Kirti Nagar: A 13-year-old domestic worker is rescued from the residence of a doctor. When the police went to his residence, he asked them to take her ‘in a couple of days so that they can get another maid’.
March 29, Dwarka: A 13-year-old domestic worker found locked in the house of a doctor couple who went on a vacation to Bangkok.
April 2, Vasant Kunj: A 12-year-old boy is rescued from the house of a businessman, who was accused of physically abusing the kid.
Behind the high walls of the rich and the powerful, horror stories of abuse of child domestic workers are abound.
Out of the hundreds of child labourers rescued in the city every month, eight to nine are child domestic workers, according to figures provided by the Child Welfare Committees (CWC) in the city. Rescued from homes of the affluent who can afford to employ domestic workers and pay between R20,000 and R30,000 for nine months in addition to a meagre salary to the placement agencies, these children usually run away from the employers’ homes before being rescued by NGOs or the police.
According to the police, the Delhi-based placement agencies have their agents in states such as West Bengal, Jharkhand, Bihar and Assam, who bring minors between the age group of 10 and 16 and sell them to placement agencies for R10,000. “Most of the children that are produced before us are runaways. They are tired of the work and the verbal and physical abuse. Between January and March this year, we rescued 12 children from domestic child labour. In just two of these cases, the complaints were received from neighbours,” said Raajmangal Prasad, chairperson, CWC, Lajpat Nagar.
The figures, the NGOs and CWCs say, are not even the tip of the iceberg. Hundreds of cases of child domestic worker abuse go unnoticed because people do not file complaints against their own neighbours. “Ninety per cent of these cases go unreported. People think ill-treatment of domestic help is a family’s personal matter. The premium placed on privacy these days is actually aiding the rise of such cases,” said Nishi Kant, executive director, Shakti Vahini, an NGO working for child rights.
“My neighbour had employed a young girl (12) as a domestic maid in his house. She was confined to the balcony after completing housework and was forced to dress, sleep and eat there. I called the CWC but was dissuaded by other neighbours. No one was ready to confront him,” said Poorva Garg, a resident of Malviya Nagar, who finally filed an anonymous complaint.
Even the law is skewed against these children, especially those between the ages of 12 and 18. While the law bans child labour till the age of 14, there is no law for children up to the age of 18. “It is very difficult to look at a child and determine her or his age. And even if the age is determined, how mature and physically fit is a kid aged 14 years 1 month compared to a kid aged 13 years 9 months?
The Juvenile Justice Act, 2009, recognises children below the age of 18 as a child, the labour law does not. The law is unfair to them,” said Mitali Bhargava, a psychologist who works with victims of child abuse.