A domestic helper is not a slave. A child is not a servant. #JusticeForTayyaba

Published: January 3, 2017

Pictures of her bruised face and hands went viral and hash tags such as #JusticeFor Tayyaba started making rounds on Twitter and Facebook.

Exactly one year ago, a man heard a little girl cry out from the cold floor of a washroom in Rawalpindi. She is a 12-year-old domestic worker in Rawalpindi Cantonment. As the man tries to contact the police, he realises there is no proper method to save a child like that from a family that refuses to understand that such treatment towards young children, or any person, is nothing but inhumane. The man who heard this little child’s cry wrote about the incident in a piece published on January 01, 2016, with the hope that by this year, she would be with a loving family.  

In January 2016, a professor tortured and sexually assaulted his 15-year-old maid. The incident took place in Lahore’s Defence area; a place where the rich, educated and affluent class reside. It is unfortunate that even in areas such as these people treat their servants worse than pets. In the same month, another piece of news surfaced where residents of Askari-9 in Lahore had tortured a 10-year-old girl to death. The girl was tied with ropes and was beaten to death with a plastic pipe.

My heart is constricting as I write this.

How could anyone carry out such brutality onto another human being, let alone a helpless little girl who was paid Rs2,500 a month to serve you all day and night? The practices of burning them as punishment, torturing them over petty theft are common. One child said his employer would hit his feet with his golf clubs if he did not fetch his master’s shoes fast enough. If that doesn’t spell out ironic brutality, I don’t know what does.

In May 2016, a 17-year-old girl named Sadia was tortured in Chakwal. She was not allowed any form of contact with her family for eight months, and was beaten and threatened on a daily basis. When her brother visited her and saw her miserable condition, he wanted to bring up the issue with her employers and take her back home. However, he was paid ‘hush money’ as compensation and was warned with prison threats and told to never come back for her. This is common practice in Punjab, said Fayaz Butt, the assistant director of Child Protection and Welfare Bureau (CPMB) in Punjab.

Another girl in Gujrat was tortured for five days because the employers thought she had stolen a gold chain. The couple took turns in beating her with sticks and even put a sword to her neck.

What era are these people even living in and who do they think they are to treat another human being like with such savagery? What kind of sick power trip is this?

In 2015, an ex-MNA from Punjab, Liaquat Bhatti, tortured maids regularly. The 12-year-old orphaned maid was eventually recovered by the Child Protection Bureau last year. What’s worse is that, a few years earlier, another brother and two sisters were recovered from the same MNA’s house.

Now is the first month – nay – first week of 2017 and here I am writing about another incident that flashed across our television screens and smartphones. This time, the employer cum torturer is allegedly a sessions’ judge. Judge Raja Khurram Ali Khan allegedly tortured a 10-year-old girl named Tayyaba for failing to repay a loan of Rs6,000. The incident came to light when pictures of her bruised face and hands went viral and hash tags like #JusticeForTayyaba started making rounds on Twitter and Facebook.

According to Tayyaba, her employers would starve her, beat her and shove her hands onto a burning stove. The judge, however, responded to the allegations by calling them “fake” and “made-up”. One can only wonder how a 10-year-old child managed to injure herself this badly or make up such fantastical lies that go as far as producing injuries to her face and body. The judge was so adamant on bashing all criticism and blame that he even lodged a complaint against Pakistani stand-up comedian, Junaid Akram, who was only doing his part as a citizen of the country in saving Tayyaba.

Each year brings us new and harrowing details of various children abused and brutally tortured by their ‘employers’. I use the word ‘employers’ in quotation marks because this hardly qualifies as a job. What happens in Pakistan in the name of domestic help is hardly a “job” – it is nothing short of slavery. Young children, sometimes as old as 10 or 12, are ‘bought’ from struggling, broke parents who have nothing to offer to the world but their offspring. Young girls are taken in by the “mem sahabs and bajis” of the elite society and are provided with nothing but bare minimum necessities such as food and shelter in exchange of gruelling work.

According to the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) survey conducted in 2012, 12.5 million children in Pakistan are involved in child labour; 264,000 of them are employed as domestic servants, as per ILO’s 2004 report. Since these figures haven’t been deduced recently, we can all be assured that the numbers are much, much higher today.

The terrifying part about these incidents is how rich, educated, well-placed people are the ones behind these criminal acts. If one cannot expect the privileged to respect the rights of those less fortunate than them, what hope does the struggling class have? More importantly, if these people want to use their money, education and influence as a weapon instead of a tool to facilitate less fortunate human beings, then it is the utmost responsibility of the state to take strict action against such individuals.

A domestic helper is not a slave. A child is not a servant. And no human being deserves the treatment some of these ‘elite’ individuals have meted out to these helpless, powerless young boys and girls. And if all your money and all your social and financial successes can’t teach you this, you might as well go back living in the caves and killing each other like Neanderthals.


Mahwash Badar

The author is a clinical psychologist, a mum to two boys and permanently in a state of flux. She tweets @mahwashajaz_ (twitter.com/mahwashajaz_)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • M. S. Chaudhry

    Victim’s father has mysteriously forgiven judge. Father, forced his 10 years old daughter to do hard labour, abandoned her in the custody of a stranger, abetted in child abuse and failed to provide necessities of life to his child. He is a criminal, therefore he cannot forgive another criminal.Recommend

  • vinsin

    Diagree, he is custodian of child. Your argument is unislamic. 10 yrs are old enough to get married. Your argument only valid in a secular state not in an Islamic state.

    Pakistan is still liberal, in Saudi her head would have been chopped off.Recommend

  • Ahmar

    I think the parents are responsible who sell their children for 6,000 rupees. The only practical way to stop this is ban people from having more children than they can raise on their income.Recommend

  • Parvez

    This and incidents like this is a classic case of the ‘ utter failure of the State ‘ and a clear case highlighting the total absence of the rule of law…..shameful is but a small word to describe thus.Recommend

  • Syed Nasir Mehdi

    The Judge should be prosecuted no matter what her father saysRecommend

  • Fahim

    When a father handover child to any one for labor then he loose all rights to be guardian. Government should protect those children from influential peopleRecommend

  • Paindu

    Dear writer is there any incident where a young boy is tortured No, Women tortures its on kind why…?? Because she doesn’t like presence of women and she is expecting male maid preferably healthy and young so he can use him as an entertainment.,, Definite this reality seems foolish but this is the fact. I have observed lot and found that the people having both male and female maids, Females are treated very harshly and hardly by homeowner lady, And male treated like king,, because of their secret services…!!Recommend

  • Ahmad

    A judge & A professor Wow!
    I always struggle to find suitable words to vent my anger or whatever you may say but i fail i always fail. Feels bad that i’m too a part of this sick society.

  • Fahim

    You are not muslim so don’t spread your ideas in name of Islam. Unless mentally and naturally a boy/girl is eligible to become mother/father they are not eligible to be married. Stop propagating hatred against IslamRecommend

  • Patwari

    Do remember,…YOU are part and parcel of this society, that
    sells their children for Rs.6000. Just as guilty as the parent
    These people can barely eat one meal a day if at all. Do you think
    they have money for birth control?? And ban people from having
    children? How do you do that!!Recommend

  • Patwari

    And then there are hindus boiling in their perpetual hate
    of Muslims, Pakland …
    Want to know what hindus do to Dalits? Untouchables?
    It will make your skin crawl!! And your hair stand up!!Recommend

  • Humza

    The author of this article is on record for saying she is against the existence of Pakistan and how she laments her family moved there from India. This is her right in a free media and society like Pakistan but you need to understand her psychological angle. Crime should be reported and police should be notified at every suspected incidence of any wrong doing. Civil society should help set up shelters and centres to help abused children and domestic workers. Moreover socially conscious judges and citizens can initiate suo moto cases against alleged perpetrators.Recommend

  • Jude Allen

    I have no words to express my disgust except how to bring the culprits to justice. Honestly, I wish the moderator would not moderate my sentiments that I cam currently holding back.Recommend

  • Sane

    Indian commentators like you are out of their head. They are unable to comprehend about what discussion is.Recommend

  • Patwari

    Bullpucky!! He does not loose his parental rights!! Child only went
    for employment. Period. Nothing else. Father’s rights did not stop.
    Though he is worse than an animal, because he forgave the judge.
    The child was employed by an employer. All applicable labor laws
    applied.[Though child labor laws were broken]. Child was not be
    abused, tortured and beaten.
    Sell your two bit philosophy in Saudia.Recommend

  • Fahim

    All state laws regarding employment were broken and your free advice is not welcome. We will make state that is according to wishes of People of Pakistan that is Islam. Whether kufar likes it or notRecommend

  • Patwari

    Turn left when you go out the door. It will take you to
    your mosque. Where you can sit
    awe struck.
    Oh! Don’t forget to leave your donation for the ‘madrassa’.Recommend

  • Patwari

    Comment edited by Wahabis at ETRecommend

  • Patwari

    “…she is against the existence of Pakistan…family moved/
    migrated from India…Muhajjir…” You have proof of this?
    Is this something that you manufactured? As you produce
    these stupendous non existent facts about the thriving Pak
    economy. And how Standard and Poor is ecstatic and drooling
    over the Pak economy. All the high end Wall Street firms are
    running over each other in their rush to invest in the Land of the Pure.
    Trouble is they don’t even bother to visit. Because they may not even
    make past the airport. Getting kidnapped for ransom comes to mind.
    Your anti Muhajjir sentiments are well known. After all, Sons of the Earth Punjabis [mainly] have the lone ‘theka’ contract for Pakland. The Muhajjirs, after generations are still considered “Muhajjirs”. And not allowed to integrate. No wonder they desperately want a province oftheir own. You know,…Urdu speakers… whose forefathers came from India.
    Take an inward look and see how the likes of Sharifs have stunted and looted the country and made it a hotbed of extremism/terrorism
    Before you get to your standard mantra ofRecommend

  • Humza

    This comment has been abridged by the moderators at ET but the gist of the above message is for readers to understand the motivation of a writer who is fundamentally against the existence of Pakistan as she has previously written. With such a mindset, it is important for readers to understand her motivation to always write negative stories against Pakistani society without any consideration to constructive criticism. All the while she forgets that that cases of child abuse, women abuse and overall abuse continue on a far greater and disgusting scale in the India she wishes her family never left. I believe ET readers need to understand the real motivation of the author and work to improve the country and not fall for negative articles which serve an ulterior motive.Recommend

  • Humza

    People can migrate from here or there and settle in a new country but when they call into question their loyalty to the nation, comments from them are circumspect. You are welcome to question politics, the Sharifs, question development and economic priorities and everything which is fair game in politics. You may have your own axe to grind against the Sharifs but do not let your hatred of them, blind you to understanding that any author who habitually writes against the Pakistani society has a different agenda. I can take constructive criticism from any Pakistani when the goal is to hold a mirror and better society. When someone like this author is openly against the existence of the state and says its founder made a mistake and she would prefer to be India like her family who didn’t move from India, it is up to Pakistanis to point out her Indian homeland is far worse in social ills. Here is her original article which is still celebrated in India by Indians:

  • Fahim

    That is hatredRecommend

  • vinsin

    What they do to Dalits and Untouchables?Recommend

  • vinsin

    What is the discussion about?Recommend

  • vinsin

    And how that is determined? A girl can be married as soon as she is born In Islamic countries.

    Stop propagating hatred against IslamRecommend