LAHORE:The government must protect the rights of millions of domestic workers and ensure that they get decent wages and protection from violence and exploitation at the hands of their employers. They must be covered under the relevant labour laws and given an opportunity to organise themselves.
These were the demands made at a stakeholders’ meeting on Taking Forward Organising of Domestic Workers in Punjab, arranged by HomeNet Pakistan.
The event was a component of the Gender Equity Programme (GEP) implemented in collaboration with Aurat Foundation (AF) and supported by USAID. The participants gave an overview of the issues faced by domestic workers and deliberated on ways to highlight and resolve them.
Separate sessions were organised to discuss the initiatives taken so far for the welfare of domestic workers, and to analyse the recommendations regarding the domestic workers’ bill tabled in the Senate. HomeNet Pakistan Executive Director Ume Laila delivered the welcome address. She said violence against domestic workers had increased manifold in the country in the last few years. She said domestic workers were part of the informal sector of economy and stressed the need to ratify the International Labour Organisation Convention 189 (on decent work for domestic workers).
The government should make laws in line with the convention to protect domestic workers, she added. “This is not a simple task. All the stakeholders will have to make concerted efforts to get the desired results.”
Labour Education Foundation Executive Director Khalid Mahmood said the registration of domestic workers had started in parts of the country. “Unfortunately, the objective of this exercise is to increase security and keep a check on the workers. It would have been better if this move had been made out of a desire for the betterment of the workers and the task of registration was assigned to the Labour Department instead of police and National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA),” Mahmood said.
He said domestic workers ‘ issues were highlighted only when there was an incident of violence against them. “There is a need to bring those issues to the fore that lead to such instances of violence,” he said. Chaudhry Yaqoob, a labour leader, said trade unions condemned violence against domestic workers and backed the civil society’s demand for legislation for their rights. Javed Pasha, Shahina Kausar, Hanif Ramay and Javed Gill also spoke on the occasion.