The attitude in Pakistan towards child labour is a hypocritical one; everyone collectively (and rightfully so) raised a hue and cry when ten-year-old Tayyaba was found physically abused in the home of the additional sessions judge Raja Khurram Ali Khan, yet daily we encourage these innocent souls to keep on servicing us through various means. These children of a lesser God have been providing comfort, an ego boost and embellishing the status symbol of the middle and upper classes by performing menial jobs for them for decades.
Whether it is the chotu helping lift groceries upstairs for someone, the flower seller running from car to car on a traffic signal, or the girl-child nanny taken to weddings to tend after rich babies and babas, their mere existence makes us all a part of the system that continually abuses their younger years and robs them of their innocence. We are all guilty of the charge, having contributed towards their despair every time we have made a payment for any of their services.
The general attitude in society towards the offspring of the economically downtrodden is a discomforting one; these kids are viewed primarily as unwanted creatures whose parents couldn’t exercise self-control and neither have the means to provide for them. “Bachay Allah ki dein hotay hain”(Children are a gift of God) is a phrase we often hear in Pakistan but the lower classes, and their offspring are exempt from such blessings. Homes with child-maids will ensure that the under aged domestic worker does not spend too much time watching TV; she will be sent to the store frequently as the kids of the house watch endless hours of cartoon network. Most people believe in human rights but only when it concerns them or their own. Child labour is often seen as a necessary evil, but these are just excuses to hide our own laziness, to move around the house. Hence people do not hesitate to ask a poor kid to dust their cars off every day before they zoom off to the office.
Live-in under aged domestic workers get no time off; there is always something to be bought, chopping to be done, scum to be scraped off waiting for them. Not every house that employs them abuses them physically, but these homes invariably become training grounds that teaches child labourers a stern lesson in the class division. The unequal distribution of money is what keeps our society going, and in these homes, these little angels learn to kill their dreams one night at a time and submit to their ‘fate’-living forever with a sense of inferiority.
Very few Pakistani homes can claim that they let their house staff (adult or otherwise) use the same cutlery as the members of the family. When these workers sit down to.....