South Asian Rights Bodies Support Khobragade's Maid - The New Indian Express

South Asian Rights Bodies Support Khobragade's Maid

Published: 11th January 2014 01:04 PM

Last Updated: 11th January 2014 01:04 PM

A coalition of South Asian rights bodies in the US has came out in support of Devyani Khobragade's maid Sangeeta Richard, who has claimed that she suffered while working for the Indian diplomat.    

"We stand with Sangeeta Richard and call upon our community members to support her and domestic workers around the country," National Coalition of South Asian Organisations (NCSO), which comprises of nearly four dozen rights bodies.          

In a statement, NCSO yesterday urged policymakers and government agencies to enact and enforce policies that will protect the rights of domestic workers, just as the Attorney's Office and the Department of Justice did in this case.

Referring to the grand jury indictment brought by US Attorney Preet Bharara against Khobragade for allegedly committing visa fraud and making false statements, NCSO said Sangeeta was working at least 100 hours per week for a wage that amounted to USD 1.42 per hour.        

 "We commend the US Attorney's Office for enforcing the rights of (Sangeeta) Richard under the law," it said, adding that at the same time, it appears that Khobragade, who was arrested and released on a bail in December, was granted diplomatic immunity and has now returned to India.

"These developments raise grave concerns about the extent to which we value the rights of domestic workers, and whether there will be a chilling effect on the willingness of domestic workers to pursue claims against their employers, diplomats or not," NCSO said.         

 NCSO said the case has highlighted the struggles faced by many domestic workers like Sangeeta.          

"There are between 1.8 and 2.5 million domestic workers in the US - many of them South Asian immigrant women...Often, many workers are underpaid, overworked and subjected to conditions and experiences that no one should endure,"it said.          

Meanwhile, the apex body of South Asian attorneys in North America also refused to take sides in the diplomat case.         

"The rule of law must be followed where wrongdoing is alleged, but the application of those rules often differs from country to country," the South Asian Bar Association of North America said in a statement.            

"We do not presume to know all the facts, nor do we advocate for one side or the other in this situation. The fact that both prosecutor and accused are South Asian does not and should not affect the manner in which the rule of law is applied," it said.        

"We have faith in the US judicial system and its capability of resolving these types of complicated cases in a fair manner," said its vice president Neil C Maskari.

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