TIME Bolivia

Bolivia to Allow Children to Legally Work at Just 10 Years Old

Views From the Capitol As Bolivian Central Bank President Sees 5.5% GDP Growth This Year
Bolivia is set to reduce the child labor minimum wage to 10 years old. Noah Friedman-Rudovsky/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Supporters of a new bill say it will help reduce poverty, but human-rights activists aren't convinced

Bolivian lawmakers have approved new legislation that allows children as young as 10 years old to enter the workforce.

While the minimum age for child workers was previously 14 with no exceptions, the new bill is more flexible and allows children to start “working for others from age 12, which is allowed by international conventions, and self-employment from age 10,” said Senator Adolfo Mendoza, co-sponsor of the bill, reports AFP.

He emphasized that both the child and a parent or guardian must first voluntarily consent to the work and then seek permission from the public ombudsman.

Critics of the previous law argue that children younger than 14 years old must work to help support their families in the impoverished South American country.

Deputy Javier Zavaleta, co-sponsor of the bill, said he hoped it would help eradicate extreme poverty in the landlocked nation. “Extreme poverty is one of the causes, not the main one, of child labor,” he told AFP. “So our goal is to eliminate child labor by 2020. While it is ambitious, it is possible.”

But human-rights activists disagree.

Jo Becker, children’s-rights advocacy director at Human Rights Watch, called on Bolivian politicians to abandon the bill in early 2014. “Child labor perpetuates the cycle of poverty,” she said.

“Poor families often send their children to work out of desperation, but these children miss out on schooling and are more likely to end up in a lifetime of low-wage work,” she added. “The Bolivian government should invest in policies and programs to end child labor, not support it.”

The bill has now been sent to Bolivian President Evo Morales and is expected to be signed into law.

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TIME Bolivia

Bolivian Mayor Caught On Camera Groping Woman

The clip, which was was broadcast on Bolivian television, is just the latest in a series of incidents showing the mayor making unwanted advances on women

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The mayor of Bolivia’s largest city was caught on camera groping and kissing women – again.

Percy Fernandez, the Mayor of Santa Cruz, is seen in a new video placing his hand on the thigh of Mercedes Guzman, a journalist from a local television channel.

But this is not the first time that the mayor, recently called by President Evo Morales “the best mayor in Bolivia,” was caught making unwanted advances on women. At least two other instances of his sexual harassment were caught on camera in the past. Two years ago, footage showed him twice touching the bottom of his female City Council president, and in 2010 he forced a kiss upon a female engineer while inspecting a bridge.

“[We consider this] an expression of violence against all Bolivian women, especially because the mayor’s actions have happened before,” said Marcela Revollo, a Bolivian lawmaker.

After increasing public outcry, the 75-year-old mayor sent a video to Santa Cruz media in which he apologized to the journalist for the incident.

“I’m worried that I might’ve disrespected you while you were performing your duties. I apologize again to you and your dignified family,” Fernandez says on the video.

But opposition lawmaker Revollo said that the apology was not enough. She has filed a complaint accusing Fernandez of sexual harassment, sexual violence and discrimination.

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