Employing domestic helper of varying ages is a common practice in urban areas of Bangladesh. Over 80% of them are underage girls. There exists no regulatory framework for the minimum age of employment, pay and working hours for these poor and vulnerable workers. As documented by news portals and human rights organisations, domestic workers are routinely subjected to violence. As per the report of Ain o Salish Kenda (ASK), only in the first six months of 2019, there have been 15 reported cases of violence against domestic workers, of which 8 were cases of rape.
The Government of Bangladesh had earlier promulgated an Ordinance for the registration of the Domestic workers in certain area of Bangladesh. This Ordinance does not touch any regulatory aspect does not confer any rights or remedies to the domestic workers.
In Bangladesh National Women Lawyers Association (BNWLA) v Government of Bangladesh 2011 BLD 265, the Court acknowledged the rights of the domestic workers for the first time and said that the child domestic workers of Bangladesh between the ages of 14-18 should be incorporated automatically within the provisions of the Labour Act 2006. However, this recognition has been largely ineffective.
Bangladesh is a member of the International Labour Organization (ILO). It is a signatory to the Domestic Workers Convention 2011 that come into force on September 5, 2013 but is yet to ratify it.
However, the Cabinet of Bangladesh approved the draft of National Policy name is the Domestic Workers Protection and Welfare Policy in 2015, but this policy is no justiciable and moreover, it does not outline minimum wage and working hours.
Domestic workers arguably the most vulnerable class of workers, and are easy prey to abuse. It is about time their plights are heeded and they are afforded justice.
The writer is a student of Law and Human Rights, University of Asia Pacific.