After taking a PR battering recently about its ongoing use of children to harvest cotton, Uzbekistan is now contending with intensifying international scrutiny of its forced labor practices.
The cotton harvest is in full swing in Uzbekistan. That means officials are pressing legions of school-age children into service to pick bolls, rather than allowing them to hone reading, writing and math skills, rights activists contend. For activists, the use of child labor is old news. But they are cheered by the fact that international awareness of the issue is higher than ever. And increased attention is translating into pressure on Tashkent to end the practice.
Uzbekistan is a signatory to international conventions banning the use of child labor. However, President Islam Karimov’s administration has long resisted allowing International Labor Organization (ILO) monitors to undertake a monitoring mission in Uzbekistan.
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Joanna Lillis is a freelance writer who specializes in Central Asia.