We express deep concern over the repeated stories of torture against domestic workers, the latest reported case that of nine-year-old Baby in Khulna, who was not only underfed but also allegedly beaten by her employers with sticks and electric wires. As is often the case, the child's parents were unable to file a case and Baby saved herself the only way she could, by running away. Not all domestic workers are as lucky, however. Numerous cases have been reported where they have borne inhuman torture, some of them allegedly murdered and others forced to commit suicide.
All this is despite the High Court ruling last month declaring all forms of violence, torture and repression on domestic help as well as employing children under the age of 12, illegal. The court also provided a number of other directives to ensure rights of domestic workers.
A Baseline Survey on Child Domestic Labour (CDL) in Bangladesh conducted by the International Labour Organization in 2006 revealed that there were approximately two million domestic workers in Bangladesh, 12.7 percent of them children and the majority of them women and girls. The unorganised and informal nature of the sector makes it difficult to monitor it, however, and for every horror story reported in the media, there may well be many untold ones.
Human rights organisations have constantly demanded that domestic work be included in the country's labour laws to ensure basic rights of workers such as working hours, minimum wages, holidays, etc. The government is said to have already formulated a policy for elimination of child labour and drafted a policy for protection of domestic workers. We urge the quick and effective implementation of these measures, sensitisation programmes for both employers and workers and a strong monitoring mechanism to be put in place to protect the basic human rights of domestic workers.