An Indian domestic help, 56-year-old Kasthury Munirathinam, working in Saudi Arabia reportedly had her hand chopped off by her employer after she notified local authorities about physical and mental harassment and torture she was subjected to at work.
“We are told that the incident happened on the night of September 29 after she complained about torture and non-payment of wages by her employer. He chopped off her hand when she tried to escape from the house through the balcony. She fell down and suffered serious spinal injuries. Some neighbours and others took her to hospital,” her sister S Vijayakumari, who lives in the southern Indian city of Vellore, told The Indian Express.
“Ever since she went to work with this family in July, things were not alright. My mother was not even allowed to speak to us over the phone, she was not given proper food and was forced to work long hours,” her son S Kumar told BBC Hindi.
Kasthury, who has four children, was forced to take up the job abroad as the family was facing financial problems after the marriage of her three daughters.
India’s Minister of External Affairs was outraged and said her office had taken it up with Saudi authorities. She also said the Indian embassy is in touch with the victim, who is recovering at a hospital in the Saudi capital Riyadh.
Chopping of hand of Indian lady – We are very much disturbed over the brutal manner in which Indian lady has been treated in Saudi Arabia.
— Sushma Swaraj (@SushmaSwaraj) October 9, 2015
“This is a very unfortunate and most condemnable incident. Our Embassy in Riyadh has taken up the matter with the Saudi Foreign Office and asked for strict action in the matter and severe punishment for the sponsor [employer]. We have also sought an independent probe in the incident and urged that a case of attempted murder be lodged against the sponsor so that he is punished, if found guilty as per law,” said Vikas Swarup, spokesman for India’s Ministry of External Affairs.
Instead of taking action against the demented woman employer, Saudi cops claimed that the Indian maid lost her arm due to a fall from a building and not because of an attack by her Saudi employer.
“Riyadh’s Al-Sahafa police had received information from a local hospital about admitting a domestic help in its emergency section, saying that the woman’s arm was severed following a fall. The domestic help, who arrived in the Kingdom nearly two months ago, was suffering from mental disturbances and therefore tried to flee the sponsor’s house,” Fawaz Al-Maimaan, spokesman for Riyadh police, was quoted in a statement, issued by the Saudi embassy in New Delhi on October 17.
According to Al-Maimaan, the maid made a ladder out of rags to escape out of the window of the sponsor’s apartment on the third floor of the building. However, she lost balance and fell down, hitting the edge of an electricity generator and severing her arm on the scene itself.
Angry and aghast at the shocking rebuttal, Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalithaa wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking his intervention in getting justice for the domestic help.
“Recent media reports indicate that the Saudi police are trying to project as though the injuries were suffered while Kasthury tried to escape from her employer’s home and were not inflicted by the employer and also that her mental condition was not very stable. There is an apprehension that there could be an attempt to protect her local employers and deprive the poor domestic worker of even her basic human rights,” she said.
In Saudi Arabia, incidents of abuse occur fairly regularly. As Human Rights Watch’s World Report 2015 on Saudi Arabia details, “domestic workers frequently endure a range of abuses including overwork, forced confinement, non-payment of wages, food deprivation, and psychological, physical, and sexual abuse without the authorities holding their employers to account”.
It adds that when these informal employees try and lodge a complaint about abuse at the hands of their employers, they “sometimes faced prosecution based on counter-claims of theft or sorcery”. And under the Saudi Arabian law, which is deeply enshrined in Wahhabi doctrine, amputation is the prescribed punishment for theft.
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