Following the recent series of attacks against women and girls, gender-based violence (GBV) is back on the discussion table.
There have been interesting discussions on the fight against the vice.
This could be expected when you are living in a society where people have different understandings of gender and patriarchy.
In the spirit of fighting against violence in our society, I would like to turn our attention to the violence suffered by domestic workers in many homes.
According to International Labour Organisation (ILO), domestic workers comprise a significant part of the global workforce in informal employment and are among the most vulnerable groups of workers.
There are over 53 million domestic workers globally and 83 percent of them are women.
Globally, one in every 13 female wage earners are employed in domestic work.
According to the Status of Youth Report 2016, domestic work constitutes 48.2 percent of expected demand for labour in Malawi.
A good number of domestic workers are victims of violence. Sexual abuse is an issue that is mostly discussed when it comes to female domestic workers.
There are a lot of cases of sexual violence that go unreported due to domestic workers fear of losing their job or they might not even know who or where to report such issues.
In some cases, female domestic workers are blamed for any form of sexual violence that happens to them. This is especially true when the accused is a member of the immediate family where the domestic worker happens to be working.
Domestic workers also suffer psychological torture. Maids are among the people in the world that suffer verbal abuse almost every day.
Most people see this violence. For some reason, we find it normal. I am always amazed at the unwritten code that you cannot talk to a domestic worker, you always have to shout at them.
Some employers will try to justify why hurling insults at a domestic worker is normal. It’s slavery all over again.
‘Anaphiri! Kodi Ndizinena kangati? [Anaphiri, how many times should I tell you this!].’ This is usually the first chapter in the diary of verbal violence against domestic workers.
It is always important to remember that verbal abuse has the following long-term effects: depression, low self-esteem and self-worth, sleep disturbances, physical pain without cause, suicidal ideation, thoughts or attempts, extreme dependence on the abuser, underachievement, inability to trust and substance abuse.
Interestingly, we believe that violence against domestic workers improves their productivity.
Some of them suffer violence at the hands of activists who preach human rights, but go home to practice both physical and verbal abuse against domestic workers.
In public, we say proclaim ‘there is no explanation that justifies any form of violence ‘and in private we provide various justifications for practising violence against domestic workers.
‘You cannot be human to your domestic worker “angayambe kukulowa mkati.”’
We go ahead to narrate stories about how our good gestures were abused by one domestic worker and this has provided a benchmark for the harsh treatment that we give to all who have come after.
Of course, we think it was a good gesture or a favour because in our mind domestic workers are more like slaves who have no human rights. Humane treatment given to domestic workers is not a favour.
This slavery mentality also goes on in our offices. Take a look at how cleaners, messengers, guards and drivers are treated. There is a general belief that their job makes them lesser human.
We can also discuss about domestic workers sleeping places. What kind of food do they eat? When are they paid? But who cares anyway. They are just domestic workers.
We need to treat them fairly because they are human beings like any other. n