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Call for change of attitude to ensure the rights and dignity of domestic workers

Trade union leaders and civil society representatives urged for humanitarian approach, raising awareness to ensure the rights, safety and dignity of domestic workers, to ratify ILO Convention-189 and enact law based on the existing policy on protection of domestic workers in the country. They were speaking at a seminar on ‘Protection of domestic workers, ensuring dignity and prevention of violence: Present situation and way forward’, organised by BILS Securing Rights Project on November 25, 2020 at the National Press Club in the city .

BILS Vice Chairman Shirin Akhter MP presided over the programme while Domestic Workers Rights Network (DWRN) Acting Coordinator Abul Hossain acted as a moderator. Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on the Ministry of Labour and Employment Mujibul Haque, MP was present as the chief guest at the event. Member of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on the Ministry of Labour and Employment Shamsunnahar Bhuiyan, MP was present as special guest. BILS Secretary General and Executive Director Nazrul Islam Khan delivered welcome speech. Among others, BILS Joint Secretary General and Bangladesh Trade Union Center General Secretary Dr. Wajedul Islam Khan, National Press Club General Secretary Farida Yasmin, Nagorik Uddyog Chief Executive Jakir Hossain, Sramik Karmachary Oikya Parishad representative Shakil Akhter Chowdhury, Securing Rights Project Brand Ambassador and Actress Deepa Khandoker, Women Sramik League General Secretray Kazi Rahima Akhter Shathi, Ain O Shalish Kendra Senior Staff-Lawyer Adv. Asma Khanam, Hellotask Chief Executive Officer Mahmudul Hasan Likhon, BRAC TVET Support and Decent Work Skill Development Programme Sr. Manager Kanak Lata, Labour Rights Journalist Forum General Secretary Ataur Rahman spoke as honorable discussants.

Speaking as chief guest, Mujibul Haq, MP said a large number of domestic workers are children. According to the law of Bangladesh, child labour is prohibited in the country. “The people who are engaging children as domestic workers should think what they are doing are right or wrong,” he said. He also said although the country has introduced a policy for domestic workers, they are still being exploited in many ways. He urged all to be conscious to stop violence against domestic workers.

Speaking as the special guest Shamsunnahar Bhuiyan, MP, said, Domestic workers are human beings like us but they are being treated inhumanely. She said everyone should be aware to stop the torture of domestic workers.

National Press Club General Secretary Farida Yasmin said, we are able to do the right thing for those who work outside because the domestic workers are always supporting us, yet they are neglected, abused. She demanded that the criminals be brought under the law and a fair trial be ensured. She said that like the formal sector workers, domestic workers also need to have appointment letters, fixed hours and fixed wages.

BILS Joint Secretary General and Bangladesh Trade Union Center General Secretary Dr. Wajedul Islam Khan said, everyone should be aware of the rights of domestic workers as well as their health. He said they do not get dignity compared to their contribution to GDP.

Mentioning that domestic workers are giving us security as part of our family and society, SKOP Representative Shakil Akhter Chowdhury said that Covid-19 has proven it better. He demanded ratification of ILO Convention 190 to stop harassment of domestic workers.

Nagorik Uddyog Chief Exective Jakir Hossain said, domestic workers had suffered the most during the COVID-19 pandemic, adding that domestic workers were being tortured but not being tried. He demanded the introduction of day care centers across the country at government expense to family the children of domestic workers.

Securing Rights Project brand ambassador and actress Deepa Khandaker said, “We are not getting all the news about the abuse of domestic workers.” Noting that many homes do not have a working and living environment for them, she said they are still forced to live there in search of livelihood. She said that in order to ensure the rights and dignity of domestic workers, everyone should be made aware as well as more campaign.

In his welcome speech BILS Secretary General and Executive Director Nazrul Islam Khan said that domestic workers are the most abused. We can’t give the respect they deserve for those who work for us. They are not recognized as workers. They are also being tortured abroad. He demanded ratification of ILO Convention-189 and the domestic worker protection and welfare policy be turned into law.

Mentioning women are being abused and humiliated all over the world, BILS Vice Chairman Shirin Akhtar, MP said, it is important to see how much domestic workers are getting the support of the law and the administration, not just the law. She said everyone should be aware of the rights and dignity of domestic workers from their own homes, she urged all to work together for this.