They come to Delhi from the boondocks with dreams of a job, and most often with the hope of not going to bed on an empty stomach. Instead, they encounter an ugly reality – backbreaking work with no pay, little to eat, sexual abuse and physical assault.
Women and child rights activists claimed that one in every five domestic worker rescued in Delhi complains of sexual abuse, either by the employer or people in the ‘placement agency’ that helps her get the job. Shakti Vahini and Bachpan Bachao Andolan claimed that they rescued 220 housemaids last year, most of them juveniles. Every fifth rescued girl told a similar story of sexual abuse by their employer or the placement agency owner, officials of the two NGOs said.
It was always suspected that those who run these agencies sexually abuse the youngsters the moment they reach Delhi, but it was confirmed last week when an 18-year-old girl was rescued from southeast Delhi. The teen from Jharkhand’s Gumla alleged that her placement agency owner raped her and she was forced to undergo an abortion.
‘That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Many of the girls prefer silence to the stigma of rape. ‘They sometimes drop hints, but don’t reveal much,’ Nishi Kant of Shakti Vahini said. The Capital’s heartless neorich prefer ‘beautiful girls’ to do their household chores.
‘We were horrified when we learnt that physical appearance is a criterion in the business,’ an activist said. A survey carried out by women rights activists found that the city has around 2,000 illegal placement agencies.
Calling these ‘maid shops’ the bedrock of human trafficking, the activists said the agencies operate a vicious cycle that completely breaches the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act.
These agencies were registered as shops, societies or NGOs and they thrive on the lack of strict government control to check this nefarious business. They are mostly concentrated in Nehru Place, Sarita Vihar, Govind Puri, Model Town, Shakarpur, Laxmi Nagar and Punjabi Bagh. ‘There should be guidelines because child labour is a crime. The youngsters should
be registered in their native places as well,’ Nishi Kant said.