ILO says poor laws aid the abuse of maids

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By Neetu Chandra Published in MAIL TODAY

Millions of domestic workers in Indian homes are a part of an informal and “invisible” workforce due to absence of a specific legislation meant for their protection, the International Labour Organisation said on Wednesday.

The number of maids has gone up by nearly 70 per cent from 2001 to 2010 with an estimated 10 million maids and nannies in India, the ILO says.

According to the National Sample Survey (NSS) 2004-05, there are around 47.50 lakh domestic workers in the country. Out of these, 30 lakh are women working in urban areas.

Besides a proposal to formulate a national policy for domestic workers, the government claims that various measures are being taken to ensure rights and to check exploitation of this vulnerable segment.

The Centre has enacted the Unorganized Workers Social Security Act, 2008 for social security of unorganized workers, including domestic workers.

Labour laws like the Minimum Wages Act, 1948, the Employees Compensation Act, 1923, the Equal Remuneration Act, 1976 and Inter-State Migrant Workmen (RECS) Act, 1976 are also applicable to domestic workers.

But the poor work and living conditions are still a part of the lives of this faceless workforce across the country.

“Domestic servants in India are routinely harassed and exploited by their employers in many ways. In spite of several steps taken by the government to improve their condition, even today they are treated as slaves and untouchables by many. This issue draws our attention every now and then, whether it is about the tragedy of domestic workers or a positive change in their conditions,” a recent study published in Indian Journal of Research, says.

The study found that these workers were humiliated by employers in some or the other way. While some were treated as untouchables and not allowed to enter the house except work areas, others were given stale food and addressed in abusive language. Moreover, some were suspected of stealing things and not given salary on time.

According to the government’s own admission, the instances of human trafficking for pushing victims into professions, including domestic help, have increased.

As per the NCRB data, the total number of cases which come under the generic description of ‘Human Trafficking’ for the years 2010, 2011 and 2012 are 3,422, 3,517 and 3,554, respectively.

Recently, the National Commission for Women had recommended a national policy for the benefit of domestic workers.

“Women are being harassed in different ways. People need to be sensitised about this issue. We get several cases where we get shocked. There is an urgent need to change the mentality towards women,” NCW member Charu Wali Khanna said.

Cases on the rise

Tortured history

Trafficking of women and then pushing them to work as underpaid and exploited maids is on the rise in India. Krishna Tirath recently said in the Rajya Sabha that instances of alleged violence and torture of maids in the country have been reported. She informed the House on efforts made by the government in protecting women’s rights.

On providing safety to domestic workers

In order to safeguard the interest of job seekers, Ministry of Labour & Employment had issued guidelines on October 30, 2013 to state governments and Union Territory (UT) Administrations to consider regulation of functioning of private placement agencies. The states and UTs have been asked to register placement agencies providing domestic workers specifically under Shops & Establishments Act.

On sensitising police personnel

The Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPR&D) has prepared a training manual on “Human Trafficking-Handbook for Investigators” for sensitizing police personnel. The handbooks are being used in the national, regional and state Police Training Institutes.

On current legislations on women trafficking

There are specific legislations enacted relating to trafficking in Women and Children (Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act 1956, Prohibition of Child Marriage Act 2006, Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act 1976, Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act 1986 and others.

On tackling the menace of human trafficking

Anti–Trafficking Nodal Cell was set up in the Ministry of Home Affairs to act as a focal point for communicating various decisions and follow up on action taken by the state governments

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