LAHORE: Human rights activists and members of the Christian community highlighted the issues of child labour and domestic workers on Sunday at a service marking the second death anniversary of Shazia Bashir, a teenager who died while working as a maid.
The Human Liberation Commission of Pakistan (HLCP) had organised the service at FGA Church in Esa’abad, Mughalpura. Some of Shazia’s relatives attended as well. Christian residents of Lahore staged angry protests after Shazia died two years ago, believing that she had been tortured to death by her employer. The Lahore High Court later acquitted a prominent lawyer of the killing.
Speaking at the service on Sunday, HLCP Chairman Aslam Pervez Sahotra said that women and children workers were being exploited and subjected to physical, mental and sexual abuse by their employers. He said children were being sold to work in big houses.
Sahotra said that employers also often victimised their servants through criminal proceedings. “They lodge cases against their maids when they demand their wages or their due rights,” he said.
He said that the state had done nothing to protect this vulnerable group, and that was why Shazia had died. He said Shazia had been employed through a broker who had not even told her parents where she was working. He said Shazia’s employer had been acquitted because he was an influential man.
Masiha Millat Party Lahore President Javed Julius demanded that the government take steps to secure the rights of domestic workers so that no incident like the killing of Shazia happens again. He said the government should register all domestic workers and provide them social security and pensions. “They should be given medical and other facilities under labour laws,” he said.
“And brokers who get underage girls jobs as maids must be punished.”
Bishop Akram Jan said the parliament should take cognizance of Shazia’s case and ensure justice in the matter.
Shazia died on January 22, 2010, in hospital. Her death sparked protests among the Christian community and her mother lodged a case with the police alleging that her employer Advocate Chaudhry Naeem had tortured, raped and murdered her.
However, a medical board found that she had not been raped and ruled that she had died of septicaemia due to acute inflammatory lung disease. Naeem was acquitted in November 2010.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 23rd, 2012.