerning the Prohibition and Immediate Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour (ratified January 26, 2001); amendments to the Labor Code raising the minimum legal age for work to fifteen; amendments to the Penal Code punishing the sale of children (art. 467-1, amended by Law 24-03); and amendments expanding the period of free and compulsory education (Law 04-00, promulgated by dahir 1-00-200 of May 19 2000 (15 safar 1421) modifying dahir1-63-071 of November 13, 1963 (25 joumada II 1383) on the Obligation of Basic Education, Official Bulletin4800 June 1, 2000, p. 483.

[186] These programs are summarized inILO-UNICEF-World Bank, Understanding Children's Work in Morocco, pp. 32-35.

[187] The Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention requires member states to "take immediate and effective measures to secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour as a matter of urgency." Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, art. 1.

[188] Other sectors where working children are excluded from the Labor Code include traditional crafts and informal non-wage labor where children are working for their families or work on their own at least nominally on their own behalf, e.g.selling small items, shining shoes, etc. Labor Code, art. 4.

[189]Human Rights Watch interview with Al Sa`adiya Fahim, head of the International Labor Organizations Unit, Labor Directorate, Ministry of Employment and Professional Development, Rabat, May 25, 2005; e-mail communication from Rejae Berrada, UNICEF child protection officer, to Human Rights Watch, November 2, 2005.

[190] Human Rights Watch interview with Khaled Belkoh, director, Children's Rights Project, l'Espace Associatif, Rabat, May 30, 2005.

[191] Human Rights Watch interview with Al Sa'adiya Fahim, Head of the International Labor Organizations Unit, Labor Directorate, Ministry of Employment and Professional Development, Rabat, May 25, 2005.

[192]The report, required by U.S. law, was prepared during the negotiations of a U.S.-Morocco Free Trade Agreement. U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of International Labor Affairs, Laws Governing Exploitive Child Labor Report: Morocco, pp. 6-7, [online] http://www.dol.gov/ilab/media/reports/usfta/childlaborreport.pdf(retrieved October 10, 2005).

[193]Human Rights Watch interview with Al Sa`adiya Fahim, Head of the International Labor Organizations Unit, Labor Directorate, Ministry of Employment and Professional Training, Rabat, May 25, 2005.

[194]See, for example, Penal Code arts. 408-411; Morocco's report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child on its implementation of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography, July 15, 2005, CRC/C/OPSA/MAR/1, paras. 36-46, and Morocco's Third Periodic Report to the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights on its Implementation of the Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, E/1994/104/Add.29, January 17, 2005, para. 104.

[195] For example, article 408 of the Penal Code punishes intentional physical abuse, ill-treatment, and denial of food and care that affects the child's health. However, this provision only applies to children under fifteen, and prior to 2003 only applied to children under twelve. Penal Code article 408, as amended by Dahir 1.03.207 of November 11, 2003.

[196] Human Rights Watch interview with Rajae al Meskouri, social assistant, Association Solidarité Féminine, Casablanca, May 25, 2005.

[197] Human Rights Watch interview with Malak Ben Chekroun, ILO-IPEC Officer, Rabat, May 30, 2005.

[198] Human Rights Watch interview with Amina Qamri, vice president, Association Atfalouna, Marrakech, May 23, 2005.

[199] Human Rights Watch interview with Rajae al Meskouri, social assistant Association Solidarité Féminine, Casablanca, May 25, 2005.

[200] Human Rights Watch interview with Dr. Wafiya al `Anteri, Ligue Marocaine Pour la Protection de L'Enfance, (LMPE), May 30, 2005.

[201]Human Rights Watch interview with Nabila Tbeur, director, Institution Nationale de Solidarité avec les Femmes en détresse (INSAF), Casablanca, May 26, 2005.

[202]See the statute of the ONDE, available online at http://www.onde.org.ma/statut.htm (retrieved October 10, 2005).

[203]Human Rights Watch interview with Khaled Belkoh, director, Children's Rights Project, L'Espace Associatif, Rabat, May 30, 2005.

[204] Human Rights Watch interview with Dr. Wafiya al `Anteri, Ligue Marocaine Pour la Protection de L'Enfance, (LMPE), Rabat, May 30, 2005.

[205]Mohamad al Manasif et al., Children's Work in Morocco: Diagnosis and Suggested National and Sectoral Plans.

[206]Mohamad al Manasif et. al., Children's Work in Morocco: Diagnosis and Suggested National and Sectoral Plans, pp. 113-114.

[207]ILO-IPEC, Time-bound Programmes for the Eradication of the Worst Forms of Child Labour, [online] http://www.ilo.org/public/english/standards/ipec/themes/timebound/tbp.htm (retrieved October 10, 2005).

[208] Human Rights Watch interview with Malak Ben Chekroun, ILO-IPEC Officer, Rabat, May 30, 2005.

[209] Human Rights Watch interview with Froh Leila Belfakir, head of the Division on Women and Childhood, Secretariat of State for Family, Solidarity, and Social Action, Rabat, May 30, 2005.

[210]Human Rights Watch interview with Khaled Belkoh, director, Children's Rights Project, L'Espace Associatif, Rabat, May 30, 2005.

[211] E-mail communication from Rajae Berrada, UNICEF child protection officer, to Human Rights Watch, November 2, 2005.

[212]Human Rights Watch interview with Froh Leila Belfakir, head of the Division on Women and Childhood, Secretariat of State for Family, Solidarity, and Social Action, Rabat, May 30, 2005. Responsibility for child protection issues has changed several times over the past decade. See "Domaines d'intervention: Enfance" on the website of the Secretariat of State for the Family, Solidarity, and Social Action, available online at http://www.sefsas.gov.ma/domaines_interventions_enfance.htm(retrieved November 15, 2005).

[213] Human Rights Watch interview with Froh Leila Belfakir, head of the Division on Women and Childhood, Secretariat of State for Family, Solidarity, and Social Action, Rabat, May 30, 2005.

[214] Human Rights Watch interview with Dr. Najat Mjid, director, Association Bayti, Casablanca, May 29, 2005.

[215] Human Rights Watch interview with Dr. Lahcen Haddad, children's rights activist, Rabat, May 18, 2005.

[216]Committee on the Rights of the Child, Concluding Observations: Morocco, CRC/C/15/Add.211 July 10, 2003, paras. 13-14.

[217] For a discussion of the role of children's rights NGOs and their relationship with the state, see Noureddine El Aoufi et Mohammed Bensad, Analyse des pratiques en matire de protection des enfants: Enqute, Secrtariat d'Etat charg de la Famille, de la Solidarit et de l'Action sociale UNICEF-Rabat, January 2004.

[218] See INSAF's annual report for a discussion of its now-ended family reintegration program for girls detained in child safeguard centers. During 2001-02 INSAF returned twelve former child domestics held at the BennaniCenter to their families. All had been held on vagrancy charges.Annual Report, Institution Nationale de Solidarité avec les Femmes en détresse (INSAF), January 2005, pp. 53-55.

[219] Human Rights Watch interview with Dr. Najat Mjid, director, Association Bayti, Casablanca, May 29, 2005.