After news emerged about an Indian maid who lost her arm while allegedly trying to flee her abusive employer in Saudi Arabia, the Indian foreign ministry has pressed Riyadh for an independent investigation of the case and for the accused to be charged with attempted murder.
However, if history is any indication of her fate, Kasturi Munirathinam’s abuser may be let off the hook.
In order to pay off her crippling debts, Munirathinam, a 55-year-old mother of four, reportedly traveled from southern India to the Gulf country to work as a live-in maid for 1,000 Saudi riyals ($267) a month. But after working for only a few weeks, she tried to escape her new employer by climbing out of a window using two sarees – a drape-like garment worn by South Asian women.
The events that followed are somewhat disputed. While her sister S. Vijayakumari maintains Munirathinam’s hand was chopped off by her boss, who allegedly tortured and starved her, Saudi police claim the woman’s arm severed during the escape bid.
Recommended: The Untold Ordeal Of Filipina Maids In The UAE
As Munirathinam is recovering in a Riyadh hospital, her story has prompted international concern over labor laws in the Gulf. But considering past incidents, one can assume the outrage is not going to have any effect whatsoever.
Emotional, physical and sexual exploitation of domestic help hailing from developing nations such as the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, and Ethiopia at the hands of wealthy Saudi nationals is a well-documented issue.
Maids are often executed without a fair trial and the matter is usually settled by offering meager compensations to the worker’s family. The last most-publicized case with regards to this issue in Saudi Arabia was that of a 24-year-old Sri Lankan Rizanna Nafeek, who was executed in 2013, after authorities charged her with the murder of a baby in 2005.
Saudi authorities ignored the fact that Nafeek was only 17 at the time of her alleged crime and she was not allowed a competent translator during the interrogation. Protests were held against her execution, but they didn’t yield any results.
Unfortunately, a similar outcome is expected in Munirathinam’s case. While she might be able to get back to India, her employer will most certainly get away scot-free.