8 years ago

Protecting domestic workers

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Nowadays, human rights violation of domestic workers has become a common topic in Bangladeshi dailies. Some violent and inhuman incidents are taking place in both middle and high class families throughout the country. Even, some celebrities and social service holders often commit such crimes. However, only a few cases of violence against domestic workers get substantial media attention while a large portion remains unnoticed. It happens largely because employment of domestic workers is still not recognised as a formal or institutional sector of labour in Bangladesh. 
Under the social practice of about 100 years, it has become a tradition in our country that full-time domestic workers remain on duty for 24 hours. It often facilitates culture of dominance or even violation of domestic workers' rights by their employers. For example, according to some statistical figures on the plight of domestic workers presented at a roundtable titled 'Policy Process Formulation: A Case Study of Domestic Workers in Bangladesh,' held on April 19, 2015, at the National Press Club, 56 domestic workers were killed in 2010, 38 in 2011, 48 in 2012 and 32 in 2013.
In order to protect the rights as well as to ensure welfare of domestic workers, government and non-government entities in Bangladesh are working together for nearly a decade. One of the concrete outcomes of this relentless effort is the 'Draft Domestic Workers Protection and Welfare Policy 2014.' This draft policy is a detailed and matured version of the 'Draft Domestic Workers Code of Conduct,' which was developed in 2007 by the Domestic Workers Rights Network (DWRN). The draft policy came through standard practices of national policymaking process, including inter-ministerial and the tripartite Consultative Council meetings. The policy also confirms a High Court judgment on the domestic workers under the age of 12, which covers registration, treatment, working hour, and a monitoring cell etc. 
The main body of the draft policy focuses on some key issues, such as the registration of domestic workers, identity card for them, nature of agreement between the employers and the domestic workers or their guardians, the amount and method of payment, the nature and duration of their works, scope of leisure and entertainment for domestic workers, regular training, hospitality, religious freedom and other facilities for them. The draft also discusses the legal procedures in the case of human rights violation of the domestic worker by the employers. It equally specifies the rights of employers to take legal action in case of fleeing or criminal activities by domestic workers.
The duty of the government agencies, especially the Ministry of Labour and Employment, has also been pointed out in the draft policy. It prescribes the responsible government authorities to regularly monitor the effective implementation of rights and duties of domestic workers and their employers under the policy. It is now time to implement the Domestic Workers Protection and Welfare Policy effectively.
The writer is Research Associate (International Affairs), Bangladesh Institute of Law and International Affairs (BILIA) [email protected]

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