A 25-year old domestic help named Laili was found dead in her employers house in Banasree, Dhaka on Friday. Her family claims that her alleged killer tried to hide the crime to make it look like suicide.
The incident took place just within 15 days of the announcement of a verdict, in which another employer was sentenced to life imprisonment with a Tk1 lakh fine, a rare case of the law running its course in a society where violence against domestic workers has become a mundane phenomenon.
Brutality and torture reached such a horrendous level that a recent report of Bangladesh Mahila Parishad shows the first half of this year saw 11 domestic workers killed and another 11 assaulted. And, three other workers committed suicide, having failed to bear the brutality by their employers.
According to a report released by Ain o Salish Kendra, at least 40 home helps died in the last year. Among them, five committed suicide with four under the age of age of 18. In 2015, the number of deaths was 32. Of them, one – aged between seven and 12 – committed suicide, and seven died from injuries inflicted by employers. The cause of death of the other workers was not specifically mentioned in the report.
Another report by Bangladesh Shishu Adhikar Forum (BSAF) reveals that 30 child domestic workers committed suicide from January 2013 to May 2017.
Though the majority of workers die from injuries, the BSAF found suicide being increasingly cited as a cause of their deaths after media reports on widespread violence against child workers surfaced in recent years. In many cases, it was found that murders of domestic workers were disguised as suicide, the rights body added.
Speaking to the Dhaka Tribune, BSAF Director Abdus Sahid Mahmud said: “As of now, I have not heard of any exemplary punishment handed down for assaulting domestic workers.”
Explaining how perpetrators try to escape punitive measures, he said: “Nowadays, a tendency is evident among employers that they try to establish the deaths of their domestic workers as suicide, saying they died as they were frustrated or depressed about their personal lives.”
If the perpetrators are not brought to book, such incidents will keep recurring as the employers are influential, whereas the victims are poor and helpless, Mahmud added.
“Domestic workers will never get justice unless or until their assaulters are punished,” he said.