Imagine a typical street girl in Pakistan; her face is covered in filth, yet her eyes are so intense they will pierce your very soul. She might not be the perfect kid. During her brief tenure on Earth, she has experienced some difficult situations that have forced her to act in questionable ways. But it is clear from her enthusiastic movements and agility that she is well suited to care for your toddler as she balances the infant on the nape of her tiny waist and interacts with it in ways that you could never.
Yes, this is how the idea of that girl taking care of your child, comes forth. This is indeed a common occurrence in a country like Pakistan: a youngster looking after another child or looking after their homes, doing all sorts of chores.
While some families feel like they have given that girl home and proper food. Where the elder children might teach her what she couldn’t learn out of school and they all treat her like family.
However, we live in a world that does not work like this and so let me familiarize you with the bitter reality of child maids in Pakistan. Behind the glistening glass doors of the country’s most opulent neighbourhood, thousands of children work as maids and servants. Across Pakistan, an estimated 264,000 children are employed in such work, and claims of abuse by employers are commonplace.
In the case of Kinza, Army authorities interviewed 11-year-old Kinza Bashir, a domestic employee who was allegedly physically abused by a serving army official and her husband, a doctor, who had employed her. Army authorities had sought her records. They asked the Child Protection Bureau for an interview with the victim as one of the suspects in the case is serving as an information and computer information technology officer at General Headquarters. The victim, who is from Faisalabad, was brought back to Rawalpindi by the police once the case came to light and moved to the Child Protection Bureau.
There was a similar social media outcry in 2018 over pictures of 10-year-old Tayyaba’s bruised face and hands. She had been working as a maid for a judge and his wife. The couple were cleared of assault allegations but convicted of neglecting an injured child and sentenced to one year in jail.
Humaira’s story is typical of the abuse that can take place behind closed doors. A child when she started domestic work and now in her 20s, she says she was burned by her employers, and then hidden away so that no one would know. “I was 10 and severely malnourished. I could barely lift the children, who regularly abused me – sometimes verbally, other times physically.”
16-year-old maid Uzma Bibi was allegedly tortured and murdered by her employer in Lahore for helping herself to a small piece of meat. After tweets about her case went viral under the hashtag #justiceforUzma, three people, including her employer, were arrested and are now in custody awaiting trial.
Along with these a huge number of such cases come forth every now and then, which leads me to wonder how many of them go unnoticed by the eyes of the media.
Indeed child maid is a form of child labour and robs children of their childhood, yet it could also be seen from a point of view that sometimes it does give that child a better life than they had ever gotten if not for looking after another kid. While let us all remind ourselves of the type of society we live in and how disgustingly we treat servants at our homes, especially when it’s a little girl.