Child labourers live in a world of brutality, harassment both physical and emotional and extreme forms of poverty. Coming from the poorest of the poor, these families are not even able to earn enough for one-day food and have to largely depend on children to earn and feed. Education is a dream to these children. Poverty and unemployment engulf their lives in complete darkness and these children get lost in its hollowness.
These domestic child labourers work behind the closed doors of homes and remain unseen, left alone to suffer. But the silence doesn’t make this problem go away. Most of the child domestic workers live in the exclusive around-the-clock control of their employers, making them helpless and prone to depression.
The Misery of a Girl Labourer
The case is of 14-year-old Payel who was interviewed by Srabanti Pal of Class VII of government-aided Vivekananda Institution for Girls in Arjunpur, Rajarhad Municipality in North 24 Paraganas. Payel has been working from the age of eight.
Fourteen-year-old Payel is a victim of both emotional and sexual abuse. Working in two different households her life is miserable and hopeless. Payel says, “I work in two houses. They do not treat me well. In one of the houses, the man is a hot-tempered one. He dictates what is to be done. I do not get any food to eat. If ever the man shows pity and hands over food, it must be stale and inedible.”
Tolerating extreme forms of torture, Payel says that the weekends are the worst. “On Sundays he takes charge of the house, He beats me up often. He picks up flaws in my work and looks for opportunity to abuse me. He calls names at me. There is a lot of work, although it was not told in the beginning. He often lies about time. He has two children. The younger one is a boy. He throws hard objects to hit me. Once he hit me with an iron potholder. He throws water on chilly winter evenings.”
To add to her agony, the second household of Payel is exposing her to sexual abuse as well. She says, “They are an aged couple. Both are very short-tempered. They do not allow me to take leave. The man is not good by character. He has a different look. He looks for opportunities to be close to me with an ill intention. His wife also knows it. At present I have no choice, as I have lost my father. However, I have told my mother and she is looking for another house, where I can work.”
Payel is among the many girl labourers who suffer humiliation and sexual harassment everyday.
Plight of the Child
Sukanya Pal, studying in Class IX of Jatragachi Pronobananda High School in Noapara, Rajarhat Municipality, Barasat, spoke with 15-year-old domestic child labourer, Shilpi, who was employed in the house of a women linked showbiz.
Shilpi is one more of the child domestic worker, who was employed in the house of a woman linked to the showbiz. This fifteen-year-old girl didn’t get any taste of glamour, instead humiliation and harassment all the way.
Shilpi recalls, “The lady had two small children. Her husband stayed out of the house for work. Throughout the day I cleaned her house, bathed and fed her children, took them out to park, but in the evening every day some men and women would be her guests. I had to serve hard drinks, wear short dresses according to the lady’s instruction. I had to tolerate the smell of the drinks and their lewd comments and touch. If by any chance any crockery broke she would beat me physically. She would be intoxicated by then. Her children were quiet in front of her, but were nasty otherwise.”
Shilpi was kept captive when she tried to contact her mother in a room where she couldn’t have any kind of access. When one day Shilpi got a chance she called her mom and told her everything. “She came with a lot of people and verbally snatched me away from her clutches. But, then the lady deducted my salary saying that there was a huge telephone bill”, tells Shipi.
The agony and pain experienced by each of these child workers, bring only one question to the mind…is there any humanity left among us?