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Fleeting moments

January 21, 2020

Violence at home

Opinion

January 21, 2020

One of the most neglected social problems of our society is the inhuman treatment meted out to domestic assistants (I would not like to call them domestic servants). In many cases, they are treated shabbily by the household owners who employ them.

A noticeable upsurge occurred in the abusive treatment of domestic assistants in the last few years. In a horrific case of the torture of a 10-year-old maid, Tayyaba, a Rawalpindi judge and his wife were sentenced to three years in prison. The poor maid, as certified by the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences, had burns to her hands and feet. Her bloody swollen face still lurks in many a mind.

The couple in whose house Tayyaba served had to be sadists of the extreme nature to inflict the most inhuman treatment of causing burns to her hands and feet. Stamping burn marks on animals for identification was the practice during the European Middle Ages. Perhaps Tayyab’s employers mentally lived in the medieval era.

To top it, the homeowner was a judge entrusted with the responsibility to administer justice to the needy. One wonders if the selection board of the judges carries out a psychological examination of the candidates before appointing them to occupy a high moral pedestal to deliver justice.

Recently, another case of a housemaid surfaced when a medical doctor, a woman, in whose house the 14-year-old girl worked, allegedly tortured her to death. According to police investigation, the housemaid died a painful death as the doctor used to torture her to no end. Shockingly, the tormentors of both the young maids were women. Such inhuman acts by the so-called educated class are a source of collective shame for the whole society.

Maids work in rich households only to earn for their families. It’s their compulsion to work in homes where comfort-loving corpulent begums sit back and lord over them. The huge class disparity between the rich and the poor has created a large segment of about 12 million child workers in the country. Don’t these unfortunate child workers, housemaids in this case, deserve our sympathy? Both couples accused of killing and torturing housemaids might well have children of their own of the same age group.

It’s often reported that domestic maids are subjected to physical abuse of licentious nature by the household owners. If the helpless maids approach the police, they stand little or no chance of impartial inquiry or sympathetic hearing against the influential reprobates. Usually a suffering maid never reports to the police; the police jump to action when the poor maid succumbs to her injuries in the house where she worked.

This is not to say that domestic help, especially women don’t work in rich homes in Western countries but they’re treated with respect and considered part of the household. While sweeping a kitchen, a maid there can make herself breakfast, a cup of coffee or help herself with a drink from the fridge without seeking permission. She considers it her right.

In our case, domestic maids are usually accused of pilferage and theft. If it involves theft of some expensive items or jewellery, the maids are handed over to the police who employ their own methods to extract confessions. In such situations, the rich homeowners should be generous and forgiving. As humans, even the poor long to possess worldly materials found in abundance in the homes of the rich. If the poor err, be compassionate and overlook, because poverty itself is great affliction.

Those who count themselves among the affluent class of society and can afford to hire domestic help must imagine themselves on the opposite end to realise the plight and suffering of the less fortunate. If we were a secular society, a French-style uprising would have taken place much earlier.

The destitute in our society content themselves in the belief that poverty is their preordained fate and that they would be rewarded in the great beyond. The rich had better not test the patience of the deprived

The writer is a freelance columnist based in Lahore.

Email: [email protected]