The brutal rape and murder of a 10-year-old girl who worked as a domestic worker in Pakistan has sparked outrage and calls for justice. Fatima Furiro was allegedly tortured and killed by her employer, Pir Asad Shah Jeelani, a member of the influential Pirs of Ranipur, in Sindh province. Her body was found with severe injuries.
Fatima’s mother said that she had sent her daughter to work for Pir Fayyaz Shah, who then employed her at Pir Asad Shah’s house nine months ago. She said that she only met her daughter three times during that period, and that she was not ill. She also said that she had two other daughters working as maids for the Pirs of Ranipur.
Initially, Fatima’s parents declared her death as natural, despite clear signs of violence on her body. However, after a video of Fatima’s body went viral on social media, they changed their statement and accused Pir Asad Shah of killing their daughter. They demanded a postmortem and justice for their daughter.
The police arrested Pir Asad Shah and produced him before a judicial magistrate, who sent him to jail on four-day physical remand. The police also constituted a three-member committee to investigate the case.
Fatima’s case is not an isolated one. According to estimates, there are about 264,000 children working as domestic workers in Pakistan, and many of them face abuse, exploitation, and violence from their employers. In January 2023, another 16-year-old maid, Uzma Bibi, was allegedly tortured and murdered by her employer in Lahore for eating a piece of meat. In 2018, a 10-year-old maid, Tayyaba, was rescued from the house of a judge and his wife, who were accused of torturing her.
More recently Rizwana, a 14-year-old girl, was working as a domestic worker at the house of a civil judge, Asim Hafeez, and his wife, Somia Asim, in Islamabad. She was allegedly tortured by Somia Asim for nine months, who accused her of stealing gold jewellery. Rizwana’s parents lodged a case against Somia Asim after a video of Rizwana’s injured body went viral on social media. The police arrested Somia Asim and formed a joint investigation team to probe the case. Rizwana was shifted to a hospital in Lahore for treatment. The case highlighted the issue of child labor and abuse in Pakistan, where many children work as maids and face exploitation and violence from their employers
Child rights activists say that the situation is getting worse, and that there is no legal protection for child domestic workers in Pakistan. They say that child work is normalized in the society, and that many people from different classes employ children as servants. They also say that the government has not implemented effective laws and policies to prevent and punish child labor, and that the law enforcement agencies are corrupt and reluctant to take action against the perpetrators.
The activists demand that the government should ban child domestic work under age 14 in all provinces, as it has done in Islamabad Capital Territory. They also urge the government to ratify the ILO Convention No. 189 on Decent Work for Domestic Workers, and to ensure its implementation. They call for more awareness and education campaigns to change the social attitudes towards child domestic workers, and to provide them with alternative opportunities for their development and well-being.