Abuse of maids

Published: January 26, 2014
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The police in Lahore say that in four cases of maids being tortured, three of them subsequently died. PHOTO: FILE

The police in Lahore say that in four cases of maids being tortured, three of them subsequently died. PHOTO: FILE

Once again there are reports of maids, one as young as 10, being physically abused and sometimes murdered by their employers. The majority emanates from Punjab but the spread of abuse is countrywide. Those doing the abusing and killing, to judge by the location of their houses, are from what are laughably called ‘the elite class’; but it is not limited to those who are rich but barbaric. Maids can expect to be abused if their employer is a family of even modest means. The police in Lahore say that in four cases of maids being tortured, three of them subsequently died. It is difficult to imagine the severity of the injuries that would lead to death, but there is a mounting body of evidence that physical torture features in the miserable lives of many maids.

Such abuses are not new, but what is new is that they are reaching the eyes and ears of a wider public as the media is more willing to take up well-documented cases of abuse, and civil society organisations are more effective at keeping these grim events in the public domain. Even the police appear to be more willing than was historically the case to register cases and prosecute those who kill and maim even if they do belong to ‘the elite class’. There is a perceptible erosion of the culture of impunity, that at least in the capital area will be bolstered by the recent enactment of a bill designed to protect domestic workers rights. The provinces have yet to follow suit in terms of the protection of some of the most vulnerable in our society. Whilst legislation is laudable, it is a change in the national mindset that is most urgently needed, particularly in respect of the employment of children and very young girls in homes everywhere. The curse of child labour is all around us, from the slaves in brick kilns to the children who sew footballs. Pakistan needs to re-swing its moral compass and treat its children as something other than portable property. 

Published in The Express Tribune, January 26th, 2014.

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Reader Comments (2)

  • Toticalling
    Jan 26, 2014 - 1:39AM

    Great editorial. There is more cruelty against Maids than what you read in media. But basically our society is based on selfish upbringing. I am told that many fathers beat up their children more often that one can imagine and that is done in the name of love. I met a guy who told me that as children whenever he sat at the dinner table, mother would warn him not say a word. Otherwise father would shut him up and give a spanking. Those who grow up in fear of authority, pass it on other weaker persons like maids and smaller helpless children. It is an evil circle. you knock on any door and see more darkness than what you are used to.

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  • Shankar Nair
    Jan 27, 2014 - 10:54AM

    I think we in Asia have not left our feudal past yet. Mistreatment of domestic workers is so common in most parts of India also, Kerala being an exception only because of low rate of population growth and high per capita income. Children should be compulsorily sent to school till at least they are 14. The argument usually is that they will starve if they do not work.But any government worth the name should look after the children and the sick. Even worse is kids being employed in repetitive work in kilns, match factories, and tanneries. Being a parent I have always felt guilty when i see small kids working.
    I am glad that your media also is taking up the issue.but when will the government and citizenry wake up

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