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The Death of Zohra Shah is a Call to Action: Child Domestic Servants Must Be Protected

By Reid Maki

Sometimes words fail.

This is the case when I read the story, “Couple torture and murder 8-year-old maid for letting parrots free, Pakistan police say”—about the death of Zohra Shah, a servant in the city of Rawalpindi in Punjab. Her employers beat the little girl into unconsciousness because she had accidently let a caged bird, or birds, go free—a startling metaphor for her situation, working as a child slave entrapped in the family’s house.

The police found many marks and bruises on the little girl’s body—some of them not new, including some that suggested to them that she may have been sexually assaulted as well. It isn’t hard to surmise that this Zohra’s life was a living hell.

Not all child servants around the world are abused, but it is fair to say that because they work in people’s homes—often invisibly to the public—they are extremely vulnerable to abuse. The International Labour Organizations estimates that around the world 7.5 million children under 15 work as domestic servants.

Art that emphasizes the vulnerability of child domestic servants.

According to the report in the online newspaper The Independent, the girl’s uncle had hired her out. ‘“The couple had promised her uncle that they would provide her education and pay a salary of R[upee]s 3000 per month (£16). But they neither gave her education nor paid salary,” a spokesperson said.’

Imagine essentially buying a child for $20 a month to be a live-in maid and then refusing to even pay that paltry sum or allow the child to exercise their universal human right to education.… Read the rest

Moroccans Employ More Than 30,000 Child Maids

AFP | [The Jordan Times]   

RABAT — More than 30,000 children under the age of 15 are employed in Morocco as domestic servants, according to figures released Tuesday by the planning ministry.

A law banning this practice was drawn up by the previous government but has still not been passed by parliament.

During a seminar on Saturday in Rabat, a rights group stressed that the employment of under-age maids was “the result of poverty, illiteracy and the lack of infrastructure in rural zones”, where most child workers come from.

The “little maids” are for the most part “badly paid and submitted to physical and economic violence”.

Once passed, the law against child labour would provide for prison terms and heavy fines for anybody who employs a child under 15 as household help.

“This is a shame for our country, a catastrophe, these figures are alarming,” Fouzia Assouli, president of the Federation of the Democratic League of Women’s Rights, told AFP.

“We have ceaselessly pointed out, within the collective that includes a large number of associations, the seriousness of this phenomenon of domestic labour by minors for about 10 years, in order to obtain a regulation in the Labour Code,” she added.

“All this is the responsibility of the state, and even if it’s a matter of people’s attitude, it is up to the state to change that outlook and if need be to penalise it,” she concluded.… Read the rest

Maid Firm Exposed

Yi Somphose, Tep Nimol, David Boyle and Eak Soung Chhay

Scores of crying women who said they had been forcibly detained and girls who claimed to have received fake documents to conceal the fact that they were as young as 16-years-old were discovered at a centre owned by the SKMM Investment Group labour recruitment firm yesterday.

A group of 47 women told a Post reporter some 20 under-age girls had been hidden at a restaurant to conceal them from police, while eyewitnesses outside another SKMM facility said they had seen recruits jumping out of windows to escape.

With tears pouring down her cheeks, 29-year-old Dam Nhean said SKMM staff told her that if she wanted to leave the centre to visit her baby, she would have to repay by double the US$800 loan she was given, reiterating claims made by many of the recruits. Read more