South Asians for Human Rights

Promoting Democracy, Upholding Human Rights

Ashutosh Sarkar

Declaring all forms of violence, torture and repression on domestic helps illegal, the High Court yesterday ordered the government to ensure that no child aged below 12 is employed as domestic worker.

In its judgement on a writ petition, the HC also directed the government to incorporate a provision in the labour law, recognising domestic helps aged between 12 and 18 years as child workers.

The existing labour law does not recognise domestic helps as workers.

The HC judgement contained a set of other directives to the government that include taking immediate steps to ensure security and a congenial working environment for all domestic helps, education of those aged 12 to 18 in the light of the policy for compulsory education, court sources said.

An HC bench comprised of Justice M Imman Ali and Justice Sheikh Hassan Arif came up with the judgement after hearing the writ petition filed by Bangladesh National Women Lawyers Association as public interest litigation.

Copy of the judgement is yet to be released.

It ordered the labour ministry to immediately form a national child labour welfare council to monitor the conditions of domestic helps and make necessary recommendations to the government to solve their problems.

The council has to be comprised of persons who have knowledge about the organisations of owners and workers, and child workers.

The HC said employers have to obtain identity cards from the offices of the councillors of city corporations and municipalities, and union parishads about domestic helps before employing them.

And domestic helps will not work more than five hours a day, said one directive.

The home affairs secretary has to take measures to ensure that no female domestic worker is sexually harassed in any manner, another directive said.

The writ petition was filed in May last year following a newspaper reports that a 10-year-old domestic help was beaten and critically injured by her employer.

Counsel for BNWLA Fahima Nasrin had placed before the HC reports on 65 incidents torture on domestic worker.

The court on May 4 issued a rule upon the government to explain why it should not be directed to monitor employment of domestic helps.

During the hearing yesterday, Deputy Attorney General Motahar Hossain Saju told the court that the government has already formulated a policy for elimination of child labour and has drafted a policy for protection of domestic workers.

Source: The Daily Star – 16.02.2011