Morocco's hidden scourge: 'servant girls' abused & underpaid

'Tradition' denounced once again by Human Rights Watch

20 November, 11:08

Child labour in Morocco Child labour in Morocco

(ANSAMed) - ROME, 20 NOVEMBER - The continued use of child domestic labour in Morocco is an embarrassment to the ruling monarchy who want to project a modern image of the country to the West. Every year thousands of young girls are sent by their parents to work as domestic servants in the homes of the Moroccan bourgeoisie. Salaries - often the only source of income for a family - are sent directly to their parents. Effectively, the children are prisoners, only leaving their place of work when sent on errands for their employees. Although Human Rights Watch recently flagged up Morocco's hidden scourge, it is impossible to quantify the scale of the problem. Sexual abuse and violence, though rife, remains unreported.

Servant girls are abused by their 'masters' and forced into a vow of silence. Moroccan feminists are gloomy. It is a centuries old problem protected by 'tradition', they say. The case of an 11 year old servant girl - Khadija, who died at the hands of violence from her employer's daughter, briefly brought Morocco's hidden abuse to light. But the hard hitting story was quickly forgotten. Economic and cultural forces are at the root of the phenomenon. Often, domestic work in the city is seen as the only opportunity for uneducated girls from poor, rural areas. A law to increase the age of domestic workers to 15 is in discussion. But few expect a resolution to the problem when Morocco's police and lawmakers themselves employ domestic servants. While the Moroccan authorities point to a dip in child labour - 147, 000 in 2010 versus 517 000 in 1999, the news is hardly likely to fill human rights activists or Morocco's child servants with joy.



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