In his farewell speech, President Barrack Obama said something, which Pakistan is in dire need to adopt. He said “Rather than implementing laws against discrimination, a ‘change of hearts is required.’” What Obama was essentially saying was that law alone could not reform society.
Whenever there is news about molestation of a domestic child worker at the hands of his/her masters, everyone is found underscoring the importance of either making new laws or implementing the existing ones to eliminate domestic workers’ maltreatment especially that of children. Punishment and the fear of it have the power to bring the crime rate down. This approach enjoys universal acceptance and has been the norm of the civilised world. There is, however, more that the civilised world does besides creating a legal environment to curb crime. It builds the character of its people.
For a law to become effective, the crime that it aims at restraining should be taken as a violation of an ethical human conduct. If a crime is accepted as a general norm to an extent of finding ideological space it renders the legal environment impotent. This is what has happened to the issue of domestic child workers. Our society has grown indifferent to the practice of abusing domestic workers. The sad part is that the educated urban middle and upper middle class, with a graduation or post graduation degree, are generally found being harsh and brutal to domestic help. Recently, the family of an Additional District and Sessions Judge of the Islamabad High Court has been implicated in one such case. They would even burn the little girl Tayyaba’s hands to punish her. It did not matter to them if Tayyaba was only 10 years old. It also did not bother them that the Employment of Children Act of 2016 and the Punjab Restriction of Children’s Employment Act of 2016, bar employing a child under 14 years of age. It also did not trouble them that Tayyaba comes from a poor family that needs its children’s financial support to supplement the family income. And since one of the spouses earns his living by dispensing justice, the constitutional obligation of giving each child the right to education until the age of 16 never became a cause for him to stir the state to fulfil its obligation to take care of Tayyaba. In this typical case, there are no legal unknowns, no regulatory fog, no missives about religious or societal obligations towards the domestics, especially children.
To exit from this ambit of confusion we need a ‘change of hearts,’ to undo the behaviour that feeds on the class-based social system. It is character building, and not any new law or more curriculum or additional years of schooling required to eliminate the practice of abusing a domestic child worker from society.
We speak of extremism or the society exceedingly becoming intolerant. These streaks are embedded in the ideology that governs the heart and mind of an ordinary Pakistani, educated, uneducated, rich or poor. We have found terrorists who had studied in Darul Uloom Haqqania, Akora Khattak as well as in the Institute of Business Administration, Karachi. The tormentors of domestic child workers are found among judges, professors, and legislators. If education is not helping us to become a good human being where does the problem lie?
This phenomenon has been aptly described by Professor Whitehead, he said, “A merely well-informed man is the most useless bore on God’s earth.” Mere accumulation of ‘inert ideas,’ without putting them to use to make responsible citizens produces a breed that lamentably has destroyed the fabric of our society.
The trouble probably lies with the heart that has grown hard for lack of training of character building that the state, the families, and society as a whole has given up doing. A new law or a few convictions might bring down the incidence of harassment of the domestic child worker, they would make a man human, who would be compassionate and courteous to all others in all circumstances. Being informed of the moral that honesty is the best policy would be of little value if a child does not have the sense of its meaning, which essentially comes through consistent training of character building and role models around us.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 23rd, 2017.
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