She was beaten up with sticks. She had bite marks on her arms. Her lips were chewed. There were bruises on her face, neck and hands.
This inhuman treatment was meted out to a 15-year-old domestic worker who was found naked when she was rescued from an upmarket south Delhi home on Monday.
She was employed by a senior executive working in a foreign firm. While this incident is particularly shocking for its brutality, cases of the abuse of domestic workers are quite frequent across the country.
Last year, a 13-year-old was rescued after the couple for whom she worked locked her up in their Dwarka home, left her very little food and headed out for a six-day holiday to Bangkok.
These cases attracted considerable media attention mainly because they took place in tony areas of the national capital and the accused are educated and affluent.
A significant number of domestic workers especially from states like Jharkhand, Orissa and West Bengal rely on placement agencies to get them jobs in cities which promise lucrative salaries.
In reality, they are sold into what can only be called modern-day slavery.
Many of them are subjected to physical and sexual abuse. They are often starved and threatened. These placement agencies are normally fly-by-night operators that are part of a trafficking network.
There needs to be an immediate crackdown on these illegal placement agencies. Despite the ban on child labour, the practice of hiring under-age domestic workers is common since they can be paid much less and exploited more.
A proposal from the National Advisory Council in April 2009, on giving domestic workers minimum wages, paid leave and regulated working hours under a national policy is yet to become law. If passed, the policy is likely to benefit 6.4 million domestic workers — mainly women.
The increasing cases of abuse suggest that there’s an urgent need for legislation that will ensure domestic workers better working conditions and social protection.
The latest case should prompt the authorities to institutionalise mechanisms to protect domestic workers and also to ensure that those who indulge in such abuse are severely punished.