Cruelty towards household staff must stop
We are appalled by the cruelty of an employer's daughter towards 18-year-old Miyasa, a house staff. The 27-year-old woman scalded Miyasa by pouring boiling rice foam on her causing severe burns. It is by sheer fluke that Miyasa was rescued by police after a 999 call they received.
One cannot help but wonder what would have happened if that call had not gone through? Miyasa had been working for a year in that house so it is likely that she has suffered torture before. It may seem shocking to some that employers can treat their household staff in this way but the truth is that there are hundreds of child and adult domestic workers who are not treated like human beings. There have been innumerable news reports of employers and their relatives inflicting the most inhumane torture—burning child workers with an iron or heated steel spatula, tearing of hair, beating them, throwing them off the terrace—there is no limit to the types of brutality. The death of a domestic worker, usually a child, or her rescue by the police are the only times we get to know about it through media reports. The rest of the time there is total silence and nobody knows what happens behind the closed doors.
The reason why these crimes continue with impunity are many. Domestic work is part of the informal sector so there is no regulatory framework to stipulate minimum age of employment, minimum pay, working hours or weekly holidays. But more frightening is that workers have absolutely no protection against torture or sexual abuse. Live in domestic workers—especially child workers—are the most vulnerable to these abuses though even adult workers face physical and verbal abuse.
Unfortunately the state has given very little attention to the rights of domestic workers reflecting the apathy of the society as a whole, towards them. In 2015 the Bangladesh government approved the draft Domestic Workers Protection and Welfare Policy but this remains unimplemented and does not include minimum wage and working hours.
It is time to acknowledge that child domestic work has to be eliminated as it is hazardous and inhumane and in most cases deprives the child of basic rights to education and care. We must also incorporate domestic work under a legal framework where working hours, minimum pay and paid leave (including weekly holidays) are spelt out. The government must then enforce these laws and penalise employers who flout them.
The specific cases of domestic workers being abused or killed have to be prosecuted by the state as we have seen all too often how cases are not followed through because the employer has "managed" the situation by paying some money to the victim or the victim's family who are poor and powerless. Until these torturers are brought to book and there are laws to protect the rights of domestic workers, there will be many child and adult domestic workers who will be vulnerable to all kinds of abuse.