Murder of teenage Indian maid sparks calls for tougher laws urgently

People participate in a protest in Kolkata, India, April 17, 2018. (REUTERS)
Updated 21 May 2018
0

Murder of teenage Indian maid sparks calls for tougher laws urgently

NEW DELHI/MUMBAI: The murder of a teenage maid in India triggered calls on Monday for the government to urgently pass laws to curb trafficking and update legislation that lets children work as domestic help.
Police said the 16-year-old girl from eastern Jharkhand state was strangled and her body chopped up and dumped in a drain earlier this month after she demanded a year's unpaid salary from the employment agency that hired her.
A man, who worked at the agency that brings girls from poor families in rural areas to work in Delhi, was arrested late last week, senior Delhi police officer Rajender Singh Sagar told reporters.
"How can we allow our little daughters to be brutally killed after trafficking and exploitation? Where is the rule of law?" Indian Nobel laureate and child rights activist Kailash Satyarthi said on Twitter.
The case has put the spotlight on the abuse of domestic servants in India where millions of people, including children trafficked from remote and impoverished states, toil for long hours in homes with little freedom or protection.
Satyarthi urged the government to pass India's new anti-trafficking bill, that was cleared by cabinet in February but has not been tabled in parliament yet, and called for the enactment of another bill to regulate employment agencies.
With stringent punishment for traffickers and quick relief for victims, campaigners believe the anti-trafficking law will result in more arrests and convictions.
About 60 percent of the more than 23,000 trafficking victims rescued in India in 2016 were children, government data shows.
Campaigners have blamed the dilution of the country's child labour act for more children being trafficked for domestic work.
India's parliament approved a controversial law in 2016 allowing children to work for family businesses, despite widespread concern that it would push more of them into labor.
Anti-trafficking charity Shakti Vahini demanded a rollback of amendments in the law and quick enactment of legislation to monitor unregulated employment agencies to stop them withholding salaries from workers or using violence against them.
"It is getting worse after the law was amended," Ravi Kant, founder of Shakti Vahini, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
"There is no fear of law under the current child labour act."


South Sudan’s warring leaders to meet for talks in Ethiopia

Updated 9 min 58 sec ago
0

South Sudan’s warring leaders to meet for talks in Ethiopia

  • The rendezvous in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa represents the latest international effort to end more than four years of civil war in the world’s youngest nation.
  • Kiir and Machar will meet at the invitation of Ethiopia’s prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, who also chairs the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) regional bloc that has taken the lead in thus-far fruitless peace negotiations.

ADDIS ABABA: Nearly two years after fleeing South Sudan’s capital amid deadly fighting, rebel leader Riek Machar will meet face-to-face on Wednesday with the country’s president, Salva Kiir.
The rendezvous in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa represents the latest international effort to end more than four years of civil war in the world’s youngest nation.
Tens of thousands have been killed and millions have been driven out of their homes and into starvation.
Kiir and Machar will meet at the invitation of Ethiopia’s prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, who also chairs the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) regional bloc that has taken the lead in thus-far fruitless peace negotiations.
Abiy “will call upon the two leaders to narrow their gap and work for the pacification of South Sudan and relieve the burden of death and uprooting of South Sudanese people,” said Meles Alem, a spokesman for Ethiopia’s foreign ministry.
Kiir’s attendance was confirmed by South Sudan’s ambassador to Ethiopia, James Pitia Morgan.
Manasseh Zindo, a senior official in Machar’s Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-in Opposition rebel group, said Machar would attend.
IGAD first proposed the meeting last month after the most recent unsuccessful round of peace talks.
Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir suggested hosting the two foes in Khartoum, an offer Machar rejected, while Kiir’s government said it would prefer to have the meeting outside the region altogether.
The two men have been central to the fate of South Sudan since its 2011 separation from the north.
The country descended into civil war in 2013 after Kiir accused Machar, his former deputy, of plotting a coup against him.
They have not met since July 2016, when heavy fighting in the capital, Juba, signalled the collapse of a 2015 peace deal forcing Machar to flee to South Africa.
The renewed violence spread across the country, spawning numerous new armed opposition groups and further complicating peace efforts.
Efforts to revitalize the 2015 agreement resulted in a cease-fire in December which lasted just hours before warring parties accused each other of breaking it.
Tens of thousands have died and nearly four million South Sudanese have been driven from their homes by the conflict which the United Nations ranks among the most serious humanitarian crises in the world.
Forty-eight percent of the population are experiencing extreme hunger and seven million will need aid this year, according to the UN.
International patience with the conflict has worn thin. Last month, the UN Security Council gave the two warring sides a month to reach a peace deal or face sanctions.
The United States has also grown increasingly frustrated with Kiir’s government.
Washington was a critical backer of South Sudan during its separation from Sudan, and remains Juba’s biggest aid donor.
A top American official earlier this month threatened parties on both sides of the conflict with sanctions after a report from US foundation The Sentry said South Sudanese elites were profiting from human rights abuses.
Despite the pressure, observers say Kiir has little incentive to make concessions to his rivals.
His soldiers are winning militarily, while the opposition is more fractured than ever before.