A Pakistan couple have been arrested for allegedly murdering their seven-year-old maid after she was blamed for letting a pet bird escape, police said, the latest case of violence against child domestic workers in the country.
Hassan Siddiqui and his wife employed Zohra Bibi at their home in a middle-class suburb of Rawalpindi, near the capital Islamabad, to care for their son of a similar same age.
7 year old maid killed in Pakistan
“The poor girl was subjected to torture by Siddiqui and his wife who accused her of freeing one of the four pet Macao parrots,” investigating officer Mukhtar Ahmad said on Thursday.
“Siddiqui kicked her in the lower abdomen which proved fatal.”
According to the police, the suspect admitted that he and his wife had beaten Zahra after she let his “expensive pet parrots escape from their cage”.
Zohra was taken to hospital by the couple on Sunday, but died the following day. The incident was reported to the police by staff at the hospital.
The young girl’s body was handed over to her parents, who live in Muzaffargarh, near the city of Multan, more than 500 kilometres (300 miles) away from where she was working.
Illegal to hire children below the age of 15 as domestic workers
Some 8.5 million people — including many children — are employed as domestic workers in Pakistan, according to the International Labour Organization.
Theoretically it is illegal to employ anyone under the age of 15, but it remains common practice.
Following her demise, social media went in an uproar with public figures from the showbiz industry and otherwise raising their voices against the tragic incident.
As the trend went upside onTwitter, justice for Zohra Shah, social media personality Shaniera Akram reminded everyone that child labour was against the law. “Anyone who has a person working for them in their house who is under the age of 14, and I don’t care if they are your longtime staff members son or daughter who’s living with you, you are breaking the law.If you really want to look after that child then send them to school not work!” she said.
ANYONE who has a person working for them in their house who is under the age of 14, & I don’t care if they are your longtime staff members son or daughter whos living with you, you are breaking the law.If you really want to look after that child then send them to school not work!
— Shaniera Akram (@iamShaniera) June 3, 2020
Employers that killed 7 year old maid arrested
Human rights minister Shireen Mazari confirmed the arrests in a tweet and said the ministry was in touch with police.
Viz case of domestic child maid Zohra abused & killed – MOHR is in touch with police. Our lawyer is following case.Husband & wife on 4 day remand. Mohr proposed amend to add domestic labour as hazardous occupation in Schedule 1 of Employment of Children Act1991 @RabiyaJaveri
— Shireen Mazari (@ShireenMazari1) June 3, 2020
“Violence and physical torture against children will not be tolerated and all those involved in such incidents will be dealt with,” city police chief Muhammad Ahsan Younus added.
The first information report, that was registered in Rawat police station on behalf of the SHO soon after the victim was brought to the hospital and was still alive, said that she had injuries on her face, hands, below her rib cage and legs. The FIR stated that she also had wounds on her thighs which suggested that she might have been sexually assaulted. Police have sent samples for forensic examination to confirm if an assault took place and are yet to receive a report.
The report was filed under Sections 302 (punishment for qatl-i-amd), 376 (punishment of rape) and 34 (acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention) of the Pakistan Penal Code.
Domestic workers frequently face abuse in Pakistan
On 28th January 2019, three women, mother, daughter, and another family member were arrested in Lahore for the murder of their 16-year old maid.
The police report revealed that the minor domestic worker, Uzma, had been brutally tortured by the two accused women, and on 18th January, she was killed and dumped in a drain near the neighborhood. DSP Iqbal Town, Abdul Ghafoor, shared with the press that the mother and daughter had killed Uzma and disposed of her body into a drain, and then “accused her of stealing valuables from the house”.
The reports circulating on news channels and social media reveal that Uzma had been subjected to horrid episodes of torture and violent beatings, which had resulted in multiple fractures. The 16-year old maid was forced to sleep on the bathroom floor, and every time her parents attempted to meet her, they were informed that Uzma was “out of the city”.
Domestic workers frequently face exploitation, violence and sexual abuse, with Pakistan’s patriarchal and rigid social-class structure leaving them without a voice.
Children are particularly vulnerable, and Bibi’s case is the latest in a growing number of incidents involving minors.
In December 2018, the rising number of abuse cases led the provincial legislature in Punjab to set regulations for the employment of domestic workers, which theoretically grants them rights such as sick leave and holidays.
The 7 year old maid that was killed in Pakistan by her employers is unfortunately a more common occurrence than one would expect, and employers from rich and powerful families tend to get away with such heinous crimes.
AFP with additional input by GVS News Desk