Rights groups demand 'justice' for Khobragade's maid

Several rights groups representing domestic workers in the US have protested outside the Indian Consulate demanding "justice" for senior diplomat Devyani Khobragade's maid, saying officials cannot use diplomatic immunity to "escape" accountability for their actions.

The National Domestic Workers Alliance led the an hour-long demonstrations yesterday, with participation from other groups like Safe Horizon, the victim assistance agency representing Khobragade's maid Sangeeta Richard, Damayan Migrant Workers Association and National Guest worker Alliance.

A 1999-batch IFS officer, 39-year-old Khobragade was arrested on December 12 on visa fraud charges as she was dropping her daughter to school and released on a USD 250,000 bond after pleading not guilty in court.

"We are calling for a fair trial and compensation for Richard. There is a larger issue here about diplomatic immunity and about how do we provide basic labour protections for all domestic workers not just in the US but globally as well," Yomara Velez of the National Domestic Workers Alliance said.

Velez said just like other workers, domestic workers need to be respected and treated with dignity as they work very hard to raise the children of their employers and take care of their homes.

"We want that the domestic workers be treated with dignity and respect," she added. The rights groups said Richard's case is not an isolated one but a "systemic problem" where diplomats usually "get away" in cases of exploitation and labour laws are not implemented for workers.

Nearly 50 people gathered outside the Indian Consulate building amid police presence shouting slogans like "What do we want - justice, when do we want it - now", "They say diplomatic immunity, we say accountability", "They say protect the traffickers, we say protect the workers" and "Diplomatic immunity has got to go".

The people also held banners and placards that read, "I stand with Sangeeta", "Hold diplomat accountable" and "Does immunity protect human rights violators".

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