Are children from all over the world the same? The right to education, basic medical facilities and nutritious food is really available to all? Domestic child workers are silently living in the dark shades of our society, making us wonder whether these are children of a lesser God?
In West Bengal more than 800,000 children are working as child labourers. This figure does not include children, mostly girls, working as domestic workers. According to NGOs, 68 per cent of these child labourers tolerate extreme physical abuse by their employers, 90 per cent are victims of child sexual abuse, but they do not come out in the open and 90 per cent children admit that are emotionally abused. In many cases the torture leads to the death of the child labourer but is hidden from public glare.
The Silent Agony
Twelve-year-old girl Sangita was interviewed by Prabir Saha, who is studying in Class VII of a government-aided school, Sarada Prasad Institution for Boys, in South Dumdum Municipality of Barasat in North 24 Paraganas district.
Circumstances and poverty drive many children away from school, forcing them to work as domestic help. Undergoing extreme forms of torture both physical and emotional these children are victims of inhuman cruelty.
Twelve-year-old Sangita has been a victim of emotional and physical abuse, till her health gave away. Coming from a family of three sisters and one brother, Sangita didn’t have much of a choice than to work in a household as a domestic help. “My father could not fend for us, instead, he used to come home drunk every night and abuse my mother -- physically and verbally. We used to be frightened to death. My mother had no choice, when she decided to send me to work and to live in that house as a 24-hours helper”, says Sangita.
Sangita was exposed to extreme forms of labor. The family consisted of five grown-up members. Since early morning I would do the dirty dishes, straighten the beds, serve milk or tea, help the lady in the kitchen, wash all their clothes, linens. She would beat me up any time with trifle issues. Her grown up sons had filthy language. They would also look for excuse to pull my ear or hair. Once I was pushed and fell down, broke my front teeth. They all laughed. They would make fun of me at the slightest pretext, cries Sangita.
Working from morning till dusk, Sangita is one of the thousands of children who have forgotten the innocence of childhood. All work and no play is what was the world of Sangita. She recalls, “I worked from morning till night. They had frequent visitors. All the time I kept on cleaning...dishes, clothes, kitchen, bathroom, floor, the windows and panes, dust the furniture. All the members were in a habit of sitting still in one or the other room, order for every little item. But, I never cried you know, thinking of my mother, but, if ever I was sad, the lady was furious. I never had time to play.”
Sangita’s fragile body couldn’t take this extreme form of torture for long and fell seriously ill and was hospitalized for a long period. Though she found an escape from that hell, she has lost all her agility and appetite.