#JusticeforUzma: Pakistani households and the abuse of domestic workers

Days after the case of Kinza, her bruised body and abuse at the hands of her employers met the internet, another tragedy has shaken the nation. The case is not the first of its nature, and will not be the last either if we continue to maintain our deaf ears and a blind eye towards the human rights crisis.

Uzma, only 15 years of age, was beaten to death by her employers for taking one bite of food. Her brutalised and tortured dead body was found in the drain in Neelam Block, Iqbal Town, Lahore. According to the reports,  Uzma was employed at this place 8 months back and was brutally subjected to physical assault. She took one bite from the plate, for which she was first punished by being beaten by a sharp object on the head. When she fell unconscious, rather than taking her to the hospital, the women treated her with electric current to bring her back to life and then threw her body in the drain.

Her father is a security guard and does not have the means to pursue the case. With the fear that he, sooner or later, will be pressurised to submit and backtrack, the internet community is raising voice and bringing the issue to notice.

The PTI Official Twitter handle also informed that the three culprits are currently behind the bars after immediate action and Uzma’s father has been assured all sorts of support with this case.


Also See: VIDEO | Juvenile Maid Working At Army Officer’s House Brutally Beaten By Employers, Shireen Mazari Responds


RIGHTS OF DOMESTIC WORKERS IN PAKISTAN

The state of domestic workers in Pakistan is nothing less than a human rights crisis craving for our urgent addressal. But the question is that is there any law that speaks about the rights of domestic workers?

By definition, the domestic worker is “any person working whole-time in connection with the work of any household for any consideration, whether in cash or in kind”. (Provincial Employees Social Security Ordinance)

Domestic work is a part of the informal sector of the economy (which is 73% of the economy as per resources). Due to it falling in the informal category, there is no proper record of how many individuals are serving as domestic help, but according to a study, every fourth household enjoys the services of a domestic servant. As per a report by ILO (International Labour Organization), domestic work makes up 4-10% of total employment in developing countries.

Coming to their legal rights, the labour laws mention domestic workers only two times. The Provincial Employees Social Security Ordinance 1965 (applicable in Balochistan, ICT, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab) says that the employer must provide full-time domestic helpers with healthcare and maternity leaves ((Section 55-A). An identical provision is also found in Sindh Employees’ Social Security Act 2016 (section 59).  The Minimum Wages Ordinance of 1961 (applicable in Balochistan, ICT, and Punjab) also includes domestic workers by definition but there are no defined minimum wages for them (note that KPK is not included here either.

Domestic Workers (Employment Rights) Act 2013, first bill on domestic workers to bring them in the bracket of labour laws was drafted and presented in Senate in 2013.  It was again submitted in 2015 and has been passed by the Senate in 2017. The bill aimed to protect their rights and bring them in social security net.

Provincial Employees Social Security Ordinance, though requires the employer to take of the employee’s health at his/own expense, there is no mechanism to check if the requirement is being fulfilled or not. 

Recently Lahore High Court (LHC) ordered the Punjab government to take serious measures to secure their rights and investigate the matters of their physical/verbal abuse. Court has also put a ban on hiring house help below the age of 15 and a draft of Domestic Workers Bill 2018 was also presented.

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