Trapped within four walls
Domestic helps usually live in their employers’ homes and serve them 24/7, often in exchange for a small amount of money. Even though the Labour Law allows only children aged 14 or above to work a maximum of 30 hours a week in non-hazardous occupations, an estimated 3.45 million children aged between five and seven have slipped through the net. They enter the domestic help profession to support themselves and their families. These workers are often physically or sexually abused by members of their employers’ families, but cases filed over such incidents are often settled outside court in exchange for money. According to Bangladesh Shishu Adhikar Forum (BSAF), the number of reported incidents of violence against domestic workers is pitifully low: 32 in the first nine months of this year, and 26 in 2016. The most profile among them involves 11-year-old Sabina, who was tortured by the wife of army officer Lt Col Taslim Ahsan for splattering egg yolk when cooking. On July 4, Sabina was found in the Mirpur cantonment area with severe burns and bruises in her face, wrists, chest and back. Statistically, the case filed against Ayesha Latifa over the incident will not be settled in court. A study by Bangladesh Nari Sangbadik Kendra – Girl Child Domestic Worker’s situation in Bangladesh – said the employers managed to settle 70% of such cases outside court by offering money to the domestic helps’ families. Cricketer Shahadat Hossain and his wife Jesmin Jahan Nitto were accused by their 11-year-old domestic worker, Mahfuza Akhter Happy, of assaulting her in September 2015. However, Happy later changed her statement and said that she had fallen down the stairs which fractured her left foot, caused blood clots around her eyes and bruises on her hands and back.