Domestic help starved, beaten by employer

Updated 10 Jul 2020

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Eight-year-old girl has been rescued by the Punjab Child Protection and Welfare Bureau. — AFP/File
Eight-year-old girl has been rescued by the Punjab Child Protection and Welfare Bureau. — AFP/File

LAHORE: A child domestic worker was allegedly kept hungry for five days and beaten up after being accused of stealing milk from the employer’s house.

Eight-year-old Sana was rescued by the Punjab Child Protection and Welfare Bureau (CPWB) on Thursday and was found to have severe marks of torture on her body.

Sana was working at Hammad Raza’s home in Wapda Town and was regularly punished by her employers through physical abuse. The CPWB was alerted through a call on their helpline 1121.

According to Sarah Ahmed, chairperson of the CPWB, Sana had been working for seven months at Hammad Raza’s house for Rs5,000 a month. She said that upon her rescue it was noted that there were injuries on her hands and feet and burn marks on her neck and back. She said the child had been beaten up on the allegation of stealing milk.

“The child had been kept hungry for the past five days,” she told Dawn. After the child is presented in a court, a medical examination will be done as per court order, and an FIR will be lodged in police station, she said.

The child’s parents have been informed. “She will be given all medical treatment required, as well as legal aid to help with the case.”

The child showed marks of torture on her entire body and her limbs were swollen because of being beaten while there was a deep gash on her wrist done by a knife. On the back of her neck, she had been scalded with hot water and she said they had slashed her stomach with a heated knife and her ankles were bruised from being beaten with a stick.

Although there are no official statistics, it is estimated that more than 250,000 children work in homes across Pakistan as domestic workers.

Under the lockdown, unemployment of domestic labourers has increased, and while domestic help is needed, usually only children are employed as they are ‘cheaper’ and ‘easier to deal with’.

The Hari Welfare Association (HWA), the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (Piler) and the Institute for Social Justice (ISJ) released a report in January 2020 which revealed that more than 140 cases of abuse, torture, rapes and murders of child domestic workers (CDWs) had been reported in the media during the past 10 years but these were all high-profile ones.

It was also specified that in terms of torture and abuse, 2013, 2017 and 2019 had been the worst years for child domestic workers as at least 21, 27 and 19 cases of abuse, respectively, were reported during these years in the media.

Of the total in ten years, 96 children were tortured and raped, and 44 of them were murdered. Around 79pc of the cases were reported from Punjab, 14pc from Sindh, 6pc from Islamabad and 1pc from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Out of the total, 34pc children were ten years old and below, 40pc between 11 and 14 years old, and 26pc between 15 and 18 years old.

Published in Dawn, July 10th, 2020