An underage girl kept under virtual slavery even had to massage her employer

Like the weather and cricket, domestic help is a perennial subject of discussion. People may grumble about their shortage but the truth is that their numbers have been steadily increasing though there’s no specific data for the city. However, conservative estimates put their number around four lakh in the State.

Though the Karnataka Gruha Karmikara Sangha (KGKS) says the number of domestic workers in the city has been rising, it also means a concomitant increase in their exploitation by their employers. This is evident in the spike in number of complaints about exploitation of workers’ rights, observed Meena P., KGKS organiser.

Horror stories

Horror stories emerge when domestic help are the first suspects in any theft in the employer’s house. Shilpa (35) and Pavithra (40) (names changed), two domestic workers, were in the custody of the Cox Town police for four days, beaten black and blue with the lathis and questioned for hours on end. Their employer had lodged a complaint that the two had stolen some gold jewellery from his house. The police searched the women’s homes but came up with nothing.

The traumatised women turned to the Karnataka Gruha Karmikara Sangha (KGKS) for help. They were first taken to Bowring and Lady Curzon Hospital for a medical check-up and a medical certificate on the nature of their injuries. The police, who got wind of this, contacted the employer and asked him to search his house again. It turned out that the man’s son, who had recently gone abroad, had taken the gold with him. The employer, after withdrawing the case against the two women, asked them to resume work. The women refused.

Massage request

In another case, Rahela (name changed), a 16-year-old, was employed as a live-in help in a home in Benson Town for a meagre Rs. 300 a month. She put up with it for three years, working exhausting hours, even being told to massage her employer’s hands and legs. Rahela was not allowed to meet her mother, Shabnam, a resident of D.J. Halli, who used to go to collect her wages once a month.

Finally, Shabnam approached the local leaders in D.J. Halli, who rescued Rahela without the employer’s knowledge. When the man filed a police complaint, the local leaders approached the KGKS. A counter complaint was lodged against the employer who offered Rs. 3,000 and asked for the case to be dropped. The case was dropped after the employer paid Rs. 15,000 to Rahela.

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