What salary do Indian girls want

The suffering of the housemaids in India

It was a particularly nasty case that preoccupied India in April. A 13-year-old from Jharkhand, one of the poorest states in India, was rescued from the balcony of a house in New Delhi. The girl had already been locked in the house in one of the best neighborhoods of the Indian capital for six days before, in desperation, she climbed onto the balcony and shouted loudly for help. The young woman worked as a housemaid for a couple who had flown to Thailand on vacation. She hadn't had anything to eat for days. Her emaciated body was covered with bruises.

"Many think that money can buy anything"

Ravi Kant, the chairman of the children's aid organization "Shakti Vahini" in New Delhi, sees the economic upswing in India since the 1990s as the trigger for the problem: "What we see in India is that the middle class is doing better and better A lot of money is now available. They therefore think that money can buy anything. And for them that also means that they can treat their servants as they want. " As a rule, the girls get a meager wage - but that is by no means a guarantee for even tolerable working conditions.

As more and more women are working in the big metropolises of India such as New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai or Kolkata, the demand for cheap labor for housework is increasing, says Ravi Kant. Anything can happen to them that can be bought and sold. They can be kept like slaves and forcibly married, or even end up as prostitutes. "

House maids are also frequently trafficked

Pressing problem

There are still no reliable figures showing how many women and girls are forced to work in households. The Indian government states that around 125,000 children were released from forced labor in 2011. That is 27 percent more than in 2010. The number would be many times higher if you added young women over the age of 18, according to human rights organizations.

India expert Nisha Varia from Human Rights Watch in New York has been dealing with human trafficking for a long time. "Women and girls in Indian society have always had fewer opportunities when it comes to education." This leads, according to Varia, that they also have poorer chances of finding a qualified job and moving up: "Their poor status in society means that they mostly have to work in extremely badly paid jobs, for example as housemaids, where they do nor are they protected in any way. "

Goods instead of people: Many of the young girls and women are mercilessly exploited

Mafia-like structures

For a long time it was the case that poor and barely educated girls from India were abducted as housemaids in the Middle East and the Arab world, now shady agencies are bringing the young girls to the Indian megacities. There they work as housemaids, sometimes in small factories or in road construction.

The human rights organization ActionAid estimates that there are 2,300 mediation organizations in the Indian capital New Delhi alone. Not even 20 percent of them are registered with the authorities and comply with legal requirements on minimum wages, working hours and type of work. "Sometimes it is even a distant family member, a neighbor or another member of the community who lures the young women into the trap with false promises of a good job," says activist Nisha Varia. Often times he collects a hefty commission as soon as the girl is referred. The recruitment agencies, in turn, sometimes withhold the young girls' salaries for several months and make a hefty profit with the commission they receive from the new employers. The girls are systematically intimidated. They are often unable to return to their home villages for fear of social exclusion.

Call for justice

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's government is trying to get the problem under control

In 2011, the Indian government began to set up departments in police stations across the country that deal only with human trafficking. There are 225 such facilities, and in 2013 another 110 will be added. They are supposed to collect information and maintain a database in which offenders can be registered. In addition, they should follow up on reports of missing children and women and work more closely with child and human rights organizations in the country. There are currently no laws that are valid in all of India. However, the individual states have already passed laws at the regional level. "The Indian judiciary has finally taken on the problem," says Ravi Kant of the children's aid organization Shakti Vahini. The organization helps victims receive compensation and bring criminals to justice. "But the scale of the problem we are facing today comes from the fact that nothing has been done for years. It just wasn't a priority."