Murder of teenage Indian maid sparks calls for tougher laws urgently

by Annie Banerji and Roli Srivastava | @anniebanerji | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Monday, 21 May 2018 15:12 GMT

ARCHIVE PHOTO: A 16-year-old girl with her hand decorated with henna stands inside a protection home on the outskirts of New Delhi November 9, 2012. REUTERS/Mansi Thapliyal

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"There is no fear of law under the current child labour act."

By Annie Banerji and Roli Srivastava

NEW DELHI/MUMBAI, May 21 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The murder of a teenage maid in India triggered calls on Monday for the government to urgently pass laws to curb trafficking and update legislation that lets children work as domestic help.

Police said the 16-year-old girl from eastern Jharkhand state was strangled and her body chopped up and dumped in a drain earlier this month after she demanded a year's unpaid salary from the employment agency that hired her.

A man, who worked at the agency that brings girls from poor families in rural areas to work in Delhi, was arrested late last week, senior Delhi police officer Rajender Singh Sagar told reporters.

"How can we allow our little daughters to be brutally killed after trafficking and exploitation? Where is the rule of law?" Indian Nobel laureate and child rights activist Kailash Satyarthi said on Twitter.

The case has put the spotlight on the abuse of domestic servants in India where millions of people, including children trafficked from remote and impoverished states, toil for long hours in homes with little freedom or protection.

Satyarthi urged the government to pass India's new anti-trafficking bill, that was cleared by cabinet in February but has not been tabled in parliament yet, and called for the enactment of another bill to regulate employment agencies.

With stringent punishment for traffickers and quick relief for victims, campaigners believe the anti-trafficking law will result in more arrests and convictions.

About 60 percent of the more than 23,000 trafficking victims rescued in India in 2016 were children, government data shows.

Campaigners have blamed the dilution of the country's child labour act for more children being trafficked for domestic work.

India's parliament approved a controversial law in 2016 allowing children to work for family businesses, despite widespread concern that it would push more of them into labor.

Anti-trafficking charity Shakti Vahini demanded a rollback of amendments in the law and quick enactment of legislation to monitor unregulated employment agencies to stop them withholding salaries from workers or using violence against them.

"It is getting worse after the law was amended," Ravi Kant, founder of Shakti Vahini, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

"There is no fear of law under the current child labour act."

(Reporting by Annie Banerji @anniebanerji, Editing by Belinda Goldsmith Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters that covers humanitarian issues, conflicts, land and property rights, modern slavery and human trafficking, gender equality, climate change and resilience. Visit http://news.trust.org to see more stories)

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