29th slave child reported dead: nobody’s problem, no body’s responsbility

On 13 February, 29th death of a child domestic worker is reported in the media since January 2010 after the death of Shazia Masih. Iqra, 13, was found strangled at her master’s (Mian Shahid) house under mysterious circumstances in Lahore. Parents of the child and police have found torture marks on Iqra’s neck. Iqra was working at her employer for the last one year. As usual the employer is denying responsibility of the death.

In January 2014, 4 deaths and 2 torture cases of child domestic workers are reported in the media: Erum, 10, was tortured to death in Lahore; Azra Ramzan, 16, was raped and strangled to death in Lahore; Haresh Kumar, 10, jumped off sixth floor to avoid more torture in Karachi; Waheed, 10, was tortured for stealing money in Multan; Iram, 16, poisoned to death in Lahore; Fiza, 15, was raped and tortured, she died after three days in hospital in Lahore; Munza, 12, detained and tortured in Lahore.

Since January 2010 to December 2013, 52 cases of tortures on child domestic workers were  reported including 24 deaths. In 2010, 12 cases of torture on child domestic workers were reported including 7 deaths; in 2011, 10 cases of torture on CDWs were reported, of which 6 children were dead; and in 2012, 8 cases including three deaths were reported. In 2013, 21 cases, including 8 deaths of CDWs were reported. All of the cases in 2013 were reported from Punjab province; except two, all were girls. The last reported case in December 2013 was of a nine year old girl from Gujranwala who was beaten up by her employer on the account of stealing gold. She was hanged upside down from a ceiling fan.

Innocent children are brutally and mercilessly tortured, raped, killed by employers inside the boundary walls but these tortures, deaths and raps are nobody’s problem and nobody’s responsibility. The government of Punjab has closed its eyes and society’s moral seems dead.

As usually recent case of Iqra will fade away, no one will follow up, parents either will withdraw cases at the police station level or if the case registered, will comprised with the employer out of the court. This is typically the fate of every case of death of child domestic workers. 

In 2013, though the Supreme Court had declared child domestic labour illegal and unconstitutional, and had directed the governments to take measures accordingly. The federal and provincial and provincial governments yet have not respected Courts views. Though the year 2013’s theme on the international day against child labour was “No to child labour in domestic work” but millions of children in Pakistan are working in others’ houses as domestic slaves; raped, sodomized, tortured and deprived of health and education rights.

In the light of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, UNCRC’s Optional Protocol on Sale of Children, ILO’s Conventions 182 Worst Form of Child Labour and the Constitution of Pakistan, the federal and provincial governments should immediately declare child domestic labour a form of slavery and immediately ban across the country under the list of banned occupations given in the Employment of Children Act 1991.