DOMESTIC SLAVERY & CHILD LABOR IN PAKISTAN
Children are visitors from another world-the angels that descend on this earth for a while.They are the sweetest briars, the brightest ray of hope, the bond of love and innocence and the guarantors of human arrival. They come and the earth smiles. It has been very beautifully said that survival of every baby is evidence divine grace.The flowers for gardens or to be worn in the collars, they ought not to be trampled upon or thrown into the gutter.Unfortunately most societies of the world, most especially those of the third world are what Shakespeare dubs as “unweeded garden” where nettles and hemlocks grow space and leave no room for roses and lilies.
Not that parents-rich or poor, educated, uneducated love their children any the less for this or that reason, but economic constraints and the blind struggle for survival changes their attitude towards their own offspring. When a family does not have enough to live frugally, it changes its pattern of life. Normally it is for the parents to earn and provide means of subsistence, but the children are forced to earn and sustain the family that would otherwise starve. This is mostly in case of families with larger number of children that are harnessed into action at a very tender age.
These unfortunate children are forced to work as domestic servants. They have no say in society. First of all, they are mostly migrants and most of these women and children are from Bangladesh, Sri lanka, Burma and Afghanistan. A large number of domestic workers in Lahore come from the areas within such as rural Punjab, Gujrat, Multan, Pothohar, Sargodha, Layia and others.
Their chores vary from cleaning washrooms to cooking odds and many other responsibilities. For all their work, they are paid a meager sum at the end of the month and most times it is the child’s family which is the beneficiary of the cash, as the diligent worker does not get even 2 percent of what they earn. The money they make is spent putting food on the family’s table or preparing the elder sister’s dowry.
In some instances these children are “leased” to the families for an entire year, the complete annual salary usually paid in advance to an agent who arranges the child’s working contract for a sum ranging from 1000 to 2000 per month. This entire amount is paid in advance to the brokers and is an understood fact that the children are not paid single penny of the payment.
In fact these children are more assiduous as workers than grown ups who are lazy and find reasons to avoid work.So the employers prefer to hire young children rather than adults, as domestic help. True or false it is much easier to “handle” and control these innocent kids than grown ups, who demand more respectable living conditions and facilities such as separate living quarters, rather than just random space in family house.
Domestic workers are the most vulnerable class working in society, because these kids do not get simple facilities like holidays on Eid or other gazetted days.There are no time limits for them.Their working hours range between 8 to 18. Employers behavior towards them is demeaning and even the salary they get is next to nothing.
Children being jailed on charges of theft is most common one. Because they are from a class that is very vulnerable and because the employers are very strong, the workers are frequently charged with theft even in minor cases such as disobedience.
Unfortunately, these children do not get anything of what they earn and that makes them feel worse because they develop a feeling of ” i do not have anything to call my own”.
They feel that parents take away whatever they strive hard for and in fact, in most cases the father just smokes away the child’s hard work. Our country we do not have special laws to deal with domestic slavery and child labor. We should have laws to curb this domestic slavery and child labor. Whatever fundamental rights are provided under the constitution should be linked to these issues.
As a society we have to think about a system of monitoring these children’s rights. It is not the responsibility of labor department only , which is a useless department anyway. We should change our attitude towards these innocent souls. We should not hire these children at our houses. Media should also play its role for eliminating the domestic slavery and child labor from the country.