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How Mined Diamond Jewelry fuels Child Labour and Sexual Abuse

Would you prefer adorning yourself with a diamond picked up by a 9 year old school drop-out, working in the most inhuman condition and potentially at the risk of sexual abuse?

The question might surprise some, but diamond mining is a potential site for extreme types of child labour, that often ends up in child abuse. As most smaller mines are unregulated, children as low as 9 years work in the mines and often spent their whole lives extracting diamonds for as less as $1 per day, which could be considered as nothing less than a modern day slavery.

“It’s a bad work. It’s very hard, but I have no option. I would rather work as a mechanic or with anything else than in the mine when I grew up, but to find a good job, I would have to study.”

14 Year Old Digger (DRC)

Above is the statement of one of the miners from DRC who began working in a diamond mine when he was 14.

Democractic Republic of Congo is the third largest producer of rough diamonds and constitutes a total of 13% of the global diamond output.

“I mine diamonds to survive.”

                                                                                    15 Year Old Digger (Sierra Leone)

Interestingly, an estimated 70% of the diamond mines in DRC are artisanal, which means, the workers are not officially employed by the mining company, but work on their own, hence hardly get any kind of job security or health related safety. According to a report by SwedWatch, more hundreds of miners die every year because of tunnel collapses and drowning, but the incidences are hardly reported.

Since the work in the artisanal mines is neither formalised nor backed or supported by the government, they naturally become the hotbed of the worst forms of human rights abuses that remain under cover.

“If there is a way for me to get out of the mines, I will be very happy, because this is a man’s job.”

                                                                                                 Child Miner(Sierra Leone)

Since the tradesmen who wield greater control over the quarries because of the muscle power, most of the time reporting from these mines become difficult. This is the reason, at any given time, getting to know the exact number of children toiling to make their ends meet by selling off their future is difficult to attain.

Yet it is an open secret that child labour in mines is rampant and it really does not matter which country you are looking at. Be it Angola, DRC, Sierra Leone or any other country, it is prevalent everywhere.

The child miners accompany their parents to the mining sites and often end up helping them and become child miners and then, if they are lucky to have survived the untoward incidents often leading to death,  spend the rest of their lives digging the earth and extracting diamonds.

Diamond Mining and Sexual Abuse are Far Closely Intertwined than You Think!

The biggest irony is that the countries who are the biggest exporters of diamonds are also the poorest. The people living in the vicinity of these mines are barely able to make their ends meet. In fact, in DRC’s Tshikapa – an area with diamond mines, more than 82% of the houses are made of mud, having straw roofs, while the majority of homes lack electricity and a supply of safe drinking water.

The destitution and poverty often results in young girls become a potential source of income for their family, either as a bride with a price tag or through direct prostitution.

“A daughter is considered goods, merchandise, that can be sold.”

                                                                 Female Teacher of a School in Tshikapa (DRC)

Parents generally get somewhere between 500 – 1000 euros from the prospective husband of their daughter, which they are likely to spend on medicines, fees of other children and other essentials. In Tshikapa, a girl is normally considered as a merchandise that can be sold and is often married at the age of 12 -14 to a man 3 – 4 times of her age. Early marriage prevents the girl from education and then the vicious cycle of poverty and women oppression sets off.


Stay tuned – More to be updated soon


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