Indonesia (HRW) – Exposed to Harmful Nicotine, Pesticides
Thousands of children in Indonesia, some just 8 years old, are working in hazardous conditions on tobacco farms, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. Indonesian and multinational tobacco companies buy tobacco grown in Indonesia, but none do enough to ensure that children are not doing hazardous work on farms in their supply chains.
Most tobacco in Indonesia is bought and sold on the open market through traders and intermediaries, with the tobacco often passing through many hands before purchase by national or multinational companies. However, some farmers are under contract with individual companies.
The multinational companies that responded to Human Rights Watch prioritize direct contracting in their supply chains. Yet all also purchase tobacco on the open market, and none trace where open market tobacco was produced, and under what conditions.
Human Rights Watch could not find any evidence that the Indonesian companies take steps to prevent child labor in their supply chains, and they did not correspond in detail or meet with Human Rights Watch.
“When tobacco companies don’t even know where the tobacco they purchase has come from, there’s no way they can ensure children haven’t put their health at risk to produce it,” Wurth said.
Under Indonesian law, 15 is the minimum age for work, and children ages 13 to 15 may only do light work that does not interfere with their schooling or harm their health and safety. Children under 18 are prohibited from doing hazardous work, including in environments with harmful chemical substances. Any work involving direct contact with tobacco should be considered prohibited under this provision, due to the risk of nicotine exposure, Human Rights Watch said.
Indonesia has come under international scrutiny for failing to protect children from the dangers of smoking. Though Indonesian law prohibits the sale of tobacco products to children, nearly 4 million children, ages 10 to 14, become smokers each year, and at least 239,000 children under 10 have started smoking. More than 40 million Indonesian children under 15 are exposed to secondhand smoke.
Indonesia is one of only a few countries that has not signed or ratified the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, a global public health treaty aimed at protecting the population from the consequences of tobacco consumption and exposure to tobacco smoke. Indonesia should sign and ratify the treaty without delay, Human Rights Watch said.
“The government should do much more to protect children from the dangers of tobacco consumption,” Wurth said. “But Indonesia’s child tobacco workers are hidden victims, and they urgently need protection too.”