I am writing to express my deep concern about the recent deaths of two girls working in domestic servitude, 12 year old Shazia Masih, kept under slave-like conditions and allegedly tortured to death by her employers, and 15 year old Yasmin of Okara who was allegedly burnt to death by her employers. Research shows that there are about 264,000 children trafficked into domestic servitude in Pakistan, most of whom being girls. According to the ILO these ‘invisible’ children, are trapped in their employers’ homes where they are given very little or no pay, are deprived of the chance to have a childhood or receive an education and are at risk of being subjected to verbal, physical, emotional and sexual abuse.
Pakistan is a party to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), ILO Convention on the Worst Forms of Child Labor (No. 182) and the ILO Minimum Age Convention (C182) all of which require Pakistan to protect children from exploitation and abuse, including by prohibiting employment that is detrimental to them. The cases of Shazia and Yasmin demonstrate that domestic servitude, in which girls are often confined to their employers’ homes in slave-like conditions, work for long hours with minimal or very little pay and perform unsafe tasks, is clearly exploitative and harmful. However, Pakistan’s labor laws do not ban domestic work as a harmful occupation for children or regulate the domestic work sector to protect the rights of adult domestic workers. Moreover, under international legal standards, most girls in domestic service would be considered victims of human trafficking, since they are clearly recruited, transported, transferred, harbored or received for the purposes of exploitation. However, there is also no legislation addressing domestic trafficking (whether for labor or sexual servitude) in Pakistan.
I urge you to ensure that Pakistan lives up to its obligations under international law, including by:
- taking action to ban domestic servitude for children;
- regulating the working hours, work conditions and wages in the domestic work sector for adults to prevent the abuse and exploitation of domestic workers;
- taking relevant administrative, social and educational measures to protect the rights of children and end their exploitation; and
- ensuring that trafficking legislation addresses trafficking within Pakistan and protects children who are trafficked into domestic servitude.
I thank you for your attention.