India could be trapped in a major diplomatic scandal after a senior diplomat belonging to the Saudi Embassy was accused, along with his wife, of keeping two Nepalese women as sex slaves in Gurgaon.
According to the FIR filed by the police in Gurgaon, the two women had been lured to India with a false promise of jobs, and then sold to the diplomat, who is the First Secretary at the embassy.
According to the statements of the victims, aged 30 and 50, they were held captive by the First Secretary’s family for over three months, and were taken to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, for a few days as well. During the entire period, the women said, they were repeatedly raped and forced to perform “unnatural sex” for the diplomat and other Saudi nationals, often at knife-point.
An official who was aware of the women’s account of their captivity called the details “horrifying.”
The Saudi embassy, dismissing the charges as “completely false” and “contrary to facts in our possession”, said it would wait for the Indian government to clarify on the matter as per diplomatic norms, IANS reported
An MEA official said the Saudi embassy’s version and that of the Nepalese embassy that has taken up the issue “were different and need to be reconciled.”
Assistant Commissioner of Police (Crime) and Gurgaon police spokesperson Rajesh Chechi said the women were rescued by Gurgaon police after a Nepalese NGO that deals with trafficking heard about their plight from another Nepali victim.
The women had been held in the upmarket residential area of DLF-Phase II in Gurgaon. The Gurgaon police raided the home after the Nepalese embassy in Delhi contacted the government for help. A rape case had been registered, PTI reported, but the diplomat was “untraceable.”
“We have sought a report from the local police,” the MEA spokesperson said.
Officials said they feared the diplomat, whose wife and father have also been charged, has taken a flight out of Delhi already.
An official said that given their diplomatic status “there was no chance” of arrest. “Despite the terrible nature of the crime, unless the Saudi Arabian government waives it, the immunity will protect them completely.”
The victims, residents of Banglung and Biratnagar districts in Nepal, said they had been lured by a woman trafficker to Delhi four months ago on the promise of a job and handsome salary in Saudi Arabia. The two were, however, sold to another agent in Delhi for Rs.1 lakh each and then to the Saudi diplomat, who they identified as ‘Majid’. “Majid first took the two women to Saudi Arabia. The abuse continued after he returned with them to Delhi three months ago and kept them in captivity at his DLF house,” said Bal Krishan, the president of Maiti Nepal India.
The ordeal of the two women came to light when another woman sold to the diplomat 10 days ago managed to escape and alerted Maiti Nepal India that works in the areas of prostitution, trafficking and child labour. The NGO contacted the Nepal embassy and a letter was written to the Gurgaon police in this regard.
The Gurgaon police team then raided the house on Monday afternoon and rescued the women. Mr. Krishan, who was present during the rescue, said the diplomat’s family put up a resistance.
The case mirrors cases of trafficking and slavery in the U.K. and the U.S. In 2011, a case in the U.K. involving two Indonesian women held as slaves by a Saudi diplomat in London had caused an uproar after details emerged of their ill-treatment.
In 2013, another case involving two women from the Philippines, held captive for months by the Saudi defence attaché and his wife living in a mansion in Virginia, U.S., had led to similar outrage.
In both cases, the diplomats could not be prosecuted due to immunity, and a U.K. court ruled that the Indonesian women were not eligible for any compensation either. In this case, Nepal embassy officials said that they were hoping to pursue the case with Saudi authorities, and would help repatriate the two victims to Nepal at the earliest.
(The article has been corrected for a factual error)