Jun 17, 2014

Plights of domestic workers

Plights of domestic workers

Usually domestic worker means a person do or help to do our household chores for money or benefit. However, our existing Labour Law denies their rights and does not include them as worker. The word “Servant” used by the Act is itself an offensive word.

Nonetheless, recently enacted the Domestic Violence (Prevention & Protection) Act, 2010 also does not cover domestic workers under its purview. Only the Domestic Servants' Registration Ordinance 1961 defines them as domestic servant among all others laws in this country. However, the law again does not ascertain any of the rights or duties of the domestic workers rather it merely deals with the provision of registration. 

The term “Domestic worker” is very recent trend to recognise them as worker. Formally the Domestic Workers Convention, 2011 (Convention No. 189 of ILO) first recognises domestic work as “work” and persons engaged in this sort of work as worker and also introduces a set rights for these workers. This work may comprise cleaning house, cooking, washing, taking care of children/elderly/sick members of a family etc.

Though there is no special law on domestic workers but constitutional provision has guaranteed some rights as fundamental rights and enforceable by the court for every citizen of the country. Also there are few ordinary laws, which can defend the rights of domestic workers as an ordinary citizen of Bangladesh.

Among those, the Nari O Shishu Nirjatan Daman Ain, 2000 can be used to punish and prevent death, attempt to murder, grievous hurt or mutilation by using corrosive, incendiary or poisonous substances (especially throwing of acid), trafficking of women for prostitution and allied matters, trafficking and stealing of children, rape etc. Although this Act of 2000 covers many aspects relevant for domestic workers, it was promulgated to safeguard women and children in general and no specific attention was given to the domestic workers.

However, all criminal acts are adjudicated by criminal courts and tribunals and the domestic workers, like any other citizen, are under the jurisdiction of these criminal courts of the State. A domestic worker can take the advantage of the Penal Code, 1860 to prosecute the culprits for culpable homicide, murder, hurt, grievous hurt, wrongful restraint, wrongful confinement, assault, kidnapping, abduction, rape, theft etc. There is however no statute that specifically deals with domestic workers and declares an act to be a criminal act considering the special circumstances of the domestic workers.

Whenever a domestic worker starts to work in a household, there is an agreement between the employer and the worker. This agreement is almost oral. Everybody shall be paid for his work on the basis of the principle 'from each according to his abilities, to each according to his work'. However, there is lack of law which can determine minimum wages for every sorts of domestic worker and can ensure other employment rights as ensured for other workers.

One can enforce his agreement by the Contract Act, 1872 if any breach has been occurred. Moreover, in case of any violation of the service contract, or any injury sustained by the worker, a case of compensation can be filed before the civil courts.

Domestic workers are mostly unlettered and unaware about their rights. Moreover, we have no effective mechanism to inform them about these legal protections and cannot bring them under the shield of the court of law. In addition, it is really difficult for them to fight against their wealthy and giant bosses. Hence, State should arrange such effectual machinery to inform them about their rights and provide sufficient legal aid to fight against suppression.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Blog Archive

Popular Posts