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
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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."


Scores dead in bomb attacks across Sri Lankan capital

Updated 9 min 25 sec ago
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Scores dead in bomb attacks across Sri Lankan capital

  • The churches hit were in the north of the capital, and the town of Negombo, just outside Colombo
  • Attacks happened as Christians attended Easter Sunday services

COLOMBO: At least 129 people were killed in Sri Lanka on Sunday, police told AFP, when a string of blasts ripped through high-end hotels and churches as worshippers attended Easter services.
A police official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said at least 42 people were killed in Colombo, where three hotels and a church were hit.

Another 10 people were confirmed dead in the town of Batticaloa, in the east of the country, where another church was targeted.
There were also reports of casualties in a blast at a church north of the capital and the toll was expected to rise.
The nature of the blasts was not immediately clear and there were no immediate claims of responsibility.
President Maithripala Sirisena in an address said he was shocked by the explosions and appealed for calm.
Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera, writing on his verified Twitter account, said the attacks had killed “many innocent people” and appeared to be a “well-coordinated attempt to create murder, mayhem & anarchy.”
The first explosions were reported at St. Anthony’s Shrine, a church in Colombo and St. Sebastian’s Church in the town of Negombo just outside the capital.
Dozens of people injured in the St. Anthony’s blast flooded into the Colombo National Hospital by mid-morning, an official told AFP.
“A bomb attack to our church, please come and help if your family members are there,” read a post in English on the Facebook page of the St. Sebastian’s Church at Katuwapitiya in Negombo.
Shortly after those blasts were reported, police confirmed three hotels in the capital had also been hit, along with a church in Batticaloa.
An official at one of the hotels, the Cinnamon Grand Hotel near the prime minister’s official residence in Colombo, told AFP that the blast had ripped through the hotel restaurant.
He said at least one person had been killed in the blast.
An official at the Batticaloa hospital told AFP more than 300 people had been admitted with injuries following the blast there.
“Emergency meeting called in a few minutes. Rescue operations underway,” Sri Lanka’s Minister of Economic Reforms and Public Distribution, Harsha de Silva, said in a tweet on his verified account.
He said he had been to two of the attacked hotels and was at the scene at St. Anthony’s Shrine and described “horrible scenes.”
“I saw many body parts strewn all over,” he tweeted, adding that there were “many casualties including foreigners.”
“Please stay calm and indoors,” he added.
Photos circulating on social media showed the roof of one church had been almost blown off in the blast.
The floor was littered with a mixture of roof tiles, splintered wood and blood.
Several people could be seen covered in blood, with some trying to help those with more serious injuries.
The images could not immediately be verified.

Only around six percent of mainly Buddhist Sri Lanka is Catholic, but the religion is seen as a unifying force because it includes people from both the Tamil and majority Sinhalese ethnic groups.