Abusing domestic help requires more than a conviction of being wronged. Brutally torturing an individual who performs daily household tasks, tasks which employers deem beneath themselves, requires a conviction that the help is more than monetarily inferior. It requires a conviction that they are inherently inferior. ‘Dirty ain’t a colour’, wrote novelist Katherine Stockett, narrating the racial prejudice faced by the poor black women working in rich white homes during the 1960s. Today, more than half a centenary later, more than half way across the world, in Pakistan, dirty is still a colour. It is the colour of the woman who sits on the floor scrubbing pots with all her might. It is the colour of the girl who kneels on the bathroom floor wiping away grime between two titles. It is the colour of the old man who sits before an intricate iron door with the weight of an AK-47 making him stoop. It is the colour of the little boy who yanks weeds from a garden he knows he must not play in.According to the 2014-2015 Labour Force Survey, there are over a 100,000 live-in domestic workers in Pakistan. Of these, 41 per cent are cleaners, 14 per cent cooks and 8 per cent drivers. More than 13 per cent of the workers are underage, young children who should be in schools reading the books that they wipe clean and neatly stack. Over 64 per cent of the domestic help are illiterate and 50 per cent of them earn between five to ten thousand rupees a month, far below the current minimum wage of fourteen thousand rupees. Amongst the four provinces Punjab houses the highest percentage (78 percent) of live-in domestic workers across the nation. Thus, unsurprisingly, Punjab reports the highest numbers of abuse against their help including children. When you are covered in the colour dirty, even the edge you have as a child for gaining sympathy is stripped away. Since 2005, the Child Protection and Welfare Bureau Punjab has rescued over 2,600 underage brutally abused maids from Lahore alone. With the nation’s wealth concentrated in the cities, domestic workers and hence abuse of domestic help by the wealthy is also prevalent in Pakistan’s urban areas.Recently, on September 13 2017, news of domestic help being abused once again surfaced on television screens and newspapers across the nation. An FIR was registered against the employers for brutally torturing and raping a teenage housemaid working in Karachi’s elite Defence Housing Authority. She claimed her tormentors kept burning her with an iron rod and roared with laughter every time she cried out in pain. The case is neither new nor unique. Six-year-old Muqaddas used to work in Iqbal Town for an ‘auntie’. But the auntie used to hit her on the head with hot pliers. Nazia was tied in a room and beaten with sticks several times. When she could not work because of the pain, she was thrashed some more. Tayyaba was tortured over a missing broom.Her little hands that could almost completely wrap themselves around the handle were burnt. She was then locked in a storeroom. No one is sure for how long. The abuse suffered by domestic workers in Pakistan’s homes serves as evidence of what employers perceive as their rights. No law, local or international, grants employers this right to abuse. So one is left to wonder, from where does this conviction arise? In 1978, scholar Edward Said published his book ‘Orientalism’, paving the way for post-colonial studies. The term Orientalism, coined by Said, constructs an epistemology which establishes ‘the idea of European identity as a superior one in comparison with all the non-European peoples and cultures’. Orientalism was perpetrated by the West on the Global South through hegemonic discursive practices, that is, as proposed by Gramci, the way in which the entire ideological complex functions to sustain the ruling class domination. Hence, the notion of Orientalism was used to legitimise colonisation. The power binary colonial rule sought to cement was geographically constrained, the West (the Occident) controlling the East (the Orient). But this is no longer the case. Orientalism can and is perpetrated by groups about themselves — termed Self-Orientalism. Self-Orientalism exercised today is as dangerous as Orientalism was during the colonial era.Self-Orientalism naturalises the power binary such that difference is seen as natural and hence fixed. The divide becomes of us, the superior employers, and them, the inferior domestic help. This thought process begins to shape the lives of the live-in help. Domestic workers have separate crockery. They cannot eat off plates which are used by their employers. They sleep on the floor in accordance with their monetary position in the society. They have their separate bathrooms and are forbidden from using bathrooms used by their employers. This lifestyle bestowed upon and accepted by domestic workers eventually enables their employers to abuse them without contemplation.Employers become certain that they are entitled to dole out beatings to workers at will and whim. Unnoticed, untroubled, history silently repeats itself. But this time, it is not the white man who oppresses. This time one Pakistani deems another Pakistani inferior. Dirty becomes a colour which the rich have dumped onto the poor. Dirty is a colour the poor domestic help is now dripping in. And this colour cannot easily be wiped away. So it is concealed instead through hush money.Beatings, blood and wounds are bought and sold on a regular basis. The help has been transformed into a commodity by help drivers and self-orientalism is the ideological force which enables this. Employers pay hush money to families of abused domestic workers to purchase their silence on the matter.This payment can range between Rs 200, 000 to Rs 300, 000. Restrained by their meagre incomes the poor accept this payment and dismiss the notion of a legal battle. And even if a judge turns on the TV and says, ‘Stop this! This is wrong!’ justice will not be served easily.Pakistan’s legal system is a limping juggernaut. An FIR was registered against Tayyaba’s torturers on the December 29 2016. On January 3rd, Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar took suo motu notice of the child’s plight and twitter was abuzz with solidarity. Politicians were all praises for the intervention.Imran Khan in between attending the landmark Panama case hearing claimed, “Justice needs to be dispensed in all the cases. However, Tayyaba torture case is by far significant.” There were calls for more stringent legislation by parliamentarians and lawyers alike when the government had failed to implement basic principles of our constitution.Article 25-A of the constitution calls for free and compulsory education of all children between the ages of 6 and 16. However, by the principles which govern our society Tayyaba with her ‘dirty’ colour was not part of this ‘all’. Thus Tayyaba first worked as a maid, was abused, and then walked through courtrooms. But she is still waiting for justice today and she is not alone.Dripping in the colour dirty there is a Tayyaba silently screaming behind many doors in this country. It is not a colour she was born with or sees herself in. But each Tayyaba knows dirty is the only colour in which she will be visible to her employer. Self-orientalist ways of seeing stem from Pakistan’s past but are impacting its future generations. This time we have become the creators of our own divide. The writer has a master’s in media with a distinction from the London School of Economics. She tweets @mawish_mPublished in Daily Times, October 3rd 2017.