While the current exploitation of the domestic worker stems from a system which exploits people for profits (i.e. capitalism), gender discrimination and the isolation of the worker are also contributing factors, points out Prema Devaraj.
Aliran welcomes the current debate on the rights of domestic workers in this country. It is high time that the rights of the domestic worker be ensured to include a right to a decent salary, a day off, proper working conditions, protection from abuse and a right to redress.
This in no way implies the loss of rights of the employer. A fair work contract between the domestic worker and the employer must be worked out where both parties are assured of their rights. This would most probably involve reassessing the current contract and recruitment policies in existence. The role the recruitment agencies would also have to be looked into to ensure fair play by all parties involved.
While the current exploitation of the domestic worker stems from a system which exploits people for profits (i.e. capitalism), gender discrimination and the isolation of the worker are also contributing factors.
Domestic work, a never ending task, is a gender stereotype ascribed to the womenfolk in a household or a female domestic worker to manage. Although domestic work is crucial to the efficient running of a household and the nurturing, comfort and security of the family, it is rarely recognised as real work. And because domestic work is not recognised as work, it does not get the respect or remuneration it deserves. It is deemed as menial and the consequent lack of respect is reflected through attitudes towards both the work, as well as, those who do this work, i.e. the women.
Furthermore, because domestic work happens in a private sphere, i.e. inside someone’s home, the domestic worker is isolated and has less access to help and support should the need arise.
So, yes, let’s address the issue of the rights of the domestic worker, but let’s also remember the wider connections and challenges to the way in which society views worker’s rights, women and domestic work. They are all linked.