India: Forum Against Oppression of Women protests against treatment meted out to Richard and Khobragade

20 December, 2013 | Sujata Gothoskar | Forum Against Oppression of Women

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INDIA -

We, The Forum Against Oppression of Women, a women’s organisation based in Mumbai protest against the manner in which the US has routinely humiliated people from other countries, especially from the global South. We unequivocally condemn such procedures and practices that victimised Indian diplomat, Devyani Khobragade too.

We are also concerned about the fact that there are very few voices here in India against the treatment meted out to Ms. Sangeeta Richard, the domestic worker who worked at Dr. Khobragade’s house in the US.

According to media reports, the accused diplomat had affirmed on oath the contents of a mandatory contract of employment she was to sign with her domestic worker to enable the worker to get a US visa. The contract recorded that the maid would be paid US$ 9.75 per hour for a 40-hour work week and had all other mandatory clauses on vacation, leave etc. that are supposed to protect the rights of domestic workers in the USA.

The real deal was supposed to have been recorded in a separate contract. This contract said that the domestic worker would be paid Rs. 25,000/- plus Rs. 5000/- overtime. At 40 hours a week, this works out to Rs. $3.31 per hour, which too Ms. Richard was not given.

Ms. Richard claims to work much more than that – 19 hours. Whatever her claims, everyone knows that live-in maids in rich Indian households work much longer hours and at all odd hours too.

There are hundreds of thousands on domestic workers from developing countries like India, Sri Lanka , the Philippines etc. working in their own countries as well as in the developed world. When they work abroad, they leave their families and homes and go out to be able to earn more so that they can begin to live a little more comfortable life once they are old and cannot work. For most domestic workers, working here or abroad, this is a distant dream. The abuse these workers have to live with here as well as abroad is something one can barely imagine.

Hence it is very disturbing that very few political parties or individuals have bothered to look at this issue and make it a big enough political plank for all the powerful to take note.

Rather, there have been ridiculous and dangerous reactions like suggestions of invoking Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code against homosexual US diplomats, strip-searching US diplomats by our politicians like Yashwant Sinha, Mulayam Singh etc.

We hope Ms. Richard will not be subject to discriminatory treatment. We hope she and other domestic workers like her get justice and that their human rights and dignity is respected.

We urge the Government of India to immediately sign and implement ILO Convention 189 on the rights of domestic workers and to take concrete steps of ensure the dignity and safety of citizens and working people inside and outside the country.

Sujata Gothoskar

for
Forum Against Oppression of Women
20th December 2013

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