Pakistan People’s Party has promised in its 2013 manifesto that once in power the party would enact special laws for home-based and domestic workers to ensure that the rights of the domestic and home-based workers.
The issue of domestic workers has assumed a new importance because of the repeated cases of violence against them reported by media. It is shameful that most of the owners belong to educated and so-called civil society. Children and women end up being the worst victim of the violent behaviour of their owners. Why people resort to violence against their workers is because they enjoy impunity in the absence of domestic workers law in many parts of the country. However, various laws about labour rights in the Constitution of Pakistan and the Pakistan Penal Code protect workers against the highhandedness of their employers. But lack of implementation of laws has made this legal framework toothless and inaccessible for the workers especially those working in a domestic environment.
There are three types of domestic workers, those you work for the day and those you live-in and those hired for specific tasks. Most of these domestic workers are uneducated, and a majority of them work in cities. The average net salary of half of these domestic workers is between 5,000 to 15,000 per month.
No federal or provincial law specifically governs the status or employment condition of domestic workers. There is only one section of the Provincial Employees’ Social Security Ordinance 1965 which is applicable in Punjab, KP, Balochistan and ICT, the Sindh Employee Social Security Act 2016 for the Sindh Province provides that domestic workers have a right to medical care.
Many domestic workers live in sub-human condition, exploited and abused by their employers.
The government should also sign, adopt and ratify the International Labour Organization Domestic Workers Convention 2011 that recognizes the contribution of such workers in the nation’s development. The convention gives the domestic workers the right to organize, have a minimum wage, decent work and living condition with a right to social protection and from the abuse of forced labour.
Senator Farhatullah Babar, from PPP, told Truth Tracker over the telephone that, his government had moved Domestic Workers Employment Rights Bill-2015, but it could not be passed through the National Assembly. He said that the PML-N government was not interested in getting the bill passed, now he further informed, the PPP would move the bill to the joint session of parliament. When asked as to why PPP could not get this law enacted in Sindh, Babar said that they first wanted to have a model law to be replicated later at the provincial level.
“We had decided that once a law at the federal level was enacted and its modalities finalized, provinces would have been pushed and motivated to adopt a similar legal framework to protect the rights of the domestic workers.
Khurram Zaman, leader Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf, told Truth Tacker that PPP has failed to fulfil its promise to enact domestic workers’ law. However, he said, instead of making new laws, governments in Pakistan should strive to implement the existing one. He further added that making law is perhaps not that difficult, it is the implementation part that takes real courage. “As far as the PPP government is concerned, it is a hopeless situation.”
Zaman added that in our culture domestic workers are taken as slaves; therefore, it is imperative that a legal framework is developed so that the rights of the workers are safeguarded, and decent wages and self-respect is ensured for them.
Rehana Yasmeen, one of the leaders of Homenet Pakistan and an NGO working for the recognition and the rights of domestic workers, said that there was a need to identify 8.5 million domestic workforces. “Domestic workers, the second largest sub-sector of the informal sector, live in almost every low-income urban locality and remote rural areas. Women are among the most exploited group of workers. And without social and legal protection these women suffer tremendously at the hands of their owners.”
Citing International Labour Organization’s statistics, she said that more than 21 million people across Asia and the Pacific are employed as domestic workers. Of these, she said 80 per cent were women. She urged the Sindh government to adopt a law on domestic workers to provide them protection.
PPP has been unable to get the Domestic Workers Bill passed from the National Assembly and had stayed put on the issue in Sindh as well. The promise has been compromised.