The brutal torture of a child domestic worker in the capital’s Uttara has once again exposed the inhuman conditions in which many of our child domestic workers are forced to live. According to a report by The Daily Star Bangla, the 14-year-old girl started working in a household in Uttara one year ago and had been facing various forms of verbal and physical abuse at the hands of her employers since then. The torture on her intensified in the last four months during the lockdown. Her employers would make her work all day and would not let her sleep. If she felt tired, they would beat her up with sticks and burn her body with lit cigarettes and hot cooking oil. She was confined in the house and was not allowed to talk to her parents. As her physical condition deteriorated recently, she was sent to her parents at her village home.
Although there is no specific data available on the condition of domestic workers, including child domestic workers, as they are forced to stay inside their employers’ house because of the lockdown, it can be guessed from some of the incidents reported recently that lockdown might have made their condition worse. There must be many other children like the one in Uttara who have been suffering in silence.
The sad reality in our country is that poor parents often send their children to work in urban households with the hope that their children will at least get three square meals a day. However, in many cases their hopes get shattered as their children end up being abused and tortured by the household members while others are even killed.
According to Ain O Salish Kendra, from January until May 2020, at least 9 child domestic workers between the age of 13 and 18 were tortured, raped or killed—2 of them were physically tortured while 2 others succumbed to torture; 2 of them were raped while 1 was killed after rape; and another 2 committed suicide. During these five months, one child aged between 7 and 12 was physically tortured while another one died after torture (this is based on newspaper reports only).
The parents of these children rarely dare to file cases against the abusive employers as the latter usually belong to the influential section of society. In several instances in the past, when cases were filed against the torturer employers, they intimidated the victims’ family and forced them to withdraw the cases. Therefore, we think the state should take the responsibility in such cases and file lawsuits against the perpetrators of such heinous crimes. At the same time, the Domestic Workers Protection and Welfare Policy 2015 should be implemented immediately so that our child domestic workers are protected by the law.