Project

Bolivian Youth: In Harm's Way

Grade-schoolers in Bolivia toil away at construction sites and garbage dumps. They shine shoes and sell candy on the streets.

Often they do so with government approval. In 2014, Bolivia passed a law setting the world's lowest minimum age for child labor. At 10, children are allowed to work for themselves or their families. Once they hit age 12, they can work for others. NGOs that work with child laborers say some are exploited or sexually abused. Others wind up living on the streets, plagued by crime, violence, addiction, and prostitution.

Bolivian law also allows children up to age six to live with their parents in dangerous prisons. Inmates have raped and killed some kids.

Missing children abound. Justice is elusive. In 2016, Bolivia ranked 29 out of 30 in the region in the World Justice Report's Rule of Law Index, which measures such things as security, corruption, justice, transparency, and accountability.

"It has gone from bad to worse, unfortunately," Cochabamba lawyer Rolando Ramos said. "Today the justice situation is terribly bad."

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