The ISJ demands immediate ban on child domestic labour in Pakistan

The Institute for Social Justice (ISJ) said that death of ten years old Erum- a child domestic worker (CDW)- by her employer in Lahore in the first week of 2014 is a harsh reminder to society and the government. Erum Ramzan’s is one of the cases that show how children are brutally and mercilessly tortured and even killed by employers inside the boundary walls, which go unnoticed and under reported. However, Erum’s is the first reported cases in which the employer has confessed for torturing the child which resulted her death but in all reported cases since January 2010, no employer has admitted the crime, rather in the first place they influence the police and later on courts releases them on the account of no appearance from the victim’s family side or for lack of evidence.

Eram belongs to village Jandra Okara in Punjab province of Pakistan, she was found dead in the house of Altaf Mehmood in Askari 9 Lahore city. Eram’s mother said that Nasira (employer) and their son Muhammad Ibrar, along with two unidentified accomplices, tortured her daughter to death. She said that her daughter had been working at the house for the past three months. Sources said that her hands were tied, and that the body had torture marks.

Just after three days of Eram’s deaths, on 5th January 2014 another 16 years old child maid (Azra) was found strangled to death after being raped in Lahore city. Azra’s mother Shamim Bibi has lodged complaint with the police against the rich employer.  Azra had come from poor vicinity in Punjab and worked as maid at the house for three months. The employer claimed that the girl had committed suicide. In all such cases, the employers always make such statements. It is being reported by the police that at the crime scene there was no hook or other support which Azra could have used to hang herself. Azra’s case may also lose attention of police and authorities as sores of other cases have.

The ISJ’s press statement said that 2013 was worst year for children in the field of labour mainly in child domestic work in which more child domestic workers’ cases of tortures and deaths were reported in the media. Since January 2010 to December 2013, 52 cases of tortures on CDWs are reported including 24 deaths. In 2010, 12 cases of torture on CDWs 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.

The ISJ’s press statement said that CDWs are continuously sold, exploited, abused, raped, sodomized, tortured and killed. The phenomena of CDWs has general acceptance of internal trafficking, severe torture, abuse, exploitation, forced labour, slavery and murders of helpless and innocent persons. CDWs are deprived of all fundamental rights given in the Constitution of Pakistan (such as Articles 11, 25 (3), 25A) and even the right to life. In June 2013, the Supreme Court of Pakistan had also declared CDW as illegal and unconstitutional and had directed the governments to take measures accordingly.

The year 2013’s theme on the international day against child labour was “No to child labour in domestic work” which was set in light of the ILO’s Convention 182 Worst Forms of Child Labour and United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Pakistan acknowledges and prohibits forced labour, external trafficking, slavery and worst forms of child labour only in documents but yet has not been able to take any legal and administrative measures to ban CDW and stop brutal torture and murders of helpless innocent CDWs, mainly girls.

In the light of the UNCRC and its Optional Protocol on Sale of Children, ILO’s Conventions 182 and the Constitution of Pakistan, the federal and provincial governments should immediately declare CDW a form of slavery and include it in the list of worst form of child labour and should immediately be banned across the country under the list of banned occupation given in the Employment of Children Act 1991. The ISJ also demands for legal, moral and financial support and protection to Erum and Azra’s families until they receive justice from the court.