Last Updated: Friday, 27 May 2016, 08:49 GMT

2008 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - The Gambia

Publisher United States Department of Labor
Author Bureau of International Labor Affairs
Publication Date 10 September 2009
Cite as United States Department of Labor, 2008 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - The Gambia, 10 September 2009, available at: [accessed 27 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Selected Statistics and Indicators on Child Labor
Population children, 5-14 years, 2005-2006:496,918
Working children, 5-14 years (%), 2005-2006:36.4
Working boys, 5-14 years (%), 2005-2006:28.5
Working girls, 5-14 years (%), 2005-2006:43.8
Working children by sector, 5-14 years (%):
     – Agriculture
     – Manufacturing
     – Services
     – Other
Minimum age for work:16
Compulsory education age:Not compulsory
Free public education:Yes*
Gross primary enrollment rate (%), 2006:74.0
Net primary enrollment rate (%), 2006:61.8
School attendance, children 5-14 years (%), 2005-2006:65.7
Survival rate to grade 5 (%):
ILO Convention 138:9/4/2000
ILO Convention 182:7/3/2001
ILO-IPEC participating country:No

* In practice, must pay for various school expenses

Incidence and Nature of Child Labor

Children in The Gambia primarily work in the informal sector, engaging in street vending, domestic service, and agriculture. Working girls engage in street vending, selling food items such as sweets, water, and fruits for their families. Working boys are found hauling items, sweeping, and collecting fares. Children in urban areas work as taxi or bus attendants. Children between 14 and 17 years work in technical sectors such as carpentry, sewing, tailoring, plumbing, masonry, and auto repair. Most working children in The Gambia work as part of family businesses, and very few are paid for their work. Children in rural areas are more likely to work than children in urban areas. Orphaned children are more likely to work than other children and more likely to work outside the household for pay. Children have been known to sell drugs for their parents, especially cannabis.

The practice of sending boys to Koranic teachers to receive education, which may include a vocational or apprenticeship component, is a tradition in various countries, including The Gambia. While some of these boys, known locally as "almudos," receive lessons, many are forced to beg by their teachers for money and food.

The commercial sexual exploitation of children, including prostitution and child sex tourism, continues to be a problem in The Gambia. Both Gambian men as well as European visitors exploit children through prostitution and sex tourism.

Within The Gambia, children are trafficked for domestic service and commercial sexual exploitation, including in the tourism industry. Boys are trafficked within the country for street vending and forced begging by religious teachers. Boys from Senegal are trafficked to The Gambia for forced begging, and Gambian boys are trafficked to Senegal for this purpose as well. Gambian girls are trafficked to Senegal for domestic service.

Child Labor Laws and Enforcement

Laws governing the minimum age for work in The Gambia are contradictory. The Labor Law of 2007 prohibits children, defined as persons under 18 years, from engaging in agricultural, industrial or non-industrial work. The Gambian Children's Act specifically prohibits the economic exploitation of children, including night work, hazardous work, and work that interferes with a child's education. According to the Act, however, children over 16 years can engage in light work, and children may serve as apprentices at 12 years or upon the completion of basic education. Penalties for child labor violations range from a fine to imprisonment for up to 5 years.

Employers are required to keep a register of all children employed, detailing their date of birth or age, and all employees are given employee labor cards that include their age. These cards are registered with the labor commissioner. The Department of Labor is responsible for enforcing laws related to the worst forms of child labor. However, according to USDOS, child labor inspections rarely occur.

Forced child labor is prohibited by law. The trafficking of children is specifically prohibited under multiple Gambian laws. Under the Children's Act, which takes precedence over other legislation, child trafficking offenses are punishable by life imprisonment. The law prohibits sexual relations with girls under 16 years. Multiple Gambian laws prohibit promoting child prostitution and procuring a child for sexual exploitation in The Gambia. Penalties for such offenses range from 2 years to life in prison and/or a fine, with a maximum penalty of 14 years of imprisonment for tourists who commit sexual offenses against a child. Child pornography is also prohibited by law. Children under 18 years may not be recruited into the Armed Forces.

In March 2009, a New Zealand national was prosecuted under the Tourism Offence Act of 2003. He was convicted of child pornography and sentenced to one year in prison, but was acquitted of a second count of defilement of a minor. The man's accomplice, a Gambian national, was acquitted on the charge of procurement. In November 2008, a German national was arrested for indecently assaulting an 11-year-old boy in a tourist area. In July 2008, a man was convicted of child trafficking and sentenced to 2 years in prison. In December 2008, a Dutch national was convicted of committing an indecent act with a boy; he was sentenced to 2 years in prison and a fine.

The Gambia was 1 of 24 countries to adopt the Multilateral Cooperative Agreement to Combat Trafficking in Persons and the Joint Plan of Action against Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, in West and Central African Regions. As part of the regional Multilateral Cooperation Agreement to Combat Trafficking in Persons, the Government of The Gambia agreed to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenders; to rehabilitate and reintegrate trafficking victims; and to assist fellow signatory countries to implement these measures under the Agreement.

A number of government agencies are involved in efforts to combat trafficking. According to USDOS, the Tourism Security Unit (TSU) and the Child Protection Unit within the Gambian military are taking on an increasing role in the enforcement and prevention of trafficking. The Department of State for Justice is the lead agency for coordinating anti-trafficking efforts; it serves as the Executive Secretariat for the Anti-Trafficking National Task Force and continues to employ one dedicated officer for trafficking. All law enforcement agencies in The Gambia have units dedicated to either anti-trafficking or child protection. At border crossings, Government officials check to make sure that minor children are traveling with their parents or with their parents' consent to prevent trafficking.

According to USDOS, TSU's patrols of the Tourism Development Area (TDA) have been effective in combating child sex tourism and commercial sexual exploitation. TSU continues to enforce a ban on unaccompanied children under 18 years in the tourist resort areas – turning these children away or placing them in the custody of the Department of Social Welfare – and hotel staff in the TDA refuse to allow children onto hotel premises.

Current Government Efforts to Eliminate the Worst Forms of Child Labor

The Gambia Tourism Authority (GTA) responded to the problem of child sex tourism by developing, in collaboration with UNICEF and the NGO Child Protection Alliance (CPA), a Code of Conduct for the Protection of Children in Tourist Areas, which outlines penalties for abusing children. CPA conducted training for teachers on commercial sexual exploitation and child rights, and training for staff and security personnel of small-and medium-scale businesses on the role of stakeholders in preventing child sex tourism, protecting children, and promoting responsible tourism. TSU is collaborating with GTA to compile a database of persons suspected to be and/or convicted as traffickers and/or pedophiles.

The Government finalized a national action plan to combat trafficking in December 2008. In October 2008, officials from the Department of State for Justice and UNICEF toured police stations and border crossings throughout the country to educate officers about trafficking and distribute copies of the 2007 anti-trafficking law.

The Government co-funded and operated, in collaboration with UNICEF and ChildFund International, a drop-in center that provides medical care and other basic services to street children and almudos. Once almudos have registered in the drop-in center program, they are no longer allowed to continue begging on the streets for their teachers.

The Government continues to run a 24-hour shelter for child trafficking victims. Children at the center are provided with basic services, and the Government helps reunite them with their families.

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