Saudi employer accused of chopping off Indian maid’s arm

India lodges complaint in case involving woman whose family said she was harassed and not given enough to eat

India is demanding answers from Saudi Arabia after a maid there reportedly had her arm chopped off by her employer for complaining about working conditions. 

The Indian government said Friday that it had lodged a protest with authorities in Riyadh after the incident involving 55-year-old Kasthuri Munirathinam, who is currently being treated for her injuries at a hospital. 

"Chopping of [the] hand of [an] Indian lady — we are very much disturbed over the brutal manner in which [this] Indian lady has been treated in Saudi Arabia," Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj wrote on Twitter. "This is unacceptable. We have taken this up with Saudi authorities." 

A spokesman for the External Affairs ministry confirmed that Indian diplomats in Riyadh had lodged a formal complaint at the Saudi foreign ministry. Munirathinam, who comes from a village in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, had suffered a catalogue of abuse since taking up a post as a domestic worker in Saudi Arabia three months ago, according to her family. 

"Her right hand was chopped off by her employer when she tried to escape the daily harassment, torture and abysmal work conditions," her sister S. Vijayakumari told Agence-France Presse by phone from Tamil Nadu's capital Chennai.

Vijayakumari said that her sister had gone to Saudi Arabia to help pay off her family's debts and she had been promised a monthly salary of around $180.

"But she was not paid, she was barely given enough to eat and not even allowed to speak to her family ... Now she only wants to come home," Vijayakumari said.

The family says that problems started for Munirathinam — who was one of five domestic workers in the same household — after she complained to the local authorities about her situation.

Several Indian media outlets broadcast footage of Munirathinam lying in her Saudi hospital bed with a white bandage wrapped around the stump of her right shoulder.

Foreign ministry spokesman Vikas Swarup confirmed to AFP that Munirathinam was still recuperating in the Riyadh hospital but said that efforts were being made to bring her home.

"We are in touch with the woman, hospital and the local police authorities. She will get all possible legal and other help from the embassy," Swarup said.

Swarup also told reporters at a news conference the Indian government is also seeking a "case of attempted murder" to be lodged against Munirathinam's employer and for the employer to pay for her medical treatment. 

Hundreds of thousands of Indian migrants work in households in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries but complaints about their treatment by their employers often make headlines back home.

A video showing a male Indian worker being beaten by his Saudi employer went viral in September, sparking a widespread backlash on social media.

There was also widespread anger last month when the first secretary at the Saudi embassy left India under diplomatic immunity after being accused of holding captive and raping two Nepalese maids in his home. 

Al Jazeera and wire services 

Related News

Find Al Jazeera America on your TV

Get email updates from Al Jazeera America

Sign up for our weekly newsletter


Get email updates from Al Jazeera America

Sign up for our weekly newsletter