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Lankan domestics need protection

2013 Oct 28

Sri Lankan domestic workers have been identified as among workers from Asian countries who need protection by way of laws which need to be introduced in the respective countries.

Roughly 40 percent of domestic workers globally are employed in Asia, yet the region has been slow to enact reforms despite major progress in other parts of the world, the International Domestic Workers Network (IDWN), the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), and Human Rights Watch said today.

“Domestic workers from India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, and Cambodia experience horrific abuses,” said Nisha Varia, senior women’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. “These governments should pick up the pace of reform to introduce long overdue protections for both domestic workers at home and those migrating abroad.”

The comments were made as the three groups released a new report assessing progress since the 2011 adoption of the Domestic Workers Convention, a groundbreaking treaty entitling domestic workers to the same basic rights as other workers.

As Human Rights Watch, IDWN, and the ITUC have documented, many domestic workers within Asia and those migrating from Asia to the Middle East experience a wide range of abuses, including unpaid wages, restrictions on leaving the households where they work, and excessive work hours with no rest days. Some may face psychological, physical, or sexual abuse and can get trapped in situations of forced labor, including trafficking.

More than 25 countries have improved legal protections for domestic workers, with many of the strongest reforms in Latin America. In Asia, the Philippines adopted comprehensive legislation protecting domestic workers in January 2013 and is the only Asian country to have ratified the Domestic Workers Convention.

“The momentum of ratifications and improved laws in Latin American nations and a number of other countries shows that governments are capable of protecting domestic workers,” said Sharan Burrow, general secretary of the ITUC. “Governments that have lagged – particularly in Asia and the Middle East – need to act without delay.”

There are an estimated 53 million domestic workers worldwide – the majority of them women and girls, and many of them migrants. Recent International Labour Organization (ILO) research found that while child labor in other sectors has declined in recent years, child domestic labor increased by nine percent between 2008 and 2012. (Colombo Gazette) 

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