The Unvoiced

Children in Domestic Work…

  • …they are little girls sometimes boys- who come from villages to work and support their parents- pay back a loan- feed their siblings.
  • they live in the house of the employer, away from their parents, brothers and sisters, away from their home.
  • they feel lonely, fearful.
  • these children have no friends to laugh and play with or to share their sorrows.
  • ILO recognized children in domestic work as one of the worst forms of slavery in June 1999.
  • the UN Human Rights recognized domestic work as one of the contemporary forms of slavery in 1997.
  • the government estimates around 1,85,000 children are involved in domestic labor.
  • …are invisible because each child is separately employed and works in the seclusion of a private home.
  • they do not exist in a group and are difficult to reach and count. They are hidden and silenced behind closed doors.
  • their job is invisible as domestic work belongs to the informal sector and is not considered as work.
  • about 90% of them are girls.
  • they are either live-in (full time) or part-time workers. Most child domestic workers are live-in.
  • the World Bank survey estimated 15 million child domestic workers in India in 1975.
  • child domestic work is not recognized as child labor in India.


Features that distinguish child domestic work from other forms of labor:

  • domestic work is among the lowest status, least regulated and poorest remunerated.
  • the live-in child domestic workers are under the exclusive control of the employer/s; they have little or no freedom or free time.
  • since its possible for very young children to undertake light household tasks, the age of entry can be as young as five.
  • many child domestics do not handle their earnings; some are unpaid, the earnings of others are commonly given to their parents.
  • their powerlessness within their household renders them vulnerable to verbal, physical and sexual abuse.
  • the live-in child domestic worker is cut off from her own family, has little opportunity to make friends, and almost no social exchange with peers.


The implications of being a child domestic worker:

  • Respect for identity, selfhood and freedom: The younger the child starts work as a domestic, the greater the risk to her sense of identity. The labels ‘servant’, ‘maid’, used to describe child domestic workers have proved to be significant in reinforcing their low self-esteem.
  • Parental nature and guidance: Removal from the nurture of the family has equally profound implications for the child.
  • Physical well-being: accusations of laziness or bad work are often behind violent incidents against domestic workers. Accidents are also a risk, especially when the child is exhausted, also there are hazards associated with cooking, boiling water, chopping vegetables, using chemical cleaning fluid and carrying heavy items.
  • Educational development: Lack of schooling not only reduces skills, but limits personal development.
  • Psycho-social and emotional development: Confinement to the house, lack of interaction with peers, recreation non-existent, no time to play and having to adopt varied roles and personalities within the household can psychologically and emotionally wreck the child. The child lives daily with a risk of sexual or physical abuse.


Their rights are being violated (The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child):

  • …the right to be cared for by his/her parents (Article 7).
  • the right to education (Article 28).
  • the right of a child separated from his/her parents to maintain regular contact with them (Article 9).
  • the right to be brought up by parents or guardians whose basic concern is the best interest of the child (Article 18).
  • the right to protection from physical or mental ill-treatment, neglect or exploitation (Article 19).
  • the right to conditions of living necessary for the child’s development (Article 27).
  • the right to protection from economic exploitation and from performing any work that interferes with her education or is harmful to her mental, spiritual or social development (Article 32).
  • the right to be protected from all forms of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse (Article 34).
  • the right not to be arbitrarily deprived of liberty (Article 37).
  • the right to rest, leisure, play and recreation (Article 31).

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