Children, interrupted3 min read 12 Apr 2012, 10:04 PM IST
When I read of the case of the doctor couple in Delhi who had locked up their 13-year-old maid in the house and gone off to holiday in Thailand, I barely raised an eyebrow. Not because such news doesn’t matter to me. The reason for my jaded reaction was because I thought that this was just one couple who had by sheer chance ended up getting caught when a neighbour thought something suspicious was going on and alerted the police. Who, I wonder will catch the hundreds of other families employing underage domestic help. One of the most cringe-inducing interactions I frequently have is when I meet an urban, educated, sometimes professional woman in the park or swimming pool and she points to a girl of 12 or 13 running after her own kid and says, “She’s very well trained. She has been with me for years. She came to me when she was very young." She could have been speaking about her puppy dog. And if she has been with you for years, I always think in horror, just how young was she when you started exploiting her? Seven or eight? Or another mother will lament the dearth of good domestic helps and say, “I wish I could at least get a young girl of 11 or 12. They are much easier to train." Easier to train is euphemism for easier to exploit. Younger maids are less aware of their basic rights and are more financially desperate which is why they have been sent off to work by their parents in the first place. The most appalling part is that these women are completely untouched by the Supreme Court verdict disallowing children below 14 to be employed in any capacity.