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ISLAMABAD: Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights has recommended that 18 years be the minimum age for employment as a domestic worker in the jurisdiction of Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT).

The committee made this recommendation in its meeting on Monday, presided over by its Chairman Walid Iqbal from the ruling party; Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).

The Senate panel reviewed in detail The Islamabad Capital Territory Domestic Workers Bill 2021 moved by Sherry Rehman, the Parliamentary Leader of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) in Senate.

By majority vote, the committee recommended – “uniformity with laws such as contract and others amendment in the bill in terms of age should be amended from 16 to 18 years as the minimum age to work” under The Islamabad Capital Territory Domestic Workers Bill 2021.

Briefing the committee on the bill, Rehman said that the bill provided for the prevention of abuse and maltreatment of domestic workers.

“There should be laws for the unprivileged class of the country, which they should be aware of—there are people who treat the domestic workers with integrity but not as a matter of their right— there must be regulatory frame work for the employers on which the entire families of the workers are relied upon, which has also remained a practice in the developed countries,” she stated.

The officials of the Ministry of Human Rights (MoHR) gave the ministry’s input on the bill. Globally, the rights of the domestic workers are protected under an International Labour Organisation (ILO) convention, the Senate was briefed. The committee discussed the prohibition on employment under the age of 16 years. The MoHR officials said that the minimum age set out in the bill ‘must’ be consistent with all the other existing laws.

After the inclusion of child domestic labour in the list of prohibited occupations in the Employment of Children Act 1991, the age of children prohibited to work as domestic workers is 14 while the ILO convention on minimum age declared 15 as the minimum age for a child to be able to work, the officials said.

The Punjab Domestic Workers Act 2019 fixes the minimum age of 15 years for employment as a domestic worker, they added.

The MoHR recommended that 15 years should be the minimum age, in Islamabad Capital Territory Domestic Workers Bill 2021, for domestic workers’ employment.

PTI’s Dr Mehr Taj Roghani disagreed with the MoHR officials. The ILO is a United Nations body and 18 years is the standard age fixed by the UN “on all such matters,” she said. The chairman committee said “Even as a ‘child soldier,’ the combat age is 16 years.”

However, the committee, by majority vote, decided recommending 18 years, in Islamabad Capital Territory Domestic Workers Bill 2021, as minimum age for employment as a domestic worker.

The committee decided to meet again today (Tuesday) to further review the bill.

The committee took up the point of public importance raised by Kamran Michael on Lahore (Sharakpur) church firing incident.

Michael said that an “unknown drug mafia has opened fire on 20 houses, killed and injured many— out of which eight are females— and one pregnant woman has also been killed.” He said that 10 people were nominated in the related FIR (First Information Report).

“This heinous offence clearly falls in the purview of antiterrorism law but neither any action has been taken— nor police has been deployed in the area, so far,” he said.

A preliminary report submitted by Punjab government authorities was found to be in contrast with the information provided by Michael.

The committee asked the MoHR to arrange a briefing, by the police officials concerned, to the Senate panel, on the matter. The Senate panel unanimously rectified the nomination of Dilawar Khan as member of the Islamabad Capital Territory Senior Citizens Board.

Senators including Tahir Bizinjo, Gurdeep Singh, Seeme Ezdi, Abida Muhammad Azeem, Falak Naz, Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar and senior MoHR officials also attended the meeting.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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