Child actors are regularly exposed to unsuitable, dangerous conditions while working in the entertainment industry. Whether in daily soap operas or reality shows, children are subjected to hazardous situations where they have to handle emotional and physical stress. In the absence of a dedicated monitoring mechanism, there is every likelihood of child actors being exploited when it comes to the number of hours worked per day, and short-changed in terms of educational and safety provisions.
The issue of child labour or concerns over the participation of child actors in Indian Television industry has existed since long. But the recent social media post by Indian film director Shoorjit Sarkar has once again brought the issue in broad daylight, highlighting the need of sensitising the way child artists are treated.
When it comes to the law that regulates working of child actors, the recently amended Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act, 1986 puts a blanket ban on all children in all occupations with exceptions of them helping their family (other than hazardous occupations and processes) after school hours and vacations and child artists in the audio-visual entertainment industry.
The Amended Act defines child artists as children who perform or practise any work as a hobby or profession directly involving him as an actor, singer, sportsperson or in such other activities related to the area of entertainment or sports. The amendment to the Child Labour rules makes it compulsory for producers of any production house or commercial event to seek permission from the District Magistrate before hiring or involving children in any such activity. An undertaking must be submitted to the Magistrate along with the names of children who’ll participate in the event or activity.
The consent of each child’s parents or guardian along with the details of persons who’ll be accountable for the participants’ safety and security must also be submitted along with the permit application. One person for every five children must be appointed by the production house to ensure care and protection of every child.
The rules accentuate that the children who participate shall not be subjected to discontinue their school education and not be allowed to work for more than 27 consecutive days. A child cannot be made to work beyond five hours, or for more than three hours without a break.
However, the rules lack in providing any protective provisions for children under six years. The laws that protect the wellbeing of child artists in the entertainment industry and intend to ensure their protection and education, fail to safeguard the child’s rights to recreation and leisure.
The question of child labour in the entertainment industry remains prominent as children working in daily soap operas are subjected to work continuously for more than 12 hours at a stretch, child participants in reality shows are often put through stiff competition exercises and long practices. The physical- emotional stress that the children are put through is often hidden under the glitz and glamour of the attraction that the entertainment industry is.
The need to establish the liability of not only the parents but also the production house for the wellbeing of the child artist in need. It is important that the child artists are not treated as commodities to garner higher ratings and stringent norms regarding the participation of children in reality shows in needed.
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