Born Slaves: Child Labor in an ‘Adultocratic’ World

March 11 2017

A Bangladeshi girl, Sharmin, 13, works at a plastic recycling factory as a boy plays on a heap of bottles in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on June 12, 2014. June 12 marks the World Day Against Child Labor, initiated in 2002 by the International Labour Organization to highlight the plight of child workers across the world. (AP / A.M. Ahad)

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“Well, my papa hit me with a board if I didn’t bring 20 bundles of firewood, which he sold in town. I was about 8 years old, and this is how I became a man—pure punches.”7

Rafael is 28 years old and is incarcerated in a Chiapan jail in southeast Mexico for running a child-panhandling network. For him, child labor is part of life, part of poverty. The use of violence to control children is normal for Rafael. He forced the children to beg for eight to 10 hours a day from tourists and locals in San Cristóbal de las Casas in southern Mexico, and he took a large percentage of the earnings they received.