June 8, 2023
By Maryam Missal
The Child Protection Welfare Bureau (CPWB) on Wednesday rescued a minor girl who had been forced into domestic labour in Lahore’s Daroghawala area. The 12 year old was reportedly subjected to mental torture by her employer.
The CPWB recovered the child upon receiving a complaint from a citizen, who had spotted her after she fled from her employer’s house. The Bureau is currently undertaking measures to provide medical and psychological assistance to the minor, as well as to connect her with her parents.
The girl is a resident of Bahawalnagar, and was sent to work by the parents a few days ago. She told rescuers that her employer forced her perform extensive labour, and ran away after a week.
She is currently in the custody of the CPWB, as reported by Wasim Abbas, the Bureau’s Public Relations Officer. While speaking to Voicepk.net, Abbas denied reports that the child had also been physically assaulted.
In a press release, Chairperson CPWB Sara Ahmed said that legal action will be initiated against the house owner involved in forced labour of the minor.
Khalid Mehmood, labour rights activist and Director of the Labour Education Foundation (LEF), held the government accountable for worrying statistics for child labour.
He explained that increasing inflation is the primary cause for child labour in Pakistan, where financial vulnerability leads families to force their children to work. Mehmood further told Voicepk.net that the ratio of government primary schools and the population in Lahore is extremely skewed.
“Parents who wish to educate their children are deprived of the opportunity to do so due to the unavailability of educational facilities,”
According to a CPWB representative, the girl will be handed over to her parents after they submit an application to the court. Parents are bound to sign an affidavit that ensures that the child will not be forced back into labour, which if violated will invite legal proceedings against them.
Article 11 (3) of the Constitution of Pakistan sets the minimum age of labour to be 14 years, while the Punjab Restriction on Employment of Children Act 2016 sets the minimum age at 15 years. Furthermore, the Act states that an occupier (defined as any individual who, directly or directly, employs a worker in an establishment) cannot employ or permit a child to work in the establishment, and cannot employ or permit an adolescent (defined as an individual who has attained the age of 15 but is younger than 18 years of age) in hazardous work in the establishment.
The Punjab Domestic Workers Act 2019, which pertains to prohibition of employment, states that no child under the age of 15 years shall be allowed to work in a household in any capacity. It further provides that no domestic worker under the age of 18 years shall be engaged in domestic work except involving light work in a household.
According to statistics shared by the CPWB, 78,753 children have been rescued from different districts of Punjab since 2004. The rescued children were victims of forced labour as well as domestic, sexual, physical and mental abuse.