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'70% W Bengal child workers face abuse'

According to a study, nearly 70 per cent of child domestic workers in the state face physical abuse, reports Romita Datta.
None | By Romita Datta, Kolkata
UPDATED ON MAY 11, 2007 08:43 PM IST

They have no wage-board, no unions to take up and fight their cause. By all conservative estimates, the average working period is 17 hours, without any rest during the day.

Their average remuneration varies between Rs 200 to Rs 500 per month on which very few have control.

While 68.3 per cent of the Child Domestic Workers (CDW) population, who were under research, admitted of facing physical abuse, 86 per cent suffered emotional abuse and nearly 90 per cent had been victims of sexual abuse. Meet this generation of child domestic workers of West Bengal.

Save the Children UK, which had been working extensively in West Bengal for the child domestic workers have concluded a thorough research of three years recently. The research was spread over four districts of the state East Midnapore, West Midnapore, Murshidabad and South 24 Parganas.

The state social welfare department is taking the research seriously, since it is the only document available with the state.

The research has revealed that nearly 70 per cent of CDW, who were under the research scan, faced physical abuse, varying from being beaten, kicked, punched, slapped, depriving of meals and even burned, and above 85 per cent were subjected to being shouted at, cursed, threatened and blamed.

Meanwhile, a large section of almost 90 per cent are facing various forms of sexual abuse, which involves forced sexual intercourse, touching of private parts and being made to watch pornographic material.

The research has divided sexual abuse under four categories: CDW who have had their private parts touched, CDW, who were forced to touching private parts, CDW forced to sexual intercourse and CDW made to watch pornography. While 32.2 per cent of the total children researched have confessed to being forced to molestation and fondling, 22.4 per cent have been forced to touch the abuser’s private parts (masturbation).

Again, while 20.3 per cent were forced to sexual intercourse, 19.5 per cent were shown pornographic stuff.

Its not just girls, who are the victims of sexual abuse, even out of 35 male participants 25 per cent were victims of either touching or being touched, 5.7 per cent were sodomised and 8.6 per cent had been made to watch pornography. In majority of these cases the abuse has happened more than once, most abusers belong to the employer’s family, someone who is known to the child and has certain power over them.

On physical abuse, while 46 per cent admitted of facing severe abuses, that left them badly injured, 25.3 per cent children complained of cuts/bruises because of violence. “Woken up from sleep by a kick, hair being pulled, face being punched and head being banged against the wall are very common experiences of physical abuse.

The research mentions one Bulbul, who would be scratched by her employer’s long nails and kicked in the stomach because she “took a bit longer to finish her work.” More than 60 per cent admitted that there was no medical attention, following abuse.

This goes for the abuse, even the basic requirements food, clothing, shelter and security are denied to child workers, who are mostly girls and between age group of 11 to 16 years. While 31 per cent of CDW do not get any rest during the day, 41 per cent have only two or less than two hours of rest during the day.

While 33.1 per cent complained about frugal meals,42.1 per cent were dissatisfied with clothing and 41 per cent found their employer’s place unsafe.

Principal secretary of Social Welfare department, S N Haque, said that the research was thorough. However, whatever needs to be done, has to be done by the state labour department, which is dealing with the issue of child labour.

Mr Haque said that his department has rescued and rehabilitated children of Howrah and Hooghly, who worked as domestic help in Mumbai and Delhi. According Haque, Save the Children UK, have spent Rs 22 lakhs on rehabilitation programmes.

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