Child rights panel wants RWAs to prevent abuse

,TNN | Nov 5, 2013, 11.34 PM IST

NEW DELHI: With cases of torture of domestic workers, particularly minors in urban middle and upper middle class families on the rise, Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights (DCPCR) has written to chief minister Sheila Dikshit, seeking intervention of Bhagidari cell to make the resident welfare associations – 3500 of them are registered under the programme – aware of laws related to child labour and trafficking.

Interestingly, the Bhagidari cell has cited the model code of conduct to explain its inability to take any measures now to involve RWAs in preventing abuse of minors. Such awareness building will have to wait till the elections are over and a new government is formed. The RWAs registered with the cell are estimated to be covering a population of about 60 lakh in colonies and resettlement colonies..

DCPCR chief Arun Mathur said RWAs need to be made aware of the provisions of the anti-child labour law and Juvenile Justice Act. "Most people believe that child labour laws apply only till age 14 and domestic workers older than that can be engaged for work. But the provisions regarding child labour are clear that domestic work comes under the hazardous category and children up to 18 cannot be engaged for the same," he said. "Also, the 2009 Delhi high court order states that if a domestic worker in the 14-18 age-group is identified, he or she must be freed from the clutches of an employer." He added that Juvenile Justice Act is clear on the definition of a child applying up to 18 years.

There are about one lakh full-time domestic workers and many more part-time helps. While domestic work has grown into a full-fledged profession, the lack of laws make these workers – mostly women and minor girls – unaccounted migrant labourers. R S Chaurasia, chairperson of NGO Bachpan Bachao Andolan, says even if 10% of Delhi's urban middle and upper middle class households employ full-time maids, the number will be nothing short of a lakh.

Rishikant from NGO Shakti Vahini, that was involved in the rescue of an 18-year-old tribal domestic help from Vasant Kunj on September 30, said, "Many children and women are being trafficked for forced labour, child labour, forced marriage, sexual exploitation and bonded labour. The employers are specifically looking for children as they are cheaper, complain less and remain silent when exploited."'

Rita Panicker, director of NGO Butterflies, said: "The tribal girls are most vulnerable. For them, city life is traumatic. To be placed in a middle-class home where life is so different from their village is a big change for them. We need to shame employers who abuse domestic helps." The NGO was involved in the rescue of a minor from house of an air hostess in south Delhi recently.