— Officials deny having circulated SMS advising ‘strict control’ over domestic helpers
— Sources say admin rebutting following social media backfire
LAHORE: Defence Housing Authority (DHA) Lahore on Wednesday asked its residents not to allow their drivers and other domestic servants to socially interact with others in the neighbourhood in a bid to “control the increasing number of thefts and other social evils”.
In a text message, a screengrab of which has been making rounds on the social media, DHA Security advised the people of the community to bar their “servants to sit outside the houses in groups as they exchange information about owners” and added, “This leads to thefts and other social evils like teasing, staring and clicking the ladies in the streets.”
“You are requested to exercise strict control over your servants/drivers in order to curb their habit of sitting in groups which invariably becomes a breeding spot for social crimes,” the message concluded.
Speaking to Pakistan Today, human rights’ activist and lawyer Shahzeb Bukhari said that the authorities of DHA had violated the right of association of workers that was guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Constitution.
Criticising the step, he said that it was nothing but an absurd way to stop crime as it was the right of every person to sit with others and chat. “It is ridiculous to deprive someone of their right because ‘it allegedly leads to crime’,” he said.
“A better solution to prevent crime is to promote equality. You won’t need to waste resources on policing people if you only give people a better life,” said Shahzeb.
Meanwhile, DHA Security authorities expressed ignorance – regardless the fact that the message was bulk sent by DHA Security – and said it might have anything to do with the human resource department. However, an official of the authority while speaking to Pakistan Today on the condition of anonymity said that the officials were trying to make up for their action that had “backfired” following its circulation over social media. They also told that it wasn’t the first time such a text message had been circulated and it was, in fact, a routine.
It is pertinent to note here that this isn’t the first time the plight of domestic helpers in Pakistan has been highlighted as numerous cases of violence and maltreatment of domestic helpers have surfaced within the short span of a year.
In November 2017, a few pictures started making rounds on social media which showed a maid being forced to sit in the trunk of a car that was parked in perhaps the most affluent of destinations in the provincial capital. The scene that was revealed by the pictures was truly heart-wrenching and pitiful.
Earlier, the case of Tayyaba, who was allegedly tortured by former additional district and sessions judge (ADSJ) Raja Khurram Ali Khan and his wife was another sorry reminder of the state of affairs of domestic help abuse in the country. Though thankfully, the child was rescued after a suo motu notice by the chief justice of Pakistan, the case is an awful reflection of abuse that domestic helpers receive, even at the hands of the so-called custodians of justice.