NATIONAL LEGAL RESEARCH DESK
The issue of exploitation of women and children domestic workers is frequent and regularly reported. With no rights and rules to fall back on, the domestic helps, mostly migrants from eastern states, have become contemporary slaves. It is also a known fact that many women and children are trafficked and exploited by the placement agencies, which operate openly without any form of restrictions and regulations, also escaping the tax net, thus necessitating the need for regulation and control.
The domestic workers fall outside the Labour legislations thus domestic workers are unable to access their rights. That non recognition of domestic work as legitimate work combined with hidden nature of the worksite results in exploitative living and working conditions and sometimes forced labour and trafficking. Reports of abuse are many with workers facing among other things , extremely long working hours , absence of rest and leave periods, deprivation of food, delayed or non payment of wages and physical and sexual abuse, recruitment related fees, deceptive recruitment practices and discriminative policies further jeopardizes domestic workers right to just and favorable working conditions.
Relying upon separate and weaker protections in a standard contract to protect domestic workers rather than extending equal protection of Labour laws to domestic workers constitute unjustifiable discrimination as prohibited under ICCPR, Convention on Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women and migrant workers convention prohibit discrimination on basis of sex, language. Social origin,. Therefore international law guarantees equality before law and equal protection of law to domestic workers.
Under Art 15 (3) of the Indian Constitution, special provisions for women and children may be made and further keeping in view Entry 24 and 23 of list II under schedule VII of the constitution state government can also enact laws to provide for welfare of labour including conditions of work, employers liability, social security and social insurance.
This law should keep in view the rights guaranteed under article 23, 24, 14, 19, 39, 43. Thus it is imperative that a law be enacted to provide for safety and security of domestic maids and regulate the placement/employment agencies which cater to providing employment to any class/category of persons.
The law needs to be broader and go beyond the scope of domestic workers as placement agencies not only cater to domestic but also other employment requirements.
In this context the Delhi Labour Department and the National Commission for Women have come out with draft legislation.