Bird cage
Picture for illustrative purposes only Image Credit: Pexels

Unaware of the tragic outcome, little Zohra Shah freed a few birds at her employer’s house. Next, the seven-year-old domestic labourer was allegedly beaten to death, and possibly raped at the house she worked at in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, on Monday.

Zohara Shah, originally from Muzaffargarh, another city in the province of Punjab, was brought to Rawalpindi four months ago to look after the child of a man who worked in buying and selling birds and property.

There are conflicting media reports on whether Shah was seven years old or eight.

Her alleged physical abuse came to light after her employer brought her to a local hospital and then left her there. The hospital staff later called the police, it was reported.

Shah was hired by the man after he asked one of his friends to find a child domestic worker to look after his own child.

According to Pakistani media reports, police investigation revealed that he told her parents that he would look after her, educate her and “treat her like a daughter”.

Her employers beat her severely on Sunday for freeing caged parrots. She died due to her injuries a day later.

A local Superintendent of Police told Pakistani media that Shah was unconscious when she was brought to the hospital. She was placed on a ventilator but died in the early hours of Monday.

The official reportedly said that the police have registered a case that includes rape charges. He said the victim was brought the hospital bleeding and with marks of torture.

Whether or not the victim was raped in addition to being beaten is being investigated and would be declared based on a forensic laboratory report.

Police also said that she was kicked repeatedly, which caused bleeding.

The couple who had employed the victim confessed to beating her while they were in police custody, Dawn News reported. They are set to be produced in court.

#JusticeforZohraShah: Outrage over child labour and abuse

As soon as the news of the tragic horrifying incident surfaced, #JusticeforZohraShah became the top trend on Twitter in Pakistan.

Tweep discussed abuse against the young, child labour and demanded justice.

Twitter user @NotyourDrWatson wrote: “Horrified and sickened to hear that a 8-year-old domestic worker was beaten to death just because she released a parrot. Looks like she always knew that the cage wasn't for the bird only but for all children entrapped behind the bars of poverty and child labour. #JusticeForZohraShah”

Tweep @bintemuhammad_ wrote: “[…] Just got to know that the life of a Pakistani child is less than the loss of a few parrots! #JusticeForZohraShah”

User @nidkirm shared her thoughts about how children should be treated: “Stop employing children! It’s the worst kind of exploitation. It leaves kids vulnerable to abuse. Employ their parents. Support them in going to school. Treat everyone’s children as if they were your own, with kindness and respect. Be a decent human. #JusticeForZohraShah”

Recent law regarding child abuse

In March, Pakistan’s parliament passed a law against child abuse, two years after the rape and murder of a seven-year-old Zainab Ansari that shocked the country.

Pakistan’s first national child abuse law will introduce a penalty of life imprisonment for child abuse, said Pakistan’s Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari.

Nearly 10 cases of child abuse a day are reported in Pakistan, with girls affected the most, according to Sahil, a child protection organisation.

The law requires police to register a case within two hours of a child’s parents reporting them missing.

It includes measures to speed up the process, including the establishment of a dedicated helpline and a new agency to issue alerts for a missing child.