the Normal and Respected
are often vilified for desensitising readers because they
print stories of horror and crime over and over again but
few will have the gall to say that such stories should not
be made public. What's more, there are some incidents that
occur almost every day yet they do not fail to make one feel
sick at the brutality involved.
read about an eight-year-old domestic maid being clubbed to
death with a rolling pin, the scenario is eerily familiar
as innumerable such incidents have been reported. But it still
fills most of us (hopefully) with horror and dismay. Horror
that educated adults with the given 'respectability' of being
middle class can inflict so much pain on a helpless child.
Dismay that the child whose short life had already been marred
by neglect and deprivation, could not survive the ordeal.
only eight years old, was brought to Dhaka all the way from
Gaibanda to work for Atiar Rahman, a better off relative in
Paikpara Mirpur. She was supposed to look after his five year
old daughter. This was only a month ago. Selina Akhter, Rahman's
wife slapped Rupali over something as trivial as not making
the bread on time. This prompted her husband to reprimand
Selina and at one point he slapped his wife.
when her husband had gone to the office, Selina lost no time
in taking her revenge on the poor, helpless child. She started
beating her mercilessly with a rolling pin until there were
no more places to hit.
came back he found Rupali in a terrible state, with bruises
all over her body and her temperature running alarmingly high.
He took her to Suhrwardy Hospital where the doctors referred
her to Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH). On the way to
DMCH, the cab driver kept asking about the child which made
the couple get angry. The cab driver found a police patrol
on the way. But by this time the girl had breathed her last.
The policeman arrested the couple.
death of this child and the arrest of the couple it may seem
to be the end of another grisly news story. Tomorrow it will
be another couple and another little girl.
disturbing trends can be discerned from these crimes. One,
domestic workers are little more than slaves especially if
they are minors and more so if they are girls. The notion
of child rights are nowhere in sight. Second, the perpetrators
are usually educated, respected in society and so have the
means to influence the legal proceedings so that they can
go scot-free. The fact that so many such incidents have occurred
where the domestic worker was either mutilated or killed by
the senseless torture indicates that there is a tacit acceptance
of abuse of domestic workers among the privileged classes:
Of course you shouldn't kill them, but there's nothing
wrong in giving them a few kicks and slaps to discipline them.
The topic of many conversations between housewives is about
domestic maids and how they give their mistresses a hard time.
Very few conversations centre on the services that these housemaids
perform and how such help can be aptly awarded.
disconcerting fact, however, that comes out of all this is
that many among us are sick, depraved and sadistic. By any
psychiatric evaluation standards, individuals who continuously
torture other individuals, who can burn someone's back with
heated utensils or scald someone's face with an iron- these
people cannot be considered 'normal'.
then are these 'abnormal' people being allowed to do normal
things like hold a responsible job or even bring up their
own children? The answer is not that simple. Perhaps it's
because the victims are 'unimportant', expendable members
of society and the criminals, law enforcers and policy makers
are the more privileged members. They have more immunity and
can get away with, literally, murder.
cycle continues. Poverty will force families to make their
children work in households with absolutely no idea whether
the employers will keep their children safe, give them enough
to eat or even allow them to live. With no accountability
and a legal system that, in spite of stringent laws, is constantly
thwarted by influence and the power of money, employers of
domestic workers get the impunity they need to continue to
exploit and abuse their employees.
there a way out of this sickness that seems to be part and
parcel of the relatively privileged classes? There might be
if we could recognise this disease in our own houses, sometimes
in ourselves. Drama serials depict the intrigues and hypocrisies
of middleclass or rich families. They could easily deal with
the plight of domestic workers at the hands of their employers.
Public service oriented advertisements, billboards, radio
and TV programmes -- the means are endless through which people
can be made to realise that domestic workers provide an invaluable
service, one that should be rewarded with decent pay, living
conditions and sane working hours. Most of all they can be
used to deter the tendency to use violence against domestic
workers by establishing the fact that it is a crime, one that
is morally reprehensible and punishable by law.
fact is that for most human beings, a crime is not a crime
until one gets caught. It becomes a condonable transgression
when one is caught but then set free. Thus the news of one
dead child domestic worker and the arrest of her torturers
is not the end of the story. Whether the culprits are punished
and whether such punishment discourages other sadistic employers--that
should constitute the conclusion.
(R) thedailystar.net 2005