I watched the video clip which went viral on social media of a Ugandan domestic house help maltreating a toddler who had been entrusted into her care. My first impression was that with the advancement in technology, the video might have been doctored. Later developments thereon, including her being arraigned before a court of competent jurisdiction after painstaking investigations, lends credence to the story.
I must say the act of the domestic house help was not only ruthless, barbaric, inhumane, crude, merciless and callous, but defied all known human instincts.
But wait a minute, while not holding brief for her, it seems to me that we are too quick to condemn her. Have we given a thought to her mental state, psychological frame of mind, antecedent among others of her action? certainly we have not? Our initial response was to call for her crucifixion, which merited the same condemnation.
Already it has been reported that after viewing the clip, the father of the child beat the maid to pulp. What does this tell us?
I was very privileged to have been brought up in a predominantly “bungalow neighbourhood” where almost every household had a maid, be it a distant family member or total stranger; I mean at the time whole families thronged the houses of privileged neighbours to stand on stools, rocks, etc. on verandas and peeped through windows to watch “Osofo Dadzie” drama group on black and white televisions.
I cannot recall all, but, admittedly, the issue requires further interrogation considering the sort of treatment some of the aforementioned families meted out to their domestic servants at the time. It was just barbaric and merit all the adjectives used to describe the act of the Ugandan domestic servant. Some slept as little as four hours a day under very deplorable conditions and this inhuman treatment was extended to even the distant relatives who acted as their domestic servants.
A recent study conducted on the brute force used by the Police Service revealed that it had something to do with the sort of accommodation given them among others – cramped into small, poorly knit cubicles like sardines.
Fancy this too, that a family in providing items for the household neglected the needs of a domestic servant. Ignorant as the servant was, she shared a toothbrush with a child, culminating in the latter being infected with the HIV virus. Unknown to the maid who was bleeding in the gums, she was HIV positive. One may ask: How much is a toothbrush?
Again, it brings to the fore the widening social disparity; where the “haves” who seem to be self-centered require the services of the down-trodden in the equation of life- Ebo Whyte aptly captures same in one of his pieces.
Aside mental disorder, what else could push the Ugandan domestic servant to act in the way she did? Every reaction has its opposite and equal reaction, a science oriented student will say. Misplacement of aggression cannot be ruled out either.
What I want to drive home via this piece is that the incident in Uganda should be an eye opener for families who secure the services of domestic servants. They must recognise that they are humans thus any maltreatment on them has the potential of being unleashed on their families when they are far away or busy at work.
In Ghana, so much noise has been made about the conditions of service for domestic servants, with no concrete legislation and enforcement in sight. We always wait for something nasty to happen, make noise over same and allow it to die out with the passage of time.
This ‘debacle’ must act as a wake up call for the appropriate bodies, especially the Ministries of Employment and Labour Relations as well as Women, Gender and Social Protection, National Council for Civic Education (NCCE), the Domestic Violence and Victim Support Unit (DVVSU) of the Ghana Police Service, among others, to put their acts together. They have all it takes to make the difference.
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