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India: Domestic Workers file cases of abuse at Public Hearing

India: Domestic Workers file cases of abuse at Public Hearing

by IDWFED published Jan 28, 2015 07:32 PM
Contributors: National Platform for Domestic Workers
India: Cases of abuses filed by domestic workers were told at a public hearing organized by National Platform for Domestic Workers.
Nov 11, 2014 (Asia/Calcutta / UTC550)
New Delhi, India
Contact Name
Nalini Nayak
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A Public Hearing was organised by the National Platform for Domestic Workers, on 11th November, 2014 at ISI, New Delhi with an aim to highlight the problems and atrocities faced by the Domestic Workers at the hands of their employers. It was an attempt to also draw the attention of the Government and the public to the need to develop measures to protect this vulnerable section of workers.

Ms. Anija Juneja (Delhi Gharelu Kamgar Sangathan), welcomed the participants representing the domestic workers organisations from all over the country, the Jury, the media and other guests. She also gave a brief history of the Platform that was created in 2012 with the single agenda of securing a Comprehensive Legislation for Domestic Workers. She said this was the second national event organised by the Platform to draw attention to the plight of the domestic workers – the first being a mass signature campaign that culminated in a public Dharna on July 31st 2013 which also submitted the signatures to the President and the Petitions Committee of Parliament.

This was followed by an introduction to the Public Hearing by Ms. Nalini Nayak (SEWA). She mentioned that this hearing would be just a small representation of the way a large number of domestic workers are treated from around the country. There were 25 cases that had been documented as affidavits from around the country out of which 7 would testify before the Jury.

Mr. Subhash Bhatnagar (Nirmala Niketan) then introduced the Jury members:
- Ms. Lalitha Kumar Mangalam , Chairperson, National Commission for Women2014.11.11_India_DWPublicHearing3
- Shri.P. M. Nair, Retired IPS who had earlier worked on the anti trafficking protocols and cell
- Shri S.C. Srivatsava, Member, National Law Association
- Shri Mallahan, Inspector, Delhi Police
- Mohuya Choudhry, Journalist
- Shri Shehnshah Ali , Secretary to Resident Commissioner, Jharkhand State
The Jury listened to the testimonies of the following workers:

  • Rekha Bibi – a case of non payment of wages
  • Jaba Khatum – a case of non payment of wages
  • Radha Rani – a case of police harassment because of a false complaint of theft of jewellery by the employer 
  • Deepali – a case of false allegation of theft
  • Sukurmani Tandy – a case of a migrant domestic workers exploited by a placement agency
  • Dwarkabai Bhaskar – a case of dismissal from work for taking an off to go to the hospital
  • Mother of Salma Khatum – a case of a young domestic worker who was murdered by the employer


The Jury listened and asked questions to get clarity on the testimonies and later worked on their verdict.

The next (post lunch) session provided feedback from experts of this field. The expert panel comprised of Dr Omkar Sharma (MOLE, also working as Asst. Labour Commissioner), Ms Bharti Birla (International Labour Organisation). The members of the expert panel laid emphasis on implementation of minimum wages, description of 16 different legislations to regulate labour related issues for different kind of industries, role of NGO’s & trade union in implementation, need for Vigilance Committee, need for social security laws, separate legislation for Domestic Workers.

In the last session the verdict of the Jury was announced by Ms. Amiy Shukla (Advocate & Social Activist).

The Verdict of the Jury:

While cases of abuse of domestic workers are sometimes reported in the press, the extent to which this happens and the manner in which the workers are tested and tried by employers and the fate they face even before the law… as revealed through these testimonies, is a blur on our society as a whole. That vulnerable women, who provide such an indispensible service to us are treated in such horrendous ways is a challenge to those of us who hold responsibility in government. Keeping in mind that the Indian Government has voted in favour of Convention 189 – Decent Work for Domestic Workers, it is only a natural requirement that measures are taken to protect them. Since the GOI aims to be inclusive and recognizes the contribution of such workers in the informal sector to the economy, it is imperative that legislative measures are put in place.

We therefore feel the following steps should be taken as soon as possible:

  • That domestic workers be included in existing labour laws which will need to be reviewed and amended in this light. 
  • More specifically, the agencies who place such workers should also be regulated by a specific administrative order from the Ministry of Labour.
  • A specific law is also required to regulate human trafficking of workers from different states. A National Coordinating body should be established for the purpose of regulating trafficking of domestic workers. The coordinating body should have all the information (registration, name, address) regarding the worker taken from one place to another and this information should be mandatory by law
  • The Ministry of Labour should also put in place a support system for the victims of physical and verbal abuse and harassment. There should be a helpline number for domestic workers where workers in distress can call and immediate support can be provided. In addition, a redressal mechanism should also be created at the city, block and district levels where by issues relating to salary, physical abuse or any other harassment can be negotiated. 
  • The domestic workers should themselves organise and create vigilance committees so that they themselves can support those that are ill treated. They should be made aware of their rights and different laws that relate to their well being. 
  • Attempts should be made to harness the power of the media in order to spread awareness about issues related to domestic workers. 
  • Efforts need to be made to sensitize police, district and jail administration officials about issues related to domestic workers by organizing workshops at different levels. 
  • Particular note should be taken of those children who are made to engage in domestic work as the law forbids children below the age of 18 to engage in such work. 
  • In order to render justice to this large section of workers, the Government of India should by all means create a Comprehensive Legislation to safeguard the rights of these workers.

The Jury also decided to take suo motto the case of Sabina Yasmeen, whose dead body was found in the month of January this year at her employer’s house, to ensure justice is delivered.

All the domestic workers who were present expressed their unity and renewed courage to take their struggle forward through their songs and slogans.

Ms. Shalinee Nascharr, (Delhi Domestic Workers Forum) then proposed the vote of thanks particularly to the Jury, the victims who shared their stories, the expert inputs, the media and all the workers and their organisations that had made this event a success. She hoped that this event would also achieve the results it intended to secure a decent life for the domestic workers.

More news at
The Times of India, 12 Nov 2014
Matters in India, 11 Nov 2014

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