CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 15 September 2018

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Domestic workers strike for rights in India

DEHLI (UCAN): Some 4,000 domestic workers in New Delhi went on strike on August 16 to demand that the federal government formulate a law to ensure fair wages and security for them.

The domestic workers, registered under the Domestic Workers’ Forum of Chetnalaya, the social service wing of the archdiocese of Delhi, took to the streets to observe No Rights, No Work Day.

Chetnalaya has been calling people to observe the day for the past two years. It wants justice for a community of workers who are exploited, harassed and underpaid.

“Domestic workers in India do not have any recognition of work, respect and are exploited at the hands of employers,” the forum secretary, Nilima Tirkey, said.

The forum also used the occasion to highlight the issue of trafficking and the migration of girls and young women from tribal areas into cities looking for domestic work.

“Trafficking of girls is going on for domestic work and this happens because of the ignorance of people in remote villages,” said the director of workers’ forum, Father Savari Raj. “Girls working as domestic workers in cities suffer from poverty and lack of education.”

He said there has to be an informed migration where innocent girls can come to the cities for domestic work and remain in touch with their families, friends, village heads and neighbours so they are not lost and exploited.

Suman Klara was brought from the western state of Chhattisgarh to New Dehli as a domestic worker by relatives when she was 19-years-old.

Now 32-years-old, Klara recoundted that her initial experience was an unhappy one as her employer tried to sexually molest her on several occasions.

“I somehow managed to escape and save myself, but I did not know who to turn to and had nowhere to go as I was new to the city,” she said.

Anjali Dumdum, who migrated from eastern state of Jharkhand at the age of 13, said, “There are women who work for placement agencies and visit villages informing them that they can employ girls in big cities with good wages. I heard one such announcement and came to Delhi.”

She said that the recruiters left her at the placement agency and never met her again.

“The employers where I was sent for work used to give me only rice to eat and I was made to sleep on the balcony,” Dumdum explained. “Also, I used to work very late at night. There was no end to the work.”

Data collected by the forum show 129 cases of exploitation of domestic workers were registered in 2015 in New Delhi, including five where the worker died due to harsh conditions imposed by their employers and one of rape. There were 56 cases of forced labour and illegal confinement.

The International Labour Organisation estimates that there are nearly four million domestic workers in India and although the Indian government supported the 2011 convention, Decent Work for Domestic Workers, it has not ratified it.

The convention requires each member country to fix a minimum wage for domestic workers, ensure their security and decent living conditions. 

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