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Modern-day slavery

MPLOYING children as domestic help is a common practice throughout the country, and it is only when acts of barbaric violence against minors are reported that society takes notice of their miserable plight. However, the public outrage is for a limited period only, and soon enough, these forsaken children are forgotten, and left to fend for themselves against brutish employers. The latest incident involving violence against child domestic workers has been reported from Lahore, where Kamran, a 10-year-old boy, was allegedly tortured to death by his employers, while his six-year-old brother Rizwan managed to survive a savage beating. According to media reports, the boys were tortured for taking food from the fridge without permission. This `transgression` reportedly resulted in hours-long beatings, while police say they found deep bruises caused by sharp-edged weapons on the body of the murdered boy.

This may be a case of extreme violence, but the sad fact is that many children across Pakistan have to put up with beatings and abuse of a similar nature on a daily basis. In fact, it would not be wrong to say that many employers treat their domestic staff, particularly minors, as modern-day slaves. Hence, it is not an employer-employee relationship, but that of a master and slave. Poor parents are of ten forced by circumstances to send their children off to work in the homes of the rich for a few thousand rupees, and a few scraps of food for the youngsters. Despite various laws addressing child labour and child domestic work, implementation is practically non-existent. The fact is that those who murder and torture children must be punished under the fullest extent of the law. Moreover, there needs to be stricter enforcement of child labour laws, and only adults should be engaged by employers as domestic help. Provincial child welfare bureaus need to be more vigilant of these exploitative practices, while the state, civil society, community leaders and ulema must work together to create consensus in society against the menace of child domestic labour.