Employers beat eight-year-old Zohra, a housemaid, to death as two parrots flew away while she was cleaning the birdcage, in the residential area of Islamabad on 4th of June.
She set her employer’s expensive caged birds free because of which her employer beat her unconscious when she saw that Zohra had set her husband’s birds. Her employers, who have remained nameless throughout this ordeal, then dumped her unconscious body at a hospital. Here, bruises on her face, hands, abdomen and legs were discovered.
Social media flared up in support for Zohra as politicians and human rights activists condemned the brutal incident.
First Information Report (FIR) was registered with the police. Eight-year-old Zohra Shah was working for the accused, Hassan Siddiqui, who deals in birds selling business.
Zohra had injuries all over her body when the people brought her to a local hospital on Sunday and subsequently died. The police arrested the employers and remanded them. According to the statement given by the suspect, Siddiqui admitted to the allegations and admitted that his wife had beaten Zohra for freeing the birds.
The post-mortem report revealed that the victim had died because of her injuries, which were on her face, hands, below her rib cage and legs. The family later got the victim’s body.
Zohra hailed from a village in Southern Punjab. According to media reports, she had been working as a babysitter for past four months and the employer had promised her parents to provide her with education.
The event has again sparked a fresh debate on the sorry state of affairs of hiring minor and teenage children as domestic workers. There has been an outcry on social media and many prominent figures of society took notice to it, including Faryal Makhdoom who has said that she and her husband, boxer Amir Khan, will take responsibility of all the expenses for Zohra’s family.
She wrote: ‘Amir and I have personally contacted Zohra’s father and hoping to speak to him shortly. Thank you to everyone… especially the lawyers, barristers and human rights activists who are supporting us.’
In another post, she continued: ‘Loads of messages asking why they sent their 8-year-old daughter to work.. they didn’t.”
‘The father has told us he has 6 kids… the father sent the daughter (Zohra Shah) to Islamabad with her Khala (aunty) to study there. The Khala then put Zohra Shah to work… where she was beaten to death.’
On her Instagram profile, Faryal Makhdoom has put up a link to the Justgiving page. She and her husband Amir have set this page up to assist Zohra’s family.
The page says: ‘In memory of Zohra, and the countless others subjected to child abuse and torture. The Amir Khan Foundation is launching the Zohra Shah Child Protection Fund to protect innocent children from human rights violations across Pakistan.’
Pakistan has a vast issue with child labor. According to a 2018 report by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, around 12 million children are working in the country. The mistreat of underage workers has a history in Pakistan.
Apart from the Zohra case, plenty of other cases have been reported, but a majority of them have received ignorance. A few cases have been unreported. Some famous cases are the cases of Iqbal Masih and the case of Uzma. Both the cases share the same cause of death that is child labor. Iqbal died because of target killing and Uzma died because she ate from the plate of her owner’s plate. The mother and her two daughters ruthlessly beat her to death.
The elite class often forget that people working under them are just as human as them. The elite and middle class make up only the 2 percent of Pakistan, meanwhile 97% lives in poverty. They make up the nation and yet people have the audacity to harm their own.
Feeling superior by physically or verbally abusing house-maids or servants has become such a norm in our community. The lower class come to us looking for aid and support through hard times and what do we do? We just make them feel worse about their situation.
Violence and physical torture against children will not receive tolerance, and all those involved in such incidents will face severe backlash. Domestic workers frequently face exploitation, violence and sexual abuse, with Pakistan’s patriarchal and rigid social-class structure leaving them without a voice. The tragedy that has befallen Zohra is devastating, yet common in our society.
The public outcry and support to bring her justice is a positive sign that maybe there is hope for us. Child labor is a disease in society that deserves nothing but condemnation.
Countries around the world have minimum working ages, child labor has been a very prominent in many countries. There are child protection services in place to protect children, even from abusive parents. However, Pakistan is still very far behind. These harsh experiences leave children traumatized and affect their future well-being.
It also leads to many psychological issues. To avoid such matters, there should be a strict implementation of the Islamic law. Life for life. Only then will such horrible people be in the fear of committing such a crime. Punishment is the only way we can make sure Zohra Shah was the last innocent life we lost.
Pakistan need to come together and fight for Zohra Shah. The parliament should implement international standards for domestic law. We should allow only people of age to be hired and there should be a strict check on child employment. There must be an introduction of child services in Pakistan to protect children from domestic abuse suffered from even at the hands of abusive parents.
This world is unsafe and very dangerous for children. Years of systematic oppression has led us to this day. These reforms are very essential now. Pakistan need to change for the better but so far it has only changed for the worst.