Archive for January 29, 2014

Supreme Court refuses to review section 377, LGBT groups protest in Delhi

gay- sex -ban- india

Members of gay community and human rights activists condemn the Supreme Court’s decision to dismiss the review of Section 377 and call it a set back to the fundamental rights of all Indians

By Team FI

Members of the LGBT community along with women’s and human rights groups protested in Delhi yesterday against the Supreme Court’s decision to refuse to review its earlier verdict on gay sex.

In December last year, the Supreme Court of India had passed a controversial order re-criminalizing gay sex in the country. Following this, a review petition was filed by eight parties including the Union of India, parents of LGBTQ persons, Voices Against 377, teachers, mental health professionals, veteran film maker Shyam Benegal and the Naz Foundation. The apex court dismissed the petition seeking a review of section 377 on Tuesday.

According to the press note issued by the LGBT group, the court’s decision represents an abdication by the judiciary to protect the spirit of the constitution. “The court disregarded arguments made by the parties, did not consider key findings of the Delhi High Court judgment, and was seemingly blind to the voluminous material on record that incontrovertibly established rape, torture, discrimination, and harassment of LGBTQ persons as a direct and inevitable consequence of Section 377”.

There is nothing ‘miniscule’ about the concerns of the LGBTQ community and that the fight against discrimination is everyone’s fight

Calling the SC decision a temporary reversal, the press release said that the LGBTQ community is not disheartened. “Regardless of the decision of the Court, our activism asserting the right to live without fear and discrimination, and indeed to live with pride, will remain undimmed. If anything, we are strengthened and heartened by the wide range of support we have seen and felt. The media, mainstream political parties, ordinary persons, families of LGBTQ persons, mental health professionals, teachers, academics, artists have all stood with us in favour of the constitutional guarantee of dignity to the LGBTQ community.”

The press note stated that community intends pursue all legal options, including curative petitions, “There is No Going Back’. Regardless of the Court’s ruling, we walk with pride. As the Delhi High Court judgment reminded us, our rights are inalienably ours – they Court did not confer them on us, it cannot take them away” states the press release.

Marginalised groups march to reclaim Republic Day


Activists and individuals representing the marginalised of the country organise their own Republic Day parade demanding that the government fulfill its constitutional promises

By Team FI

A broad platform of LGBT groups, women’s groups, workers, students and persons with disabilities organised a Republic Day Parade in the capital today.

Raising the slogan, ‘We The People, Reclaim our Republic’, some 400-odd people held their own Republic Day march in Delhi to reiterate their right to the Constitution of India and to remind the State of its unfulfilled constitutional promises to the marginalised in society. The protestors felt that the annual Rajpath Republic Day parade held by the government represented only the powerful. The intention to hold this parade was to commemorate the Republic not as minorities, or others but as the people of the country. The protestors marched from the crossing of Barakhamba Road and Tolystoy Marg to the Jantar Mantar. The march ended with speeches, performances and slogans.

A press note issued by the organisers pointed out that the legislature, the executive, and the judiciary of the country — have failed their Constitutional duty to protect and advance people’s constitutional rights listing the examples of the recent of re-criminalisation of homosexuality by the judiciary through Sec 377 IPC; the failure of the executive to introduce suitable amendments into as yet untabled Disability Rights Bill, 2013; the continuing presence of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA); the active use of UAPA and sedition laws; the apathy of the state in the face of deepening caste and religious violence; the inadequacies of the Criminal Law Amendment Bill 2013 to address violence against women, among many others.

Rejecting the spectacle of the parade of weapons, this year we declare an alternative agenda for the people’s republic

reclaim-the-republic-dayThe following is the agenda of the People’s Republic groups:

Gender, Sexuality and Violence
• Repeal Section 377 of the IPC and other laws on sexual or gender identity, obscenity, or public nuisance that render people vulnerable because of their sexual orientation or gender identity
• Address extra-legal violence in private and public on the basis of gender, caste, and faith
• Address urgent lacunae in the laws on sexual violence to include violence against transgender people and men, penalise marital rape and remove impunity for the Army
• Work across institutions to make private and public spaces safe for women
• Recognize organised violence against minority communities and strengthen their claims to justice by passing the Communal Violence Bill.
• Abolish the Death Penality
• Amend the Special Marriage Act to remove notification to homes and police stations.
• Opening homes for protection for inter-faith and inter-caste couples in need
• Pass comprehensive Non-discrimination legislation that prevents discrimination between citizens and private actors, institutions and within the family.
• Mainstream people with disabilities – inclusion is non-negotiable!
• Mandate and encourage making private and public spaces accessible for people with disabilities

State Violence and Power
• Repeal the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and end millitary rule
• Repeal UAPA and Sedition Laws used to target citizens and political activists
• Repeal the Prevention of Torture Bill and introduce new legislation in line with Convention against Torture
• Implement police reforms to make the police forces accountable
Transparency and Accountability
• Protect and strengthen RTI by enacting an effective whistleblower protection law immediately and activating Information Commissions
• Enact proposed legislations on accountability: Grievance Redress Bill, Judicial Accountability Bill must be passed
• Grievance redressal centres must be set up at panchayat and ward levels.
• Establish and require institutionalized social audits for every public scheme, and create a separate agency for the same.
• Safe drinking water & sanitation in every household
Economic Development and Social Security
• Strengthen people’s control over their own development and stop evictions, land grabs and appropriations of natural resources
• Universalise social security pensions with exclusions for the non-poor, increase the pension amount to Rs. 2000 or half the minimum wage and link all social security pensions to inflation, to be revised regularly.
• Expand and protect fair use within copyright and patent regimes to ensure access to generic medicines as well as educational materials.
• Revise mininum wage indexes for NREGA and extend livelihood guarnatee to urban areas and workers
• Expand provisions and effectively implement the Unorganised Workers Social Security Act 2008
• Land to every landless family, specially dalit and adivasi women
• Considering the massive expansion of the private sector to the tune of almost 75% of India’s economy, it is necessary that the constitutional mechanism of reservation in private sector be legislated and enforced.

A new voice for Christian women


Newly launched Indian Christian Women’s Movement to work towards gender sensitization and gender justice in Church and society

By Team FI
A new organization for Christian women, the Indian Christian Women’s Movement (ICWM) was launched in Bangalore two weeks ago. According to the office bearers of the ICWM, the creation of a common body of Christian Women in India was the outcome of a conference held in Bangalore, this month, to discuss “Paradigm Shifts in Vatican II and it Impact on Women”.

The press note issued by ICWM states its vision as to create “a sisterhood of solidarity across boundaries to change unjust beliefs, practices and structures that perpetuate patriarchy and accentuate the exploitation of women at various levels.”

1. To be an advocacy group that can speak out with one united voice against violence, for the protection of the rights and dignity of women in civil and ecclesial structures.
2. To promote capacity-building for women’s social, cultural, political and ecclesial leadership.
3. To partner with existing Christian women’s organisations in order to create a joint perspective on gender justice and feminist theologizing, strategies for ecological restoration and social transformation, and large scale campaigns of resistance against policies and power games that lead to the diminishment, humiliation and even death for women.
4. To support justice issues of dalits, tribals and other subaltern, marginalized groups, even to the point to providing emergency services in terms of ideas, referrals, protests, solutions, finance, legal helps, shelter, etc. in times of need.
5. To establish a bridge between women’s organisations and Church organisations as well as interfaith initiatives.

To achieve our objectives we will:

1. Work towards gender sensitization and gender justice in Church and society.
2. Reclaim the mystical prophetism of women
3. Study and research issues of women’s oppression
4. Engage in on-going communication among ourselves,
5. Celebrate and promote women’s contributions a achievements,
6. Create resources for women’s empowerment and spaces for women to freely express themselves.

Any Christian woman who shares our vision can become a member. Membership fee is Rs.50/- per year. Each region will conduct a membership drive. Men are accepted as associate members.
For membership the person named in the region can be contacted or the Secretariat at the email address: icwmjan14(at)

Trans men write to Social Justice Ministry demanding inclusive policy reforms


A representation of trans men write letter to the Ministry requesting that trans masculine people whose needs have been overlooked in the current policies and programmes be allowed to make direct submission to expert committee on transgender issues

By Team FI

A group of trans masculine identified people in India have written a letter to the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment (MSJEW) requesting that the voices of trans masculine community be heard during consultations on transgender issues.

The letter indicated as to how the current policies and programmes have overlooked trans men and their needs and has asked that they be allowed to make a direct submission to MSJE expert committee that was set up last year to look at problems faced by the transgender community in India. Being a minority within even the trans community, the letter stated, such an opportunity would provide them the chance to put forward recommendations that would help to truly reflect the needs of their community.

Here is the full text of the letter:

Dear members of the expert committee on transgender issues set up by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment,

We would like to first of all thank the MSJE for taking up the issue of trans people in the country. We would also like to appreciate the steps taken by the ministry to address the concerns of our trans communities. As you all know, in India, because of the large numbers of our trans sisters and the remarkable way in which they have come together and organised politically and supported each other, everyone thinks trans people means only hijras. But trans men also exist. This is a fact that the government also overlooks when making policies and programmes for trans people. A case in point being the Aravani Welfare Board in Tamil Nadu which provides services to only aravanis and not trans men.

If trans people are a minority with almost no rights in this country, trans men are a minority within that minority. It is hence, we feel, important to give special considerations and additional support to a minority group.

Because we were mistakenly identified as women by parents, doctors, the state and society at large, it has been very difficult for us to come out of our homes. For years we were guarded behind closed doors, not allowed to move freely, forcibly married, teased in schools and colleges, had to drop out of educational institutions, physically attacked, verbally abused etc. A lot of these problems our brave Hijra sisters have also faced. But because they were mistakenly seen as boys, they were free to roam around and find other trans people.

Because their Hijra mothers made space for them, they were able to leave their homes and live with their trans sisters and mothers. We don’t have that. We struggle for years alone before we find another

trans man. We struggle for years before we can find a job, independent housing, find health facilities including Sex Reassignment Surgery [S.R.S] and overall Trans and General Healthcare. We are sure our trans sisters will also agree that sometimes words fail to explain how difficult it is for us to just survive in a society that is so patriarchal and trans-phobic.

We, as trans men admire and respect the courage of our trans sisters who have led the way for LGBTI rights in India. We are learning to organise ourselves from them and are in the process of doing that.

Just like there are hijras, kinnars, mangalamukhis, aravanis, kothis, jogappas, shiv shaktis among trans women as identities, there is a wide range of trans masculine expressions. Some of us have had surgery, some of us haven’t, some of us are more masculine, others are more fluid in their gender expression. We have many names to identify ourselves like bhaiya, thirunambi, gandabasaka, babu, ftm, trans man etc.

For an umbrella term, to refer to us in all our diversity, we would like the use of the term, trans masculine. We do not identify with PAGFB [Persons Assigned Gender Female at Birth] which is what is being
used in reports and meetings here to describe our identities. We strongly urge you to refer to us by identities that we assume, not ones that are imposed on us without due democratic discussions and consent.

We would like to be included in the consultations to formulate progressive policies for trans people and for trans men and people identified as intersex to be given an opportunity to put forward our demands.

Since the issues and identities involve such a broad range, we would like to make a direct submission in front of the committee and put forward our recommendations. We urge the MSJE to give us some more time to do larger consultations with the trans masculine community members and come up with recommendations that would truly reflect the needs of the community.

Signed by 74 trans masculine identified people across India whose names are being withheld for our protection.

Attack on African nationals, women’s rights activists demand minister’s resignation


By Team FI

In a letter to the Chief Minister of Delhi, Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS), has strongly condemned the recent racial and sexual violence unleashed by Delhi law minister and his supporters on Ugandan women and has called for the resignation of law minister Somanath Bharti and compensation for the women.

Last week, Somnath Bharti and his supporters had mounted a vigilante-style raid on some African women, alleging they were running a “sex and drug ring”.

Here is the full text of the letter:

Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression strongly condemns the illegal raid conducted by the AAP cabinet law minister, Somnath Bharti and his mob of supporters, on the premises of the Ugandan women on 17th January 2014 residing in Khidki village, New Delhi.

One media report states that four women who were kept in a taxi for 3 hours were accused of conducting ‘drug rackets’ and ‘sex rackets’; and were terrorized by your cabinet minister and his mob. The women, who were eventually helped by the police, have registered their statements. Two of them have stated that they were physically assaulted by the mob and were also subjected to intense racist abuse – “black people break laws.”

Media reports also indicate that for the purpose of collecting their urine samples, one of them was forced to urinate in public. To add to this abuse and trauma, they were also subjected to not only body search but humiliating invasive physical searches of their private parts. This search is a part of the routine custodial violence that women are often subjected to.

As a group in solidarity with women who face violence, we are appalled to learn of this incident which reeks of gross violation of not only the constitutional law but of human rights as well.

In its party manifesto, AAP had professed to follow the rules of the law, vowed to create a safer society for women, and punish the sexual offenders. But, in the light of this incident, we are deeply disappointed to note that your party has demeaned the credibility of its own manifesto by going against it and engaging in such disturbing acts.

Your law minister has not only willfully and fearlessly broken the law but it is shocking to see that instead of taking a decisive stern action against Somnath Bharti, you and your cabinet colleague, Manish Sisodia, defend his racial profiling and violent vigilantism under the pretext of preventing ‘rape tendencies’. We find it inexplicable that when in another shameful incident, a Danish woman was gang raped, the AAP leadership immediately and rightfully recognized it as violence against women but it failed to take cognizance of the same offence when it was inflicted through the agency of its own cabinet minister.

To add insult to injury, in less than 24 hours, in a further appalling act, Somnath Bharti, returned to the very spot on Thursday and asked the residents to draw up a list of houses where ‘such people’ lived and assured them that he would personally check on each one of them. This act is leading to a power structure similar to the regressive Khap Panchayat, where residents are being given the dangerously partial authority of deciding on the basis of their personal and cultural prejudices on who might be a suspect or not. In a country where we have witnessed serious assaults on civil rights on the basis of religion, gender, caste and class, such authority is a potential threat to the civil liberties.If we do not collectively condemn it and proactively combat it, sooner or later we would all be prey to the same.

Barging into people’s homes and arresting them without search/ arrest warrants is a safeguard that has been fought for and established in democratic societies by the constitution. Violating the law was a very shameful act on the part of the Minister who ironically has been given the same responsibility of protecting and upholding the very law he willfully disobeyed. And to defend his acts, makes your stand not just shameful, but it is hazardous to the social well being of any citizen of this state. No one should be allowed such violation under any circumstances.

We stand in solidarity with the women who were subjected to the violence that night and strongly feel that such racist, sexist and moral zealots and vigilantes have no constructive role to play in a party that claims to be a common people’s party, aims to prevent violence against women and seeks to promote diversity and tolerance.

We would like to iterate that:
* There are guidelines by the Supreme Court restated time and again which insist that women cannot be questioned by the police at night, that notice of any search etc has to be given in advance so that women can be prepared for the same.
* That the law clearly lays down the process to be followed by the police which includes the absolute necessity of a search warrant and at least a complaint, if not an FIR to back the same.
* That an assumption cannot be made simply because a couple of women of colour are living together, that they indulge in solicitation for the purpose of prostitution or otherwise.
In the light of the above, WSS demands that:
1. By violating the same law that he pledged to uphold, Somnath Bharti, has proved unfit to be a law Minister, and should be removed from his position.
2. A judicial probe should be ordered by the lieutenant Governor to identify those who instigated and perpetrated the violence against these Ugandan women and also other African nationals in Khidki village.
3. All found guilty of such violence be punished as per the law, including the law minister.
4. The Ugandan women are compensated
5. The police who came to the help and protect those women from the mob violence, followed the rules of the law and refused to raid without a search warrant must not be suspended. Instead they should be made answerable for not filing the FIR of the affected women.
6. AAP must render an apology to the women and others Africans in the country. They should stop spreading racist propaganda such as ‘all Africans are drug peddlars’ who engage in ‘sex rackets’, and should actively discourage others engaging in the same.
7. AAP should promote tolerance and encourage diversity in Delhi and other parts of the country.

Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression

Sexual harassment survivor still waiting for justice from Star News


Faced with sexual harassment from her bosses and forced to quit after complaining to the HR, a former employee of Star News, presently owned by ABP news, is fighting for her case to be heard for the past four years

By Team FI
Four years ago, media circles had been agog with the accusation made by an employee of Star News (now ABP News) of sexual harassment by her seniors which resulted in her losing her job. The employee was working as Head of Creative Cell for the media company and the accused were her bosses –Gautam Sharma – then the National Sales Head, and Avinash Pandey – then the Regional Head North India. Despite the fact that she had reported it to the National Commission for Women (NCW), and presented her case to many other media houses, her case went unheard.

Her story however resurfaced recently on various social media platforms. Saniya (name changed to protect identity) credits the recent case of Tarun Tejpal and its outcome for her renewed hope of getting justice.

Saniya had joined Star in the year 2006. Though she had worked for over five years in a multinational company, this was her first experience in working in news media outfit
Saniya alleges that she was sexually harassed over a period of 3 years by her seniors Avinash Pandey and Gautam Sharma. She alleges that she was asked to drink, dance and even sit on the laps of her employers. “I was new in my job and hence worried that if I resign; I would be questioned for changing the job so soon and would probably be seen as a weak professional. I had changed industry from FMCG to media, and I had come here to stay.”

In 2009, she says she garnered the courage and made a verbal compliant to the HRD head and subsequently in 2010 she says she was left with no option but to quit. In an email to an online media website, she says, “When I was denied help of any sort within the organization, I went to the National Commission for Women (NCW). However, least did I know at that time that the NCW is a compromised commission which has no tooth of its own. I was made to believe that my integrity and my modesty were in safe hands but I was mistaken. The NCW chose to go the way of my employer. My fight with this big media house is still on, with no help from anywhere. It is just my belief in the age-old adage that “truth always triumphs” that keeps me going. Witnesses were created, documentary evidences were deleted, and the men who harassed me were promoted at Star News/ABP News.”

Avinash Pandey is currently the COO and Gautam Sharma is the Vice-President at ABP News.

Women, student bodies stage protest in Delhi as AAP defends racist action


Even as Aam Admi Party top brass defends the Delhi Minister’s action, women’s and students groups protest the vigilante-style harassment of two Ugandan women based on racial prejudices

By Team FI
Over 150 Delhites participated in a sit-in protest today at Jantar Mantar to condemn the recent racist violence against African nationals living in Delhi. Two Ugandan women were subjected to harassment and racial abuse by a group of Aam Admi Party (AAP) supporters and local residents as the AAP Law minister of Delhi, Somnath Bharti mounted a vigilante-style raid on African residents alleging they were running a “sex and drug ring”.

The sit in protest was called by women’s and students organisations including All India Progressive Women’s Association and Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union. Many African nationals joined the protest accompanied by music including hip hop songs.

On 16, December night, a group of AAP activists and Malviya Nagar residents led by the Minister, Somnath Bharti insisted that the police conduct a raid without a search warrant on African nationals living in the Khirki Extension of South Delhi.

According to news reports, the Minister asked the locals to draw up a list of African nationals’ residences – ‘jahan aise log rehte hain’ (where such people live), vowing to raid and search each of these homes. He also told the media that, “I have received a lot of complaints from women in this locality against foreign nationals, yeh hum aur aap jaise nahin hain (They are not like you or me).”

The two Ugandan women have said, on record, that they were subjected to racist abuse (‘black people break laws’) and beaten by a mob of people (the Minister’s supporters), and that it was the Delhi police who protected them from the mob violence.

The women were also subjected to cavity searches and tests – none of which yielded any sign of drugs. One woman was allegedly forced to give a urine sample in public. According to activists the violence against the African women was defended in the name of anger against ‘prostitution’ and ‘drug peddling’, while no proof of the same has been presented as yet. The press release stated that even if it is proved that they are indeed sex workers, the treatment meted out to the women cannot be justified.

Activists were further disturbed by the Delhi CM, Arvind Kejriwal’s bizarre defense of his Minister’s actions – that ‘Rape tendencies start with drug and sex rackets’.

It is ironic that the rape of a Danish woman in Delhi is recognised as violence against a woman – a foreign guest in our country. But the violence and appalling violation of rights to which African women were subjected to, isn’t recognised by the Delhi Government as the same – and is even defended in the name of fighting ‘rape tendencies’!

Racism is no stranger to India with growing instances of xenophobia and violence against African nationals in Karnataka, Goa and other parts of the country. People from the North East of India too experience racist prejudice and violence regularly in Delhi and other parts of the country.

The press note distributed by the activists pointed out that, “For a Minister to instigate the police to violate the law and people’s liberties and rights; to ask the police to approve of and bless mob violence against African people, is totally unacceptable. Delhi Police should be held accountable to the law and to the Constitution, not to the bidding of political leaders.”

The two Ugandan women lodged a complaint with the metropolitan magistrate based on which a Delhi court asked the police to file an FIR against law minister Somnath Bharti and others. The court had passed the order under section 156 (3) of the Criminal Procedure Code, which grants a magistrate the right ask police to file an FIR. However, according to latest news reports, the FIR does not name the Minister and it has been lodged against “unknown accused.”

The following demands were put forward by the protesters at Jantar Mantar:

• To ask that the judicial probe ordered by the Lieutenant Governor identify those responsible for instigating and perpetrating mob violence against African nationals, including African women in Khirki village. To demand that those guilty of such violence be punished.
• To strongly counter racist hate-speech of the Law Minister.
• To strongly resist the racist propaganda that ‘all Africans are drug peddlers’.
• To tell the Delhi Govt that the Delhi Police cops who protected Africans from mob violence and refused to raid without search warrant, must not be suspended. Delhi Police should be held accountable to the law and to the Constitution, not to the bidding of political leaders.
• To strongly say ‘Not in our name’: to assert that profiling of and violence against African women will not make Indian women any safer from rape; to tell the Delhi CM to stop using rape as a pretext to defend racism.
• To create a space for African nationals in Delhi to share their experiences. To tell the people of Delhi that Africans ‘bilkul hum aur aap jaise hi hain’ (are just like you and me).

Featured photo courtesy: The Hindu

Law intern’s sexual harassment, SC issues notice

Law intern’s-sexual- harassment

Women’s groups in India hail the notice issued by the supreme court of India on hearing the petition on sexual harassment of a former law intern

By Team FI
The Supreme Court of India, after hearing a petition on sexual harassment of a former Supreme Court law intern has issued notices to Justice Swatantra Kumar, Government of India and the Secretary General of Supreme Court of India.

A former law intern of the SC had moved an affidavit to the Chief Justice of India, requesting a hearing on the incident of Sexual Harassment that happened when she was working as an official intern with Sitting Judge Justice Swatantra Kumar in 2011. The Chief Justice had returned her affidavit on grounds that the SC administration had decided that they would not hear cases against retired judges. Challenging this order the Former Law intern moved the SCI.

Four petitioners, Dr. Pritam Pal, Vishakha Group for Women’s Education and Research Rajasthan, Renuka Pamecha, Women’s Rehabilitation Group, Jaipur, Suneeta Dhar, Jagori Delhi, and Urvashi Butalia, Kali for Women, Delhi, impleaded themselves as interveners in the case. The court today after hearing them, has now posted the hearing for 14 February, 2014.

The matter was heard by a bench of three judges chaired by the Chief Justice of India. Senior counsel Shekhar Naphde represented the four petitioners and senior counsel Harish Salve represented the former law intern. The Team of Lawyers included Vrinda Grover and Kamini Jaiswal.

In 1992, a petition filed by the same petitioners had resulted in the landmark SC judgment on Visakha guidelines on sexual harassment at workplace. It is hoped that this heralds new guidelines which would ensure a mechanism for the prevention and redressal of sexual harassment of women for the entire judiciary from the Supreme Court to the magisterial court.

Domestic workers union welcome Khobragade’s indictment by US court

Devyan- Khobragade-indictment

A US court on Thursday indicted Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade for alleged visa fraud and making false statements in the visa application of her Indian domestic worker Sangeeta Richard. Domestic workers union issue a statement welcoming the grand jury’s decision

Full text of the press statement:
Gharelu Kaamgar Sangathana (GKS), Haryana welcomes the indictment, of Devyani Khobragade by the grand jury in the United States on two counts – that of visa fraud, and of making false statements in connection with the visa application of her Indian domestic worker Sangeeta Richard. The indictment symbolises that no one is above the law, and represents a historic victory for workers’ rights in the United States. It is also heartening to note that the indictment takes a very serious note of the harassment and intimidation faced by the Richard family in India from the Khobragade family when Sangeeta Richard tried to initiate charges against her.

GKS and advocates of domestic workers’ rights are dismayed by the Indian government’s pursuit and the ultimate granting of diplomatic immunity to Devyani Khobragade, a move that only serves to protect Indian employers who violate labour rights and human rights. GKS condemns the humiliating treatment of Ms. Khobragade during her arrest – however, the immunity conveniently sought later highlights only the continuing denial of domestic workers’ human rights by the Indian government everywhere. However, the indictment and the qualified immunity that Ms. Khobragade has been given show that immunity does not equal impunity.

The indictment symbolises that no one is above the law, and represents a historic victory for workers’ rights in the United States

Gharelu Kaamgar Sangathana, Haryana revealed in the Press Release on January 9, 2014 about its first hand knowledge of the police harassment and intimidation the Richard family were facing in Gurgaon from the Khobragade family and in particular Mr. Uttam Khobragade. The intimidation has been of an extreme nature and had deeply affected the family.

The harassment was meant to coerce Sangeeta Richard to withdraw her complaints and retaliate against her for raising her voice. The Richard family faced constant harassment by the police officials who were being sent by the Khobragade family. The police also took Mr. Richard and his son to the police station a few times, kept them there for hours, pressuring them to tell Ms. Richard to return.

According to Ms. Retu Singh, lawyer and activist with GKS, Haryana, “I could sense the terrified state the family was in every time I spoke with them. Mr. Philip Richard has called me several times late at night, reporting about the police harassment and intimidation they were facing”. She narrated an incident wherein Mr. Richard called her from the police station for help, and as she tried speaking to the officials, they threw the phone away, refusing to listen to her. “The police would enter the Richard house, on the grounds that they had orders from above, but when we asked them, they could never show us anything in written”, says Ms. Singh.

We express our strong outrage at the complete lack of recognition by the Indian government to this mental trauma and torture faced by the Richard family, which ultimately led them to flee their home country. We condemn the Indian state’s failure to provide any legal protection to the Richard family when they were in India and counter-accusing them of conspiracy.

We once again applaud the indictment for taking a human rights position, and reminding us about the need to stand up for the most fundamental principles of equality and dignity, even in the face of immense diplomatic backlash.

We demand that the Indian government
1) prosecute the relevant parties of the Khobragade family and the law enforcement officers who terrorized the Richards family in Gurgaon, India so much that they had to flee India.
2) pass Comprehensive Legislation for domestic workers’ protection
3) ratify ILO Convention 189, Domestic Workers Convention 2011

Anannya Bhattacharjee and Retu Singh

Gharelu Kaamgar Sangathan, Haryana, India