An 11-year-old child employed as a domestic worker with a family was tortured to death by them after he was caught eating food from their fridge. The child died while working in a posh neighbourhood in Lahore city, at a time families across Pakistan were celebrating the Eid holidays.
The shocking incident sheds light on the prevalence and brutality of child labour in Pakistan.
The child’s 6-year-old brother was also beaten during the attack but survived the incident. Police say that the children were tied up in a room and subjected to heavy beatings with sharp objects for hours by their employers while other family members watched.
Three of the employers accused of taking part in the beating have been detained by police. Two remain on the run.
“I responded to a call from a hospital that they had received the body of a child bearing torture marks. Two of the accused had brought him there,” police officer Amanullah, who requested to be identified only by his first name because he wasn’t authorised to speak on the matter, told VICE World News.
“They were behaving in a suspicious manner due to which we took them to the police station to interrogate them further. Shortly thereafter, we rescued the child’s younger brother who was also injured.”
A police spokesperson who requested anonymity told VICE World News that the accused had revealed during interrogations that they hurt the children for eating food from their fridge.
According to police, the children had been working for the family for a few months and were often beaten over trivial matters. Amanullah said that investigators have been unable to contact the children’s parents, whose phones appear to have been switched off.
It is illegal for children below 14 to work in Pakistan. However, there is still a massive child labour epidemic in the country. Local child rights advocacy groups have reported that more than an estimated 12.5 million children work in the country in factories, agriculture, and as domestic workers.
In June, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) reported a rising trend in child labour across a number of countries since the onset of the pandemic due to worsening economic conditions.
A newly amended law has not stopped employers from exploiting poor families to use their children as a source of cheap domestic labour. Domestic child workers are often at risk of facing unchecked sexual, physical and psychological abuse.
In 2020, an 8-year-old child in the city of Rawalpindi was killed by her employers for setting their prized parrots free.
According to child rights groups, impoverished parents are often driven to send their children to live and work in the homes of the rich for paltry wages that can range from $25 to $75 a month.
“In most cases, the parents are uneducated and unaware of the rights of their children and the ban on domestic child labour, but the person who is employing the children is certainly aware of it,” Akhtar Syed, the national coordinator for advocacy group Child Rights Movement, told VICE World News.
“They know it is illegal, and [yet] the children are available to them 24 hours of the day at minimum cost. It boils down to greed.”
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