LAHORE: DAILY QUDRAT :Over the first six months of 2019, at least 24 minor domestic workers in the provincial capital have been subjected to violence, physical or otherwise, at the hand of their employers.
According to the available data, as many as 85 cases were reported in the past five years. A lack of registration of domestic workers and a lack of law enforcement or leniency with regard to punishments, along with the fact that the victim’s parents often reconcile with the perpetrators, are all factors contributing to the rise in such incidents.
According to data obtained from the Child Protection and Welfare Bureau (CPWB), four such incidents were reported in 2014, 23 in 2015, 21 in 2016, 15 in 2017 and 22 in 2018. So far in 2019, at least 24 cases have been reported.
Perhaps the most ghastly of these incidents was the murder of 18-year-old Uzma, who was working as a maid at the home of a woman identified as Mahrukh. Reportedly, Mahrukh hit Uzma over the head with a kitchen utensil after which her condition started to deteriorate rapidly. Instead of taking her to a hospital, the accused’s daughter and sister-in-law strangled her to death and then dumped the body in a sewerage drain.
Police registered a case on the complaint of the victim’s father. Makrukh was taken into police custody where she confessed to committing the crime during interrogation. On the information provided by the accused, police also arrested Mahrukh’s daughter and sister-in-law.
However, Uzma’s father eventually withdrew the case after reconciling with the accused and the three women managed to walk free.
Sources revealed that similar cases have been reported in Kahna, Satu Katla, Township and Samanabad. They added that the victim’s families do not contest the cases in court and reconcile after being given blood money.
Meanwhile, the police stated that there is no data on domestic workers employed at citizen’s homes. Therefore, many cases of violence go unnoticed and unreported.
Lahore DIG Operations Ashfaq Ahmed stated that awareness campaigns are being conducted in Lahore regarding the registration of domestic workers. He added pamphlets are being distributed in posh areas of the provincial capital.
“Employing minors as domestic workers is a crime,” he said. “If any citizen spots a young child working as domestic help, he or she should immediately report it to the police and the Child Protection and Welfare Bureau,” he added.
However, in many cases, the police are unable to prosecute due to the fact that the victim’s family has reached a settlement with the accused, he highlighted.
Several legal experts maintained that in such cases, there should be no option for reconciliation and the government, instead of the victim’s parents, should be made the plaintiff. They added that registering domestic helpers should be made compulsory and a ban should be imposed on minor’s working as domestic help. They stated that the government should also fix minimum wages for domestic helpers.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, Child Protection and Welfare Bureau Chairperson Sara Ahmed maintained that employing children below the age of 12 is prohibited. She explained that the bureau takes victims into custody after receiving reports of underage children employed as domestic helpers.
“These incidents can be curbed by working mutually with the police and other institutions. Incidents of violence against domestic help can be curbed by making registration compulsory,” she said.
Most underage children working as domestic help are subjected to violence, she explained.