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Law to protect domestics gathers dust

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PUBLISHED IN THE TIMES OF INDIA

BANGALORE: Four years in the cold storage is a long time. A proposed law ensuring the safety of domestic workers and a possible solution to safeguard minor domestic helps, has been sitting in the freezer, and will need to be redefined before it makes it to Parliament.

In 2010, the National Women’s Commission formulated a draft Domestic Workers Welfare and Social Security Act to eradicate child labour in the domestic segment though systematic processes. But the legislation hasn’t yet seen the light of day.

Activists who believe only a legally administrated system can solve the problem, say if the government doesn’t adopt this law, state governments should create safeguards inspired by the proposed legislation.

Section 18 of the proposed law clearly bans employment of children as domestic workers. But most importantly, it prescribes a registration system under which every employer should, within a month of employing a domestic help, inform the government. The registration process includes details about the employee, background, salary and conditions of work.

Rishi Kant, director of Shanti Vahini, a NGO based in New Delhi, says there has been a campaign to get a legal status for this law, but nothing happened.

“However, there have been some good signs. Chhattisgarh has prepared its own version of this proposed law. The Delhi high court has asked the Delhi government to implement safeguards for domestic workers, but because there is no elected government in Delhi, it hasn’t happened yet,” he said.

However, Geetha Menon, an activist lawyer, says a law may not be enough. The labour department has to take a stand and include resident welfare associates and corporates in its efforts to eradicate child labour in homes.

“Sometime ago, the labour department had sent notices to RWAs, asking them to put up announcements at their buildings that no child labour would be allowed. We can get this strong message across in places where people work and live, we can bring down many such cases of child abuse in the guise of domestic labour. The community has to come out to stop this,” she says.

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