MOROCCO: “Little maids” subjected to great abuses

A young girl beaten to death in El Jadida, Morocco and thus another victim due to the disrespect and ignorance of the right of the child.

Although the mobilization of associations of children’s right has increased, the inhuman treatment of young girls still exists throughout the country. Measures have to be taken in order to safeguard their right to receive decent treatment and toensure the respect and dignity which they all deserve.According to the preliminary results of the investigations, the girl died from her injuries after being beaten by her employer’s daughter. A 31 years old woman is detained and prosecuted for the assault resulting in death. In addition, the woman’s husband is also accused for failing to help a personin danger.

The girl, named Khadija A., originally from Douar Tagadirt, a small village close to Imin Tanoute, located 200 km from Marrakech. She was employed in Casablanca to perform domestic services with a salary of 400 DH per month. However, the girl was at present time “on loan” to the employer’s daughter and her family in El Jadida. A week later, Khadija was found dead with the body entirely covered with severe bruises.

The case will be heard before the Court of Appeal in El Jadida in September 28 and the El Jadida Manal association has designated a lawyer to follow this very case. The lawyer in question is joined by the association “Ne touche pas à mon enfant” (“Don’t touch my child”), “Bayti” and “INSAF” in Casablanca with the objective to start a civil action against the ongoing disrespect of children’s rights. Furthermore, they will soon be joined by members of the Collective association for the eradication of underage girls in domestic work, initiated to illuminate the need of the justice and respect for the rights of the child. However, in spite of the sustained advocacy for children, much still remains to be done in order to eradicate the phenomenon of (“little maids”) housemaids as well as the ill-treatment they may face.

The lack of legal protection

“Little maids” is a quite common phenomenon which is often due to parental poverty as well as cultural and social environments. These young girls are often born into an unfortunate position which indirectly forces them to leave their homes and families from early ages to take up jobs as maids. Once employed, they might not receive any adequate education or even any education at all since combining school alongside with the work they perform is rarely possible. The working hours could be around 13-15 hours a day, 7 days a week without any rest breaks or days off for little or no payment. This put them in a very unique and vulnerable position which isolates them from the “outside-world” and even places them in an disastrous position where hardly no law applies for their protection. They are controlled by their employers and are put into the “inside-the-home-outside-the-law” position, where maids are to be seen but not to be heard. This implies the possibility for employers to choose whatever conditions they like without fearing any prosecution for abusive or exploitative actions.

Just due of the fact that the work performed is taken place in private houses is neither a valid nor a well-based excuse for the government to disregard its responsibility to safeguard the workers rights. In this verysituation, it is not just the workers’ rights and conditions that are in focus, the question concerns as well the freedom from ill-treatment and abuse. Measures have to be taken to create a legal framework essential for their protection which every human are entitled on the mere fact of a being human according tointernational human rights standards. Some basic rights and freedoms are as follows; the right to a decent standard of living, the right to adequate healthand food, the right to free education, freedom from torture and other inhumantreatment and(!) and as in the present case; the right to life.

Although domestic legislation addresses the prohibition of the employment of children below the age of 15, it still lacks a sufficient monitoring and enforcement required to safeguard children from being subjected to abuse and harassments. There are still a lot of girls under the age of 15 years in the workforce performing domestic services and are thus involved inchild labour. It is estimated that around 70 000 girls perform domestic services in Morocco today.

The exploitation of young girls does not only affect their position but also the society as a whole since it amplifies the already high unemployment. Children who perform the same work do neither receive the same remuneration nor posses the same negotiation skills and are thus more controllable compared to older workers. This in turn reinforces poverty since this problem maintains a pressure on (the already low) salaries while the existing wide gape between rich and poor will further expand.

Child labouris prohibited per se when affecting the child negatively. Work that does not affect a child’s health and personal development or interfere with their education could generally be regarded assomething positive. This is the general view of children involved in work. However, one could wonder whether these young girls improve themselves by working when far too many girls end up suffering physical and psychological harm. Child labour (compared to child work) refers to work that deprives children from their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and which hamper their physical or mental health or development. Some work that leads to inhuman treatment may rise to the level of forced labour when beating girls for not following orders, looking girls inside or refusing to pay girls who want to quit. Performing work under such circumstances does not only constitute child labour but also ranks among the worst forms of child labour according to the ILO convention 182. The convention requires member states to take immediate ande ffective measures to protect all children under the age of eighteen. Morocco hasratified this convention.

A fundamental measure to prevent the exploitation of young girls is to secure their fully right to education. Primary education shall be free and compulsoryfor every child. Although education could be an obvious answer to prevent children from being forced into work, it could on the other hand be a part of the problem since many children still face difficulties to access education due to insufficient facilities and hidden costs. However, while poverty is one ofthe reasons that keep children out of school, it can never be a state’s reasonfor denying the child’s right to education.

Collective actions against the phenomenon of “little maids”

Le Collectif pour l’érdication du travail des “petites bonnes” (the Collective for the eradication of “little maids” involved in domestic services) was established in March 2009 by the Association INSAF, la Fondation Orient – Occident, Amnesty International – Morocco and the Moroccan Associations of Human Rights as a respond to the ongoing situation of young girls. The Collective which until today consists of 34 different associations has the objective to contribute for the eradication of young girls performing domestic services below the age of 15. The primary mission is to protect these children by adopting a legal framework against child domestic labour and to enhance the awareness with regard to the eradication of the phenomenon of “little maids”. In order to realize this, the Collective endeavours to create a forum together with various participants from the institutional and social sectors to illuminate the existing problem and to create awareness raising campaigns joined by different actors concerned essential for its abolition. These measures will strive to alter existing legislation and to establish a specific piece of legislation in compliance with international obligations for the elimination of the “little maids” phenomenon. The legislation shall also ensure the compulsory education for every child up to the age of 16 years and establish measures and public policies to provide help and support for families in need. The objective is to remove every girl under the age of 15 years who is involved in domestic services and to put them back to school.

A future free from exploitation

A young girl was killed due to the ignorance and disrespect of existing legislation with regard to the right of the child. However, this is far from the only case where a young girl has been subjected to violence, harassment and abuse. Many girls still face similar treatment. This kind of child labour isinvisible, especially when it occurs behind closed doors. They are distinguished from other workers as they are kept inside the private homes and where hardly any law applies for their protection. Although the death of this girl is truly unfortunate and unacceptable we could in some way benefit form this situation. Hopefully, she will become a martyr and be remembered as a part of the turning point when the society turned against those in power and demanded for a change for little maids’ protection. A wake up call needed to affect the politicians and other persons in power to alter the existing legislation to fully comply with the international obligations.

We must never forget this tragedy but instead create a mobilization and put the question of “little maids” in focus and spread information about their fatal situation in order to enhance the awareness among the civil society. Consequently, one life is more than unacceptable and we cannot wait until another young girl’s death occurs before any actions will take place. Thus we must accelerate towards a world free from exploitation and to safeguard young girls’ right to a decent standard of living, their right to access free education but as well to ensure the respect and dignity they all deserve.


e-joussour: “Little maids” subjected to great abuses



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