The strength of a state comes not from the money it spends on its military, but on the protections, it guarantees to the weakest segments of its society. The Pakistani state has always failed on that front, unfortunately.
Pakistan is a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of the Child – the state gave a commitment to protect children against all forms of violence in the public and private spheres. Yet, as the recent case of 13-year-old Rizwana Bibi – who was brutally tortured over a sustained period, allegedly at the hands of her employers – shows this is not a one-off incident but is widely prevalent.
In a recent statement the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) demanded that employment of minor domestic workers be criminalised, That such cases occur with alarming regularity in the country should prompt a call to action by civil society. “It is not only the extent of violence that Rizwana Bibi has borne that is reprehensible. She was employed as a minor in contravention of a Supreme Court judgment prohibiting the employment of domestic workers under 16. The irony that her employers were a civil judge and his wife should be lost on no one. The fact that a more robust FIR was not lodged in the first instance and that the accused was granted protective bail in all likelihood on account of her influence, reflect a system that is rigged invariably against the most vulnerable.”
As HRCP noted, “society has normalised not only the employment of minors, but also their ill treatment, whether in homes, schools or workplaces. If the statistics are anything to go by, children are seen as easy targets, as punching bags and as prey.”