Speakers at a national conference on child domestic labour (CDL) have urged the government to completely ban the domestic child labour in the country under the Employment of Children Act 1991.
They demanded the implementation of Article 25 of 18th Amendment, which states that education is the basic right of children in the age bracket of 5 to 16 years. They said that Asia contributes 60 per cent of the total child domestic labour in the world with 90 per cent of them girls.
The speakers termed it a myth that domestic child labour provides better living conditions for poor children in the house of employees. In fact, they said that children as young as five are exposed to hazardous conditions in the name of CDL.
In their thought provoking presentation, they shared that domestic child labours work for long and tiring hours with no weekends, carry heavy loads, use toxic chemicals, handle dangerous items such as knives, axes and hot pans and face humiliating or degrading verbal and physical treatment. They said that such children are provided with inadequate food and accommodation.
To start up with, they suggested that the parliamentarians, government servants, politicians and media persons should sign a statement in which they should make a commitment that they will never hire a child for domestic labour in their house.
The ‘National Conference on Contemporary Forms of Slavery: Child Domestic Labour in Pakistan’ was organised by the Society for the Protection of the Rights of Children (Sparc). Large number of the civil society representatives, researchers, government officials and media persons participated in the conference.
The conference started with a heart touching documentary ‘I Have A Dream’ produced by famous documentary maker Samar Minnallah. Featuring the true stories described by the child victims themselves, the documentary brought tears to many eyes, as they watched and listened to the extent of misery faced by the children working as domestic workers.
While sharing experiences of making the documentary, Samar Minhallah said that the documentary is aimed at generating a dialogue and awareness on the issue to break the cycle of suppression. She regretted that child domestic labour is considered a norm and not a violation of children’s rights.
The Sparc also invited father of Tehmina, child domestic worker, who died after serious spine injuries resulting from inhuman torture by her employers, and the father of two missing maids, Razia (8) and Sadiqa (16), who requested people not to send their children to work at any cost.
Inaugurating the conference, Sparc Executive Director Arshad Mahmood said that Child Domestic Labour is depriving a large number of children of their right of education. He mentioned some cases where child domestic workers lost their lives due to torture and inhuman treatment by their employers.
Saif Ullah Chaudhry from ILO, highlighted the international laws and obligations regarding child domestic labour. He said that ILO Convention 138 on minimum age of child labour and Convention 182 on worst forms of child labour, Convention 29 and 105 on forced labour have been ratified by Pakistan but the issue remains unsolved at the ground-level. He insisted to promote education and skills to eliminate child labour.
Anchorperson Qatrina Hossain strongly recommended the government and civil society to extend the efforts for elimination of child domestic labour beyond conference rooms. She said that it is the responsibility of every individual to play its role in discouraging this practice around them. .
Baela Raza Jamil, Director ‘Idara-e-Taleem-o-Agahi’, emphasised the need for research and legislation and resistance to eliminate and identify child domestic labour. She highlighted the myths and realities associated with child domestic labour and some case studies of child domestic workers.
In her keynote address, Farah Naz Ispahanai MNA said that terrorism has affected the economy as well as increased the number of orphan children forcing them into child labour. She lamented the adverse working conditions for the girl child workers and insisted the government and civil society for concerted efforts to change the mindsets especially for the welfare of female child workers.
Zakia Shahnawaz, Advisor to CM Punjab ensured her full support to the father of the missing maids and emphasised the need for urgent legislative and monitoring measures to curb child domestic labour.
Gulnara Shahinian, the UN Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Slavery, in her message for the conference, said that child domestic labour is an aspect of modern slavery because children work long hours for nothing and are sexually and physically abused. She urged the government of Pakistan to comply with the international commitments it has made with international community.