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PAKISTAN: DOMESTIC WORKERS BILL


PROTECTING SOCIETY’S WEAKEST


Domestic workers’ constitute a growing sector of the employee workforce in Pakistan. Working in some cases without any employment contracts has led to the abuse and mistreatment of many domestic workers in the country. A new Bill is planning to change this, thus ensuring equality and better treatment for all workers, argues the Senator behind its movement.


SenatorOsman SaifullahKhan Senator Khan, was elected to the Senate in 2012 from Islamabad, and is a member of the Pakistan People’s Party. He is a graduate of the University of Oxford and the Graduate School of Business, Stanford University.


When I was elected to the Senate of Pakistan in March 2012, representing the Federal Capital Islamabad, contributing to Pakistan’s legislative landscape was one of my foremost objectives in my new role. Although our problem is often a lack of enforcement of existing laws, there are many areas of daily life that desperately require legislation. The employment rights (or lack thereof) of Pakistan’s domestic workers is one such area and so earlier this year I moved my first Bill, The Domestic Workers (Employments Rights) Bill 2013. The Bill envisions legal protection for the rights of domestic workers that take residence in private households, i.e. cooks, drivers and maids.


The rise of the domestic worker Pakistan has a population of close to 190 million, with a large majority comprising of young people. With the corporate sector unable to provide enough jobs to gainfully employ the potential labour force, a


172 | The Parliamentarian | 2014: Issue Three


Senator Osman Khan


large and growing segment of the population migrate to the cities – usually from rural areas – in search of household work as domestic workers. Their circumstances are unique as they often live in the homes of their employers without written employment agreements and clear employment terms, and their employment falls outside the scope of existing labour laws. Consequently, domestic workers are some of the most vulnerable in Pakistani society. In the recent past the country has


witnessed several instances of gross mistreatment of domestic workers, resulting in injury and in some cases, death. In January and February 2014, stories emerged of the deaths of a ten-year-old and a 13-year-old girl, both killed by their employers. The ten- year-old was killed over allegations of stealing and the 13-year-old was found strangled in her employer’s home. The fatalities, both in Lahore, created a national uproar. Although the proposed legislation does not extend to industrial workers (they are covered by other laws), it is hoped that the heightened awareness the Bill’s passage generates will help many employed in industries where incidences of abuses are rife.


A Bill for all


Legislation requires backing by robust enforcement of the law; an area where Pakistani performance is weak. The struggles of domestic workers are of course not restricted to Pakistan. The case of the Indian diplomat, Devyani Khobragade,


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