“In India, Maids Need Protection and Respect”

August 1, 2011 at 12:21 pm Leave a comment

Sister Jeanne DevosDomestic workers face serious workplace dangers:  human trafficking, underpayment, beatings, sexual exploitation, and forcible confinement.  The International Labor Organization’s Convention on Domestic Workers was approved by over 100 countries, including India, in June, and India’s domestic workers are hopeful that it will mean an improvement in their working conditions.

From the New York Times:

“The situation is changing rather fast, and in the last five years we’ve seen great improvement,” Sister Jeanne [Devos] said. Seven Indian states have passed laws bringing domestic workers under the Minimum Wage Act, a small but significant recognition of basic rights. Social security benefits will be available for the first time soon, with the government announcing health insurance coverage for domestic workers and three family members. And Sister Jeanne, like many other activists in this field, hopes that the norms set by the International Labor Organization convention will be accepted by individual Indian states, even if it takes a few years for the central government to ratify the convention.

“One of the more contentious issues for domestic workers in India is the question of workplace safety. A landmark bill in 2010 tackling sexual harassment in the workplace was criticized for omitting domestic workers. The argument of its framers was that it would be difficult to police private homes.

“The task force from the Ministry of Labor is looking into the amendment to the sexual harassment bill,” Sister Jeanne said. “If the home is defined as a private space, then the employer should not take on an outsider as a worker. It starts with the name — domestic worker — it’s an identity. It allows workers to see the dignity of their work, to make comparisons with air hostesses, or to see the value of the work they do, whether this is child care or care for the aged.”

Read the full article: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/13/world/asia/13iht-letter13.html?_r=2&ref=women

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