Pakistani couple murder 7-year-old housekeeper arrested

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About 8.5 million people are employed as domestic workers in Pakistan. (Representative)

Rawalpindi:

Pakistani couple arrested for allegedly murdering seven-year-old maid after being accused of letting a pet bird escape, police said, latest case of child domestic violence in the country.

Hassan Siddiqui and his wife employed Zohra Bibi at their home in a bourgeois suburb of Rawalpindi, near the capital Islamabad, to care for their son of the same age.

“The poor girl was tortured by Siddiqui and his wife who accused her of having released one of the four parrots in Macau,” investigative officer Mukhtar Ahmad told AFP on Thursday.

“Siddiqui kicked him in the lower abdomen, which turned out to be fatal.”

According to the International Labor Organization, around 8.5 million people – including many children – are employed as domestic workers in Pakistan.

Theoretically, it is illegal to employ a person under the age of 15, but this remains common practice.

Zohra was taken to hospital by the couple on Sunday, but died the next day. The incident was reported to the police by hospital staff.

The girl’s body was returned to her parents, who live in Muzaffargarh, near the town of Multan, more than 500 kilometers (300 miles) from where she worked.

Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari confirmed the arrests in a tweet and said the ministry was in contact with the police.

“Violence and physical torture against children will not be tolerated and all those involved in such incidents will be treated,” added the city’s police chief, Muhammad Ahsan Younus.

Domestic workers are frequently confronted with sexual exploitation, violence and abuse, the rigid patriarchal structure of social classes in Pakistan leaving them speechless.

Children are particularly vulnerable and the case of Bibi is the latest in an increasing number of incidents involving minors.

In December 2018, the growing number of cases of abuse led the Punjab provincial legislature to establish regulations for the employment of domestic workers, which theoretically grant them rights such as sick leave and holidays.

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