Petition to Conduct CBI Enquiry into Murder of Dr J A Mathan

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Abuse of Domestic Maids: Labor laws exclude maids in India

Labor laws exclude maids in India
National Domestic Workers Movement founder, Sr Jeanne Devos, says that the Indian NGO receives three or four complaints per week of maid abuse by employers.India’s 90 million maids are excluded from labor laws, The Times of India reports. The exclusion is just a short distance to abuse: long hours, bad pay, inhuman treatment, physical and sexual harassment.
The case of actor Shiney Ahuja, who was arrested for allegedly raping his domestic help, made headlines because of his celebrity status. But in most cases, what happens in the neighbour’s house often stays there, the paper says.

“From not getting paid to being kept hungry for two days for breaking a cup, the abuse of maids can take many forms,” says Jeanne Devos, the Belgian nun who formed the National Domestic Workers Movement (NDWM) 25 years ago. It gets three to four such cases a week from across India. But apart from organizing demonstrations outside employers’ homes or on the streets, there is little the NDWM can do.

“They are not even recognized as workers, so there is no legal protection for them under labour laws. They can only go to a criminal court,” Devos told the Times of India.

The NDWM has been battling to change that status for years and has managed a few significant victories. Seven states - the four southern ones and Rajasthan, Bihar and Maharashtra - have passed legislation to protect domestic workers. But “it hasn’t been implemented as yet,” says Devos.

However, the National Commission for Women (NCW) is working on a draft law to provide social security to domestic workers with the employer making a monetary contribution over and above the salary.

Attitudes must change, says filmmaker Nishtha Jain, whose documentary Lakshmi and Me examines the problems faced by domestic workers.

The terminology used to describe them - naukrani, servant, maid - is telling, Nain says. But the low wages shock Jain the most.

“In most posh colonies of Mumbai, the rate is Rs 300 per chore. Is that fair for a mountain of clothes or dishes?” she asks.

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