Domestic helps need to be served better
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Domestic helps need to be served better

There are no provisions for them to have sick leave, a holiday or a bonus on festivals.

Domestic helps need to be served better

Delhi: A house help, physically abused by her employers and her hair chopped off as an act of 'punishment'. This recent incident has come to light from West Delhi's Rajouri Garden. While the case is criminal in nature, citing abuse, it certainly throws in our face the question of how we all treat the domestic help in our houses. The bigger question is, what rights do they have?

In Delhi NCR, or even in all metropolitans and second-tier cities for that matter, seldom it happens that a household hasn't employed domestic help for the daily chores of cleaning, cooking, and driving among others. This makes them an intrinsic part of our everyday lives. In all the hustle-bustle of daily life, it gets next to impossible to get through a day without the support of domestic help.

However, their mistreatment, especially in soft forms, is also very evident. This recent case and more such frequent incidents are a testament to it. Domestic help, although very important for the middle-class to the rich section of this country, is also subject to exploitation at the hands of their employers. There are no provisions for them to have a holiday, sick leave, or a bonus on festivals. Something as simple as taking leave once a week doesn't come under their 'legal' rights. Why? Because they're distinguished as 'unorganized labour' and there is no legal framework that protects their rights. There are no guidelines under the protection of which they can fall when harassed, and mind you, harassment is not just physical, it comes in all types. Unlike other working classes, there is no provision of provident funds or insurance for domestic help.

Also read: Noida: Women of ward 7 distribute shawls to their domestic help

Shameera, a resident of Skylark Apartments, Dwarka is very active in the social groups of the sub-city. While talking to CitySpidey on the subject, she says, "These house helps usually come from backgrounds where they are not very aware of what their rights are or not. Physical abuse in their own homes is also very common. They come to work in our houses to earn their bread and it is absolutely inhumane to mistreat them even at their workplace."

While talking about the domestic help at her own place, she says, "I make sure that my house help gets leaves whenever she needs. She tells me how exploitation and abuse are very common in her own place. I also make sure to help any domestic help who comes to work at my house to open a bank account so her money can at least be protected. At the individual level, we can make sure to treat our house help with respect and at community level, we can organize workshops or awareness campaigns about the same in residential societies."

Shabnam Hashmi, a social activist from Dwarka tells CitySpidey that there are some organizations to help domestic workers, however, the house help are not aware of such organizations. She says, "Our society is discriminatory in every way. There is caste, economy and several other grounds on which people are discriminated against. Middle-class people exploit those who aren't as economically well off as they are. There are not sensitized about basic human values. As most of the domestic helps are women, the Delhi Commission of Women can be really helpful when it comes to abuse and harassment. They are very active and I'll get in touch with them to make women from economically and socially weaker sections of society more aware of their rights and the help available."

Prema Ali, an ex IAF officer and a resident of Dwarka is of the view that the rights of domestic help should be protected legally. She says, "They need week offs as much as we do. I make sure to give my house help a day off per week. Their exploitation is very common. Although I have never witnessed their abuse personally, I do know that it's not a hidden truth. I think their rights should be legally recognised."

Khushi Singh, a homemaker from Noida says, "I don't have much idea about whether our maids have any legal rights or not. I know that they are mistreated. People even have different utensils for them to consume food from. While it's not exploitation, it is a way of throwing in their face that they don't belong with us."