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Silent Suffering: The Tragic Tale of Child Labor in Pakistan

In Pakistan, escalating inflation has transformed household expenses into an unbearable burden, compelling even young children to work to contribute to the family's financial sustenance.
by TNN Editor - 25 Nov, 2023 1597
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Nazia

Hunger stands as the world's harshest truth, a bitter reality, and the most profound vulnerability. Under the weight of poverty, children grapple with studying, playing, and fulfilling their modest desires, where the significance of two meals a day encompasses their entire world.

In Pakistan, escalating inflation has transformed household expenses into an unbearable burden, compelling even young children to work to contribute to the family's financial sustenance.

Labeling the treatment of young domestic workers in Pakistan as a severe violation of human rights would not be an exaggeration. These children endure separate utensils for meals, remain hidden from sight, and are often served leftovers. Their delicate existence parallels the fragility of flowers that wilt when disturbed.

Grappling with a burden beyond her years

Recently, I encountered a 10-year-old girl in the market struggling with an oversized shopping bag, a burden clearly beyond her capacity. While the mistress scolded her relentlessly, it was evident that the child's inability to handle the load was not her fault.

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These children, paid meager sums, endure day-long labor, facing mistreatment and, in some instances, even tragic endings. Restricted to two meager meals of dry bread or leftovers, they bear the brunt of physical abuse, insults, and prolonged separation from their families.

Horrors of Domestic Violence Against Child Workers

The incident in Sargodha involving a lawyer's wife exemplifies the grotesque nature of domestic violence against child laborers. Rizwana, a 14-year-old victim, fought for her life in a Lahore hospital, her body marred by injuries inflicted by the lawyer's abusive wife.

The bones in her body, including her fingers, were broken, and she endured relentless physical abuse. Despite the gruesome nature of her injuries, it took five months of continuous treatment for Rizwana to be discharged from the hospital.

Children Should Learn, Not Labor

In Pakistan, children bear the brunt of household chores, including cleaning, dishwashing, laundry, ironing, and cooking. Child domestic workers, often of the same age as the family's children, are burdened with tasks beyond their years.

Disturbingly, educated professionals, including doctors, lawyers, judges, and politicians, are among those exploiting child labor. The lack of serious government intervention perpetuates this issue, with stringent laws against child labor urgently needed.

The responsibility for this predicament falls on past and present rulers, whose inadequate policies contribute to the escalating prevalence of child labor. Superficial measures, such as advertisements, seminars, or sporadic raids, will not suffice.

Real change can only come when the government implements practical steps to alleviate inflation and poverty. Improved economic conditions will empower impoverished families to prioritize education over child labor, ultimately eradicating this scourge from society.