A brutally abused child domestic worker was jointly recovered by Islamabad police and Women Center Islamabad from her employer's residence, a sitting Additional District and Session Judge East, Islamabad.
Ten-year-old Tayyaba was rescued by the Women Center Islamabad and the local police station, and was handed over to the Center on orders of Assistant Commissioner Islamabad. An earlier attempt to rescue the severely abused working child the previous day, by the CCW and Rescue 15, was unsuccessful as the underage worker was reported missing by her employer. "She went to dispose garbage and hasn't returned," the rescuers were told. After police recovered Tayyaba from the judge's residence on Friday afternoon she was taken to the Commissioner's office for giving her statement and later handed over to the Women Center. The girl now free to speak in the custody of the Centre told 'The News' that she was hidden in the servant quarter and told not to come out.
A medical examination was carried out to ascertain the injuries she has suffered, including burn marks on her hands, and the results are still awaited. Tayyaba told 'The News' that she was often abused by her employer's wife especially if things were not found in their place. "This time she hit me on the face with something very hard and also burnt my fingers," Tayyaba added. Her police report states that the severe bruising on her swollen face is a result of falling down the staircase. According to Tayyaba, she began working two years ago as a full time worker at the house of Add Judge Raja Khurram and travelled to Islamabad in a bus with a relative whom she refers to as "Nani". The ten-year-old domestic worker is unaware of her salary but said that whatever she earns is sent to her parents. Her parents had taken a loan of six thousand from her employers which was also to be paid off from Tayyaba's salary.
The Women Center Islamabad played a critical role in Tayyaba's rescue. Saira Furqan, Manager of the Islamabad Center informed 'The News' that her team responded rapidly as soon as they learnt about the plight of the child through a credible source, and reached the employers house located in Sector 1-8 along with the Center's lawyer and Rescue-15 team. Having obtained search warrants they went inside the house but the child worker was not found, nor the additional judge was present at home. His wife told the lawyer and police personnel that she had gone that morning for disposing garbage and had not returned. The following day the team made another attempt and was successful in recovering Tayyaba from her place of work.
According to SPARC's Annual Report on State of Pakistan's Children 2015, there are 264,000 underage domestic workers confronting cruel and unsafe working environments, and often left to the mercy of employers who routinely subject them to physical and psychological abuse, exploitation and violence. In Tayyaba's case both the adults and their children were perpetrating violence. "The children would also insult me and hit me," she said. SPARC's report adds that in 2013, 13 children died as a result of violence at their work place in addition to 21 cases of physical torture by employers. The demand for underage female workers is on the rise.
This finding corresponds with Human Rights Watch's global tally of 50 to 100 million child domestic workers across the world, employed in homes that go unmonitored by child protection and labour departments. As in Pakistan, employers have a free hand in exploiting young and underage employees. In Pakistan the majority of child workers are hired from rural areas and taken to cities where they are informally hired by middle and upper middle class families. Tayyaba's relative called Nani is a supplier of child domestic workers, who according to her abusive employer, provides an earning opportunity to the poor.
Tayyaba may have been temporarily rescued from torture and abuse but will the absence of legislation for child workers, particularly those in domestic slavery, protect her and her peers from further abuse and exploitation? The National Action Plan for children aims to prohibit, restrict and regulate child labour. However there nothing to show for improved working conditions or a protective environment for children.