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Bangladesh: Female domestic workers and their rights

Bangladesh: Female domestic workers and their rights

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by IDWFED published Jun 07, 2013 12:00 AM
According to media reports, 797 incidents of tortures on the domestic workers took place in the last 10 years. Of them, 398 were fatal. The government should take steps for halting oppression, bringing the domestic workers under the Labour Law, taking steps for registration, introducing inspection system, launching impartial investigation into killings and torture and giving exemplary punishment, conducting cases of workers at the expense of the government, not to settle cases by flouting criminal law, monitoring progress of the cases with administrative initiative, quick implementation of ‘Domestic Workers Protection and Welfare Policy 2010’, and ratification of ILO Convention (No. 189) titled ‘decent works for domestic workers’.

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Read the original article in full: Female domestic helps and their rights | The Independent

A local case of torture on a domestic worker

A court in Faridpur district on May 19 sent housewife Namita Sikder, 35, to Faridpur jail after rejecting her bail petition in a case filed on charge of torturing her maidservant. According to media reports, victim’s lawyer Shipra Goswami said Namita Sikder, wife of Pankaj Sikder of Faridpur town,  burned different parts of the body of Suborna Das, 11, after tying her legs and hands on suspicion of stealing her gold chain from the house. Neighbours rushed the injured girl to One Stop Crisis in Faridpur Medical College Hospital on April 13. Namita went into hiding after the victim’s mother Shikha Das on April 24 filed a case with Faridpur kotwali thana against her under the Women and Children Repression Prevention Act.

Court sources said the housewife surrendered at the court for bail, but the court’s judge Abdullah Al Masud sent her to jail, turning down her bail petition.

Court sources said Namita Sikder used to torture domestic worker Suborna since her joining her house at Charkamalpur one year back. The house’s TV was kept on with full volume while she was being tortured so that the victim’s crying could not go out of the house.

Many domestic workers are facing various tortures and deprivation

This is not an isolated incident. There are many domestic workers who faced different tortures at the hands of their employers.

Domestic workers have been traditionally aiding households in different domestic works since long.  They perform many tasks at their employer’s house from morning till night. But there is no law, rule, inspection system for the round-the-clock service providing domestic workers. They have no registration and identity card.

According to media reports, 797 incidents of tortures on the domestic workers took place in the last 10 years. Of them, 398 were fatal.

It is unknown when the domestic works first started in our society. But it is a matter of regret that this profession has been neglected for so long. A huge number of domestic workers have not yet been recognized as workers. Till now, no effective step has been taken to fix their wages and protect their rights.

Their contribution was not evaluated in the national income. The issue of workers’ rights was mentioned in the declaration of universal human rights and matter of rights has been recognised in our constitution.

As they have been kept outside the purview of the Labour Law 2006, they have been deprived of enjoying different rights and they faced different tortures on different excuses. They are not safe even staying at home environment, both their physical and mental growths are being hampered.

Most of those who work as domestic workers at residential places are female.  It is tough to determine their actual number because of lack of registration. The torture on the domestic workers is rising day by day and its mode is also changing, said Domestic Workers Rights Network (DWRN).

According to baseline survey, 2007 of ILO and UNICEF, there are a total of 4,20,000 child domestic workers (aged 6-17 years) in Bangladesh.

According to the baseline survey, 2007 of ILO and UNICEF, the Dhaka City Corporation area has 1,47,000 child domestic workers (aged 6-17 years).

Harassment, torture and violation of human rights of the domestic workers reached an alarming proportion recently.

According to a joint survey of Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies (BILS) and Dhaka University (2005), the domestic workers faced various tortures and deprivation such as lack of scope of education and recreation, abusive language, physical torture, threat to terminate their job, excess works beyond capacity, sexual harassment, sense of insecurity and mental frustration.

What the society should do

Nazma Begum, member secretary of DWRN, said many domestic workers were killed, injured and suffered different forms of mental and physical tortures, but the oppressors did not get punishment by court for various reasons; factors such as the humble circumstances of the victims compared to their socially more powerful oppressors cannot be discounted.

Nazma Begum said: “We should all come forward to raise our voice to halt repression of the poor people as the torture on the domestic helps is a violation of human rights and stigma to civilization.

“The workers have been kept out of the country’s Labour law and there is no registration system for them. Hence, the trouble is continuing. If there was a formal registration system and legal recognition, the trouble would have gone, she said.   

“Though they stay at houses most of the time and perform many tasks, they face discrimination. Being a human being, we cannot accept the injustice being perpetrated on so many people of the country,” said Nazma.

“Injustice on the female domestic workers is hampering their growth and spoiling their future. They should be protected in the interest of the country,” she added.

Difficulties of the domestic workers

Irene Akhtar Mukti, women affairs secretary of Bangladesh Labour Federation, said: “The female domestic workers want to protest the injustice on them, but they have no capacity as they are poor.” Mukti said that they wanted to hold programme with the participation of the domestic workers to protest against the repression, but their employers did not allow them to come out of houses.

Those who are employed and kept at houses permanently by employers, they are not allowed to come out of houses.

Even the young girl workers are not allowed to complete their studies, because their employers thought that this will hamper household works.

The government should take steps to protect the domestic workers

Tortures on the domestic workers could be stopped if the government has taken timely steps giving exemplary punishment to the oppressors and publicized it to the public, said DWRN.

The government should take steps for halting oppression, bringing the domestic workers under the Labour Law, taking steps for registration, introducing inspection system, launching impartial investigation into killings and torture and giving exemplary punishment, conducting cases of workers at the expense of the government, not to settle cases by flouting criminal law, monitoring progress of the cases with administrative initiative, quick implementation of ‘Domestic Workers Protection and Welfare Policy 2010’, and ratification of ILO Convention (No. 189) titled ‘decent works for domestic workers’.

No child domestic workers

Child domestic workers should be freed from all kinds of labour so that they can go to schools and can pursue compulsory primary education. Employers should ensure education and vocational training to the domestic workers aged between 13-18, ensuring all facilities for domestic workers in the light of Domestic Workers Protection and Welfare Policy-2010, monitoring repression incidents on domestic workers and bringing the offenders to book, said DWRN.

Children’s parents should register the names of those who will take their children to the towns from villages for work with the concerned union parishad in order to check child trafficking. Employers must register the names of their domestic workers with City Corporation/pourashava when they appoint any worker.

The government must strengthen relevant laws on working hours, rest, recreation, leave, salaries and other necessary facilities. The government should take steps for forcing the employers to pay necessary compensation to the domestic workers in case of their injuries or sickness caused while performing the works.

DWRN hoped that it will be possible to establish the rights of the poor domestic workers with combined and sincere efforts of all concerned.

Photo: Sam Sherratt/FLICKR

Source: Md. Sazedul Islam/The Independent

Story Type: News

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