Mahak [not her real name] is a 16 year-old girl; due to polio, her foot is paralyzed. There are four sisters and one brother in her family.
She is working as a maid in a home where she lives for 24 hours, and there are no specific duty hours for her. She goes to sleep late at night and wakes up when everyone in the home is sleeping, because before they wake up, she has to prepare breakfast for them, wash pots and clean their kitchen – and while her master’s family takes breakfast, she cleans their bedrooms, and does other routine things, and anyone can insult her – even children of that family.
She has to wear dirty clothes to avoid the attraction of that family’s men, otherwise, if they will do something bad with that girl, she will held responsible for their actions herself.
Her ideal life is that of her one sister who was adopted by her uncle and studying in 10th standard; she can sleep when she wants, her uncle celebrates her birthday, and she can buy new dresses when she wants.
Mahak has dreams, too. In the home where she was working before, she was a cleaner in their beauty salon as well as in their home. She learnt to do facials and threading [facial hair removal] by looking at the beauticians working there, so now, by learning more, she wants to have own beauty salon one day.
Mahak’s mother is working in five houses and her two sisters live in houses as maids like her. They are not daughters of their father; they are his factories, because every day they have to give him $2, to buy drugs for him – because he is a drug addict.
She has self-respect; yesterday, when I went to that home where she works, I saw that the lady was shouting at her, because the lady’s 6 year-old son was irritating Mahak – and of course, the lady blamed her for this, I saw this.
Mahak said angrily, “None of you has a right to talk to me like this, while I am here in this house.”
And she shut the door with so much anger. Whatever she said was absolutely correct; just because she is a maid, no one has a right to insult her.
I asked the lady (who is unfortunately my relative) why she hired this young girl as a maid? It is time for her to study. But she replied, “If I will not keep her, someone else will hire this girl as a maid. This is a reality and she has to do it; she has no choice – she has to provide drugs for her father.”
I could not say anything, but I told her that it is against the law and humanity, too. The way she is treating the girl is not good at all. But the lady said, “Zeph, are you my relative or hers?”
I said, “I am a relative of those who are being ill-treated by anyone.”
By looking at that girl’s condition, I can say that slavery has not finished yet. I see this so much: many women are still slaves, as a wife, daughter, sister, mother, or a maid.
Yes, there are laws, but if laws are written only and not to be implemented, they are useless. If people have no awareness of their rights and duties, then laws are useless.
Until our people will change their mindsets – as they stay within their own comfort, for how long they will keep ruining innocent lives?
Disclaimer: Views here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent an official standpoint of Safe World for Women, as an organisation.