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The New Arab

Morocco changes law to allow teenage domestic workers

Girls as young as eight work as maids in Morocco [Getty, photo for illustrative purposes]

Date of publication: 13 May, 2016

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A new law in Morocco allows 16-year-olds to work as domestic workers. Human rights groups say the minimum age should be 18 to avoid abuse and exploitation of minors.

Morocco has set the minimum working age for domestic workers at 16, drawing criticism from rights groups and social media users.

The Moroccan parliament's social sector committee passed the domestic workers bill this week seven votes to two, to increase the age from 15.

Children as young as eight have been found to work as house helpers in Morocco. They endure back-breaking labour, long working hours, for low pay, and are frequently subject to abuse.

"Child labour is a fact of life in Morroco. Working class children have to be prepared to give up their education at any time and begin work," said rights activist Mohammad Babahida.

"The solution isn't to demand an end to child labour but rather to provide respectable work to their parents and to create a modern education system that ensures [children are given] a bright future," Babahida said.

"We are not a law-abiding society, something in our genes rejects everything to do with the law. Child labour will never be stamped out through legislation," he added.

Many other Moroccans have taken to social media to voice their concerns about the new law.

Translation: "Do not employ young girls as maids. Their place is in school."

The Federation of the Democratic League for Women's Rights has called for the working age to be set at 18, and took aim at the new law.

"[The law] does not take into account young girls across the country who are forced into labour reminiscent of forms of slavery," the group said.

Human Rights Watch released a report in 2012 showing widespread abuse of child domestic workers in Morocco.

It found that girls as young as eight toil for 12 hours a day, seven days a week, for as little as $11 a month.

Some children - overwhelmingly young girls - said that their employers frequently beat and verbally abused them. They have also been denied education, and sometimes adequate food.

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