Minister for Human Rights Dr Shireen Mazari
Minister for Human Rights Dr Shireen Mazari

ISLAMABAD: Minister for Human Rights Dr Shireen Mazari on Wednesday reiterated her resolve to declare domestic child labour hazardous under the Employment of Children Act 1991.

“In the absence of a proper law to protect domestic labour, this is the quickest way to protect children,” Dr Mazari told Dawn.

She was talking in reference to the murder of an eight-year-old domestic child labour. She was beaten to death by her employer for setting pet parrots free from their cage.

The Employment of Children’s Act 1991 prohibits employing children under 14 years of age in unsafe and hazardous environments such as factories, carpet industries and mines.

Dr Mazari has been asking the local administration, the minister of interior and the Ministry of Labour to make a proper law to protect domestic labour, including domestic child labour.

Says this is quickest way to protect children

In a tweet, Dr Mazari said her ministry was in touch with the police.

“Our lawyer is following the case. The husband and wife are on a four-day remand. MoHR proposed amendment to add domestic labour as a hazardous occupation in Schedule 1 of Employment of Children Act 1991,” she tweeted.

She also said a first information report (FIR) had been registered against the accused. She lamented that abuse of domestic child labourers is becoming so widespread.

“Just minutes ago we received another video of a seven-year-old domestic child worker screaming for help. Police have already reached the address in Bahria Town to rescue her. The girl will be taken to a women’s shelter,” Dr Mazari told Dawn.

The quickest way to protect children is by declaring domestic labourers hazardous for them. “The biggest problem is that there is no law protecting domestic labour, including rights of children,” she said as she emphasised putting a stop to employing underage children.

A bill concerning domestic labour drafted by the Ministry of Human Rights is lying with the Ministry of Law, she said.

Secretary Ministry of Human Rights Rabiya Javeri Agha stressed adding one more industry - domestic child labour - to Employment of Children Act 1991 which is not a complicated thing to do. “That will outlaw domestic child labour,” she said,

Emphasising changing the culture of abuse, Ms Agha said Pakistan is signatory to Convention on Rights of the Child (CRC) in which the definition of child is under 16, and Pakistan is legally bound to follow it.

“However, the constitution only restricts child labour till the age of 14 years. The first thing we must do is revisit the definition of a child in the Constitution of Pakistan to fix this discrepancy through legal intervention,” she said, adding parliament must support it.

According to an official, the Ministry of Human Rights will take up the matter again with the prime minister to declare domestic child labour a hazardous occupation under the Employment of Children Act 1991 as immediate measure to protect children.

“Children have heavily been engaged in homes for domestic work. This is the mindset we have to deal with and change it. It could be a while before a proper law is made to protect the interests of the domestic workforce. An amendment in the existing Act 1991 is the immediate solution,” he said.

Published in Dawn, June 4th, 2020

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