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     Volume 4 Issue 8 | August 13, 2004 |

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Human Rights

Another Child Domestic Worker Tortured and Killed

Aasha Mehreen Amin

After 60 hours of fighting for life, 11-year-old Putul's life came to an end on Wednesday, July 28, at Dhaka Medical College Hospital. On Monday, July 26, early in the morning, Putul who worked as a maid in a house in Sonadanga, Khulna, was mercilessly beaten by her employer Borhanuddin's wife Reshma. Multiple injuries from her waist downward indicate that an iron rod or something very heavy was used to beat the child. Putul was also hit on the head, leading to hemorrhaging and loss of consciousness.

A neighbour's maid was told by the Borhanuddin household that Putul had slipped in the bathroom and fainted. On Monday at around 10 am, Putul was taken to a clinic but the staff refused to admit her so she was taken to Khulna Medical College Hospital and admitted there in the afternoon. Members of Bangladesh National Women Lawyers Association (BNWLA), when they heard of Putul's case, took her to Dhaka Medical College and got her admitted to the neuro-surgery department. But Putul never gained consciousness and died while in a coma.

Although warrants for the arrest of Borhanuddin and his wife Reshma (Putul's assailant) have been issued, the police have been unable to arrest them as they have gone into hiding. Putul's father Abdul Jabbar, has filed a case against the couple under the Penal Code.

Putul's case is all too familiar these days. Only this May another child domestic worker, Mostakina, was rescued and taken to hospital with multiple wounds caused by continuous torture. Again it was her employer's wife, the mistress of the house, who frequently tortured her for the most trivial reasons. A neighbour saw Mostakina's wounds and informed the police. Mostakina's employers, both doctors, were arrested but later released on bail. The case is ongoing.

Around two months ago, Abdul Jabbar, a poor day labourer, had taken his daughter Putul to Borhanuddin's house, thinking that his child would be well taken care of in such an affluent household. He had been told that Putul would also be given the opportunity to learn to read and write. Putul's father did not even supposed to assess the case and recommend such a transfer, has been suspended for his alleged connections with drug dealers. Advocate Sabiha says that she will request for a new IO to be appointed.

Meanwhile, investigation is at a virtual standstill. Borhanuddin, who has a thriving clothes business and owns a supermarket, is still missing along with his wife. Advocate Sabiha has tried to meet with their family members, many of who lived near Borhanuddin's house. No one can be found now. Sabiha says that the couple may have fled to India or Pakistan as they have businesses there. But in order to catch them they need photographs to identify the culprits. "The IO can break open the locks (of their house) and get some pictures," says Sabiha, hinting that the police have not been working hard enough to investigate the case properly. "The proper authorities can instruct the banks where they have accounts to release their pictures," adds Sabiha, who is determined to see Putul's assailants punished.

At a press conference in Khulna, after Putul's death, her father demanded that his child's murderers be hanged. Unfortunately, he is just a day labourer and the culprits have enough money and influence to slow down the investigation and even suppress the media. Even after press releases were sent to the local papers by BNWLA when Putul was in hospital, two days went by without any news about the case in most of the local print media. Apparently even the local press had been requested by 'influential quarters' not to publish the news, says Sabiha. Thus the odds against Abdul Jabbar are intimidating and reflect the plight of thousands of poor, helpless family members of victims of violence. In the general scheme of things, it is always the powerful and rich who get away, literally with murder.

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