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All over the world, children are weaving carpets, cutting and polishing
precious stones, assembling shoes, cutting and sewing garments, mining for
diamonds, gold, silver, and tin, cutting sugar cane, harvesting fruit, coffee, and
other crops, manufacturing toys, sporting goods and appliances, and working
as domestic servants, street vendors, herders, migrant workers, and prostitutes.
These children often work long hours with dangerous tools and machines and
are exposed to hazardous chemicals, polluted air, and infectious diseases.
They are denied the education that is their right and deprived of prospects for
even minimally prosperous and healthy lives.
The economic exploitation of children has generated an expanding set of
international legal standards designed to protect children from the harmful and
dangerous effects of child labor. These standards, although well established,
have suffered from many of the same practical weaknesses that have limited
the effectiveness of international human rights law generally. This dilemma -
strong legal norms but weak enforcement mechanisms - has contributed to a
recent rise in private action to prevent child labor. These private initiatives
utilize the standards embedded in international law and may, in turn, contribute
to an evolution that will ultimately transform principles into effective,
enforceable, legal norms.

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child labor, international law, human rights