Violence and abuse among working children in urban and suburban areas of lower Sindh, Pakistan

Meesha Iqbal, Zafar Fatmi, Kausar Khan, Asaad Nafees

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Child labourers are exposed to an insecure environment and higher risk of violence. Violence among child labourers is an under-studied phenomenon which requires contextual assessment. Aims: We applied Bronfenbrenner’s ecological model (micro-, exo-and macro-system) to understand the interplay of indi-vidual, community, societal and policy context fuelling violence. Methods: Focus group discussions and family ethnographies of child-labourers working in common occupational sec-tors of suburban areas of Sindh were carried out to gain in-depth understanding of their immediate environment and abuse (micro-system). Frequency of emotional, physical and sexual violence (5–14 years; n = 634) was also determined. In-depth interviews with employers (exo-system, n = 4) and key-informant-interviews of prominent stakeholders in Pakistan (macro-system, n = 4) working against labour/violence were carried out Thematic-content analysis was performed using MAXQDA, version 8.0. Results: We estimated that 21%, 19% and 9% of children suffered from emotional, physical and sexual violence respective-ly. Child labourers’ interviews indicated the existence of all forms of abuse at home and in the workplace; sexual violence by grandfathers was highlighted (micro-system). Children reported frequent scolding and insults in the workplace along with physical violence that could be fatal (exo-system). The legal environment of violence in Pakistan was considered de-ficient as it did not address the hidden forms (touching, kissing, etc.; macro-system). Conclusion: We documented that all forms of violence were rampant among the child labourers, and improved efforts and comprehensive legislation is direly needed to alleviate the situation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)501-508
Number of pages8
JournalEastern Mediterranean Health Journal
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Child labour
  • Pakistan
  • Physical maltreatment
  • Sexual child abuse
  • Violence


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