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Criminalises employment of minor domestic workers

Lahore, 30 July 2023. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) demands that the employment of minor domestic workers be criminalized, following the case of 13-year-old Rizwana Bibi, who was brutally tortured over a sustained period, allegedly at the hands of her employers. That such cases occur with alarming regularity in the country should prompt a call to action by civil society.

It is not only the extent of violence that Rizwana Bibi has borne that is reprehensible. She was employed as a minor in contravention of a Supreme Court judgment prohibiting the employment of domestic workers under 16. The irony is that her employers were civil judges and his wife should be lost on no one. The fact that a more robust FIR was not lodged in the first instance and that the accused was granted protective bail in all likelihood on account of her influence, reflects a system that is rigged invariably against the most vulnerable.

Regrettably, society has normalized not only the employment of minors, but also their ill-treatment, whether in homes, schools, or workplaces. If the statistics are anything to go by, children are seen as easy targets, as punching bags, and as prey.

At the core of the Convention on the Rights of the Child—to which Pakistan is a signatory—is a commitment to protect children against all forms of violence in the public and private spheres. The state must prevent and respond to all forms of neglect, abuse, exploitation, and violence against children. If it is not to fail children such as Rizwana—as it has failed numerous other children like her before—the state must also adopt and implement a national strategy to prevent and protect children from violence and apply judicial systems that pursue the best interests of the child.

Source: HRCP