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Opinion

Fleeting moments

July 25, 2017

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Children of a lesser god

The inhuman treatment meted out to domestic helpers – young boys and girls – by affluent members of our society is entirely reprehensible. Many cases involving such treatment have been reported over the past few months.

Recently, a landlord in Abbottabad had a nine-year-old boy tied to a donkey. The donkey was beaten to make it run faster. As a result, the boy was dragged along with the donkey and eventually died of his injuries. In another case, a landlady severed the right hand of a 12-year-old boy by shoving it into a grass-chopper. The life of the poor appears to be cheap and expendable in our country.

Why has our society turned towards such callous behaviour? Leave aside the semi-literate landed class, even the educated members of society remain apathetic to the atrocities committed against their domestic workers. Recall the heart-wrenching story of 10-year-old Tayyaba who worked at the house of a serving sessions judge. The judge’s wife brutally tortured the young maid and the girl blamed her employer’s wife for putting her hand on a burner.

When the matter came into limelight, the girl mysteriously went missing until the police found her a few days later. The question is: did the judge know what was happening in his house? Regardless, he should be held responsible for his lack of morality and compassion and his legal judgements in court could also be viewed with suspicion.

Another case took place at the house of PML-N MPA Shahjahan. A 16-year-old boy, who was hired as domestic worker, was beaten to death by the MPA’s daughter. There is a possibility that domestic workers from poor families steal small items from the houses of their rich employers. But that doesn’t mean the poor workers should be beaten blue and black or killed.

Nothing has ever happened to rich employers as they always get away with it by paying money to the poor families of their domestic workers. The class disparity in our society is visibly acute. The shantytowns of the downtrodden are located alongside the neighbourhoods of the upper class. While the men sweat it out by doing menial jobs, their women and children work in the houses of the rich as domestic servants. The rich begums, who are mostly on the bulkier side and unable to move their limbs as swiftly as their tongues, employ poor young girls to serve them and their children. It’s a common site in trendy restaurants that a young maid is seen looking after the children while their parents enjoys culinary delights. On returning home, the maid gets some leftovers from the previous day to eat. It is sad that such a fate befalls the children of the poor.

There is something drastically wrong with us. We tend to talk at length about our religion and sermonise on its values. But when it comes to applying such values to our daily lives, we simply shrug our shoulders. The maltreatment of domestic workers is not restricted to us alone. The treatment of these workers in the Middle East is even worse. Imagine the plight of domestic workers in the land of abundance.

The wives of rich sheikhs take their maids with them when they travel abroad for vacations. An article in the Guardian tilted ‘Domestic workers abused in the UK: “She took the iron and pressed it on my hand”’ explains how these maids are frequently subjected to abuse. An Arab sheikh’s wife scarred the hand of her Filipino maid by pressing a hot iron into it. Sordid stories of the abuse of domestic workers by the Arab elite who live in London’s posh neighbourhoods have often been reported.

While talking about domestic workers, it is equally important to highlight the plight of our labourers who are stranded in Saudi Arabia for months now without getting their wages. Let’s ask the relevant authorities to pay their wages so that they can return to Pakistan and reunite with their families.

 

The writer is a freelance columnist based in Lahore.

Email: [email protected]

 

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