Unacceptable, says India after Saudi employer chops off woman’s hand

(From Press Trust of India)

Terming as “unacceptable” the incident where an Indian woman’s hand was chopped off by her employer in Saudi Arabia, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said the matter has been taken up with Saudi authorities.

Kashturi's sister says ...

Kasturi’s employer became angry when she  complained to local officials

“We are very much disturbed over the brutal manner in which the Indian lady has been treated in Saudi Arabia,” Swaraj said Friday.

The minister said the Indian embassy is in touch with the victim, 55-year-old Kasturi Munirathinam from Tamil Nadu state.

Condemning the incident in strong words, Swaraj said on twitter, “This is unacceptable. We have taken this up with Saudi authorities.”

India has demanded that a case of attempted murder be lodged against the culprit.

The family of Kasturi working as a domestic help in Saudi Arabia alleged that her right hand was chopped off by her employer when she tried to escape harassment and torture by attempting to leave his home in Riyadh on September 29.

According to her sister S Vijayakumari, she went to Saudi Arabia to work as a domestic help two months ago.

“When she tried to escape harassment and torture, her right hand was chopped off by the woman employer. She fell down and sustained serious spinal injuries,” Vijayakumari said. “Kasturi’s employer became angry when she told local officials about the harassment she was facing there. She was not even provided food.”

The family learnt about the incident from “agents who sent her to Saudi”, Vijayakumari said

“Kasturi is now in a hospital in Riyadh. Our appeal is please bring her back home immediately and help in her treatment,” she said.

“Now my sister can’t even sit and do simple things on her own as her spinal cord has been damaged. All we know is she is out of danger but in great pain. At that age, if she loses the use of her limbs, how can she earn a livelihood at all,” she told Hindustan Times. 

Kasturi’s son Mohan, 37, a father of two, was doing odd jobs to make ends meet. But he could not afford to pay the medical expenses of his ailing father from his earnings. Hence, Kasturi went to Saudi to help her husband regain his health.

He  first job was in Dammam from where she moved to Riyadh to work under her current employer.

According to Mohan, her new employer did not allow her to use phone to contact them. She was also forced to work hard for long hours and denied proper food.

A spokesperson in the external affairs ministry said: “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 into 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.”

In September, a Saudi diplomat was accused of holding captive, beating and repeatedly raping two Nepali women hired as domestic servants  in his luxury apartment near New Delhi in India.

A CCTV footage of the diplomat’s apartment showed many people visiting the apartment. According to the two rape survivors, who are now back in Nepal, while the men took turns to rape them, the diplomat’s wife and daughter never came to their rescue.

Amid wide media coverage and protests against the abuse, the diplomat left India under diplomatic immunity.

Many young women from India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the Philippines are being lured to the Gulf with the false promise of jobs but are abused and illegally hired out for a few thousand dirhams or riyals by unscrupulous agents.

Among the Gulf countries, United Arab Emirates and, especially Dubai, is the main destination where housemaids are sold for between Dh7,000 ($1,905)  and Dh9,000 ($2,450) for a monthly wage of Dh500 ($136) to Dh800 ($217). Wages are never given to them on time and the pay is often withheld for months for no reason.

Besides being denied regular salary, these women face threats, deprivation of food and sleep, and physical or sexual abuse.

Many tortured domestic workers end up in hospitals with spinal cord and back injuries from botched escape attempts or attempted suicide from high-rise residential buildings.

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