Priority must be given to prevention. This is the least costly action for society; it affects the greatest number of children, and its effects are long-term. Preventive action should take place in the legislative, economic, social protection, and educational and advocacy spheres.
In countries where bonded child labour exists, legislation should be enacted to deal with the problem:
• in many cases, legislation needs to be revised and provide for precise definitions of the forms of slavery and bondage existing in the country. Slavery must appear as a crime;
• sanctions that are tough enough to be dissuasive should be provided for;
• the question of the liquidation of existing debts and other obligations must be answered unambiguously;
• regulations must be established to facilitate the implementation of the law, in particular to ensure rapid action from the judiciary;
• the law must envisage the possibility of special jurisdiction to be able to confront simultaneously a concentrated number of children in bondage at the same site and to safeguard the independence of the tribunals and institutions charged with executing the decisions taken;
• laws and regulations should also be transmitted swiftly with the appropriate instructions to the local institutions and authorities charged with enforcement;
• laws and regulations should be communicated to the victims, the offenders and society at large in a manner that is comprehensible to them, for example in local languages and over the radio, or through meetings if the concerned population groups are illiterate; and
• legal aid should be placed at the disposal of the child victims' parents to enable them to claim their rights, and special arrangements should be made, where required, to find the parents within a reasonable time-limit if the child is separated from them.
Poverty and social exclusion
Poverty and social exclusion should be addressed according to the needs of the concerned population groups. Agrarian reforms which provide access to land and incomes, as well as employment-promotion measures and social protection for disadvantaged families, can be effective in preventing bondage.
In most cases, the bondage of a child is the consequence of an urgent temporary financial need. Providing credit opportunities, other than via the employer and the region's dominant landlords, could break the vicious circle and provide an opening for the gradual lessening of dependence. Close to 10,000 institutions providing small loans have been listed in the world and many of them are modelled on the Grameen Bank approach. NGOs with the capacity to adapt appropriate micro-bank models to the local situation and introduce them to communities at risk might be one of the most promising ways of countering bonded labour.
Information, education and social mobilization
Government and other concerned groups should be encouraged to:
• launch research on bondage situations and facilitate analysis by organizing meetings between experts of complementary disciplines;
• diffuse information to all segments of society, provoke condemnation of bondage practices and mobilize the entire population;
• make known to the families at risk their rights and the ways in which they are able to have them respected;
• increase education on human rights, in particular children's rights;
• insert in administrative personnel training programmes an introduction to the problem of child slavery and bondage;
• launch sensitization programmes in employers' and workers' organizations;
• provide a specific component on child bondage in the training: of labour inspectors and police officers; and
• set up effective protection for researchers, journalists, social workers and various activists who denounce practices of bondage.