NYC protest demands justice for Indian housekeeper

Domestic workers protested outside the Indian consulate in New York on Friday, calling for justice for a housekeeper allegedly mistreated by a Indian diplomat and demanding an end to slavery.

More than 30 workers and their allies took part in the spirited but peaceful protest on a sidewalk outside the mansion house used by the Indian government in New York.

"Hey, hey! Ho, ho! Slavery has to go!" chanted the group of mostly women wrapped up against the cold in hats and puffer jackets on behalf of the maid identified as Sangeeta Richard.

"Free, free domestic workers! End, end slavery!"

They called on the Indian government to recognize that the housekeeper had been "verbally abused" and called on all countries to create minimum legal standards of work for maids.

They held up homemade placards carrying slogans such as "does immunity protect human rights violations?" "justice now" and "hold diplomats accountable, justice for domestic workers."

"There are diplomats trafficking domestic workers all over this city," shouted one of the organizers. "It's been happening for years with impunity."

"We demand that the Indian government recognize that her rights were violated. We demand respect and protection for the family of this worker in India," said another.

India on Friday angrily brushed aside fresh efforts by the United States to defuse the row over the December 12 arrest of Devyani Khobragade, a deputy consul general in New York.

She was taken into custody and released on bail for allegedly defrauding a visa application, lying to US officials and underpaying her housekeeper.

Revelations that she was stripped by US Marshals and subjected to a body search have caused outrage in India, whose government wants Washington to drop the case and offer an apology.

The protesters condemned that Khobragade was strip-searched, but said it was a disgrace that, in one of the richest cities in the world, a housekeeper was paid as little as $3.31 an hour.

They called for justice for the maid, including a fair trial and compensation, and an end to labor trafficking.

India is trying secure full diplomatic immunity for Khobragade by shifting her to its UN mission in New York, although such a move needs State Department approval.

One of the protesters, Meches Rosales, told AFP that she estimated around 70 percent of domestic workers in New York City suffer from some kind of problems related to their employers.

"I would never survive on $3.31 an hour. Enough is enough. We need to end exploitation," she said.