NEW DELHI: As cases of maids being tortured continue tumbling out of the capital’s homes, the need for a law to enforce the human rights of domestic workers is being felt strongly. However, repeated moves to implement such a law have come a cropper.
In 2010, the National Commission for Women (NCW) had drafted the “Domestic Workers Welfare and Social Security Act, 2010” Bill highlighting the exploitative nature of domestic work by spurious placement agencies. It addressed the working conditions of domestic workers, including their registration, but is yet to be passed.
“The draft was submitted by NCW, and it was meant for domestic workers above 18 years of age. It, however, remains a proposal. If it is implemented, it will bring domestic workers under the ambit of an organized sector and their rights will be safeguarded. In fact, a similar bill related to placement agencies is also pending before the Delhi government,” said Supreme Court advocate Ravi kant, who is also president of the NGO, Shakti Vahini.
The draft bill not only defines the rights of full-time domestic workers but also has provisions for registering part-time helps and migrant domestic workers. In many of the recent abuse cases the victims were minors, and the bill clearly mandates that no child shall be employed as a domestic worker, or for any such incidental or ancillary work.
Time and again, trial courts have also urged the government to make a law to deal with the issues of domestic workers that will not only protect the workers but also safeguard the employers from getting conned. In 2011, a trial court had raised the issue of exploitation of domestic workers. Additional sessions judge Kamini Lau, in her order, had noted that thousands of complaints of exploitation and abuse were received every year and most of them were about unpaid wages, food deprivation and long work hours with verbal, physical and sexual abuse.
“Many cases are never officially reported, due to the domestic workers’ confinement in private homes, lack of information about their rights and ability of the employer to deport/ relieve them before they can actually seek help,” the judge had said.
Legal experts say the law enforcement agencies cannot curb exploitation without a proper law.
“It is not only about the domestic workers being harassed. In many cases, employers also get harassed by domestic helps. Then there are middlemen handling their employment, which leads to human trafficking. All these issues can be addressed if a specific legislation is enacted,” said Pinky Anand, a senior advocate.