‘Morocco child workers frequently abused’

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Morocco - Moroccan children as young as eight, recruited as domestic workers, are frequently beaten, verbally abused and sometimes refused adequate food by their employers, Human Rights Watch said on Thursday.

Child domestic workers in Morocco, most of them girls, sometimes work for 12 hours a day, seven days a week, and receive as little as $11 (about R98) a month, HRW said in a report entitled “Lonely Servitude: Child Domestic Labor in Morocco.”

“Girls are being exploited, abused and forced to work long hours for extremely low wages,” said Jo Becker, HRW's advocacy director for children's rights.

“Working in private homes, many of these girls endure terrible conditions but have no idea where to turn for help,” she added.

Social Affairs Minister Bassima Hakkawi was not immediately reachable for comment.

The New York-based group said Morocco had taken “important steps” to stamp out the problem, citing government surveys showing that the number of working children under 15 dropped from 517 000 in 1999 to 123 000 in 2011.

Despite the progress, HRW said laws prohibiting the employment of such children were not adequately enforced, with employers rarely prosecuted for physically abusing the children and hardly ever fined for hiring them.

The report, based on the accounts of 20 former child domestic workers, as well as government officials, lawyers, teachers, and NGO representatives, said the majority of the victims interviewed reported physical and verbal abuse.

Fifteen of them began working before they had turned 12, and several spoke of sexual harassment or assault by male members of the employer's household.

Most of the girls interviewed came from poor rural areas, the report said, adding that around half of them were recruited by intermediaries to work in big cities, often with false promises about their working conditions.

One of the girls said she worked without a break from six in the morning until midnight, with no days off, and that her employer often beat her. - AFP

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