Friday, April 28, 2006

Subject: Psuedo-political/Humanitarian

Marie Claire. P. 128-9. May 2006 Vol. 13. Issue 5.

This Woman Was Forced Into Slavery in the US
By: Sarah Garland

'"Trafficking victim Vishranthamma, 43, gives another often-heard reason for leaving home: "Where I am from, in Bangalore, India, there is no work. I didn’t have a job. I took care of my five kids and husband, who was very sick,” she says. “I found a job in Kuwait through an agency that said I could earn a lot of money. I had to go. I had to take care of my children.”

After several months in Kuwait, she happily accepted a babysitting job offered by a Kuwaiti diplomat in New York City. He promised to pay her $2000 a month, enough for food and school for her children and medical care for her husband.

Upon arriving in the U.S., Vishranthamma moved into her Kuwaiti employer’s luxurious Manhattan apartment to care for his two children. Barely a month passed before she was also responsible for cleaning, cooking, shopping, and washing the family’s clothes. “The job description was only to car for a new baby,” she says. “Whenever I was sick, they never let me rest. They made me work like a donkey.” Vishranthamma started working at 6 a.m., and many days she didn’t finish until 1 a.m. Instead of the promised $2000 a month, her employers only paid $200 to $250 a month, which they sent back to her family in India so the children wouldn’t wonder how their mother was faring. To Vishranthamma herself they gave nothing.

The Kuwaiti diplomat’s wife watched Vishranthamma vigilantly. When she began having trouble keeping up with the workload, the violence began. “Every day, she pushed me and beat me. Every day, she made me cry,” says Vishranthamma, who said nothing because she feared retaliation against her family. A devout Christian, Vishranthamma would hide in her room after a beating and read her bible. “What could I do? I could only pray,” she says. Rapidly, Vishranthamma’s role deteriorated from domestic worker to slave. The family took precautions to make sure she couldn’t escape, locking her in the house whenever she was left alone and never allowing her outside on her own. They also confiscated her passport, her only form of identification.

Four years passed in this manner. Vishranthamma grew more despondent, but her attachment to the family’s children made the thought of escape difficult. (Psychologists say this is common: Separated from their own children and alone in a strange country, enslaved domestic workers often become strongly attached to the children in their care.) “Whenever I cried, both the children cried, too. I could tell that they liked me,” says Vishranthamma. “Even if I decided to leave the house and run away, I had nobody. Where would I go?”

The breaking point came in June 2000, when Vishranthamma barely escaped severe injury. The diplomat, furious at her for taking too long to pack the family’s suitcases for a vacation, picked up the luggage and hit her with it, then threatened to throw an iron at her head. She fled to her room. “I thought, I can’t stay here anymore. This is worse than prison. Even if I don’t make it, I would rather die outside than remain trapped.” Later that day, Vishranthamma sneaked into her employees’ bedroom and found her passport. She fled, running to the street and hailing a cab as she had seen other New Yorkers do.
“I was shaking. I thought they were going to catch me. I’d never gone outside by myself before,” she says. When the Indian cab driver spoke to her in Hindi, she breathed a sigh of relief. “He asked where I wanted to go. I saw the map of the boroughs posted on the back of the taxi seat and picked one: Queens. He told me, ‘Queens is a very big place.’ That’s where I started to cry.”

But the cab driver did take Vishranthamma to Queens and left her at a Hindu temple. Eventually, through members at a sister temple, she got in touch with Andolan, a South Asian women’s organization. Andolan advocates, aware women like Vishranthamma are out there, hand out business cards in playgrounds where foreign nannies congregate with their toddlers and tricycles. But because the women are often employed by foreign diplomats, prosecution is nearly impossible. Vishranthamma’s trafficker transferred out of the country, and he was never charged with a crime because he was protected by diplomatic immunity. Because she agreed to cooperate with law enforcement, however, Vishranthamma got a trafficking visa (sometimes called a “T” visa), which means she can stay in the U.S., get her green card, and eventually become a U.S. citizen.
…Vishranthamma says there’s nothing left for her in Banglore, since her husband has died and her children have grown up without her. (Her youngest three will soon join her in the U.S., anyway).”'

Marvin Gaye - Inner City Blues
BB King - Chains & Things
Herbie Hancock - Death Wish [Main Theme]
Kerrier District - New York
Ian Brown - F.E.A.R.

at 11:48 PM


  1. Blogger Temetwir posted at 2:41 AM  
    that was very hard to read

    the last point of prosecution strikes a nerve .. in the sense that, almost everywhere, "il 3amala ilwafda" dont have the means to get any of their rights

    again, was very hard to read
  2. Blogger Fedo posted at 2:55 AM  
    Heh; our diplomats. Pitiful and disgusting. Poor thing.
  3. Blogger 7tenths posted at 10:07 AM  
    Wow, sad stuff :/ At times of desperation people will believe anything, even promises from a Kuwaiti!
  4. Blogger ZiZoTiMe posted at 12:02 AM  
    What a shame?! Some Kuwaiti families are really embarrassing us in the world, but this is the worst story I've ever heard.
    She's really a poor women … make me sad when I was reading your post.
    I pope life will smile to her at the end.
  5. Blogger Erzulie posted at 1:52 AM  
    Temetwir: Yup...

    Fedo: Heh, yeah...unfortunately...

    7tenths: Well, from "those" kinds of Kuwaitis...ironically...

    Zizotime: There are others in the same state and worse...
  6. Blogger Kleio posted at 4:46 PM  
    Ironic is right - this, coming from a diplomat who is supposed to be representing our country abroad. Sadly though, maybe he really is representing more than just a minority here. It breaks my heart - both for the workers and for Kuwait - to admit that this kind of treatment has become all too common in Kuwait. Some cases are more extreme - beatings, starvation, rape, even murder. Other cases are more minor, but are equally abusive - verbal abuse, yelling, public humiliation, fear, etc. The worst is when I see young kids treating their nannies like crap in the jam3iya or wherever. I always stop and give the kid a really scary look with my eyes until he/she is about to burst into tears (I don't think the law allows me to do what I really feel like doing to the kid). Most people in Kuwait will say "We treat our maids well", acting all self-righteous like they deserve a medal for it, when in reality they DON'T treat them well. They never sit down and talk to them, like human beings, like equals - learn about their lives and families and thoughts and dreams. They never even simply ASK how they're doing, or share a laugh or a cup of tea. They never do favours for them and barely ever help them in times of crisis. And they barely ever treat them with dignity and respect - god forbid something gets accidentally broken or ruined in the wash or burned in the oven - they're not allowed to make mistakes like the rest of us. Of course I hate to generalize - but sadly this is something I see getting worse in Kuwait. Someone please argue that I'm wrong and get my hopes up!
  7. Blogger Erzulie posted at 11:42 PM  
    Kleio: I so agree. And you know, I'm not surprised if one of those women who were treated badly attempt to hurt the kids or the family! I mean think about it, we always hear about "Maid poisons family" and you know what, if I was in her place and maybe under crappy conditions (which I assume is the case) then I'd be poisoning the whole damned country...
    I was a bit iffy about posting this article since you can sorta know the who's and what's (in regards to the diplomat) but I just thought that it's too important to dismiss...
  8. Blogger Kleio posted at 5:28 AM  
    It is too important - glad you posted it.
  9. Blogger Erzulie posted at 1:54 PM  
    Kleio: :)

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