An Adivasi woman from Bihar employed as a “domestic servant” in the UK has been awarded nearly £184,000 in compensation in one of Britain’s first cases of caste discrimination.
Permila Tirkey, a Christian, was reportedly paid as little as 11p per hour for working 18-hour days at the Milton Keynes home of her Hindu employers Ajay and Pooja Chandhok.
An employment tribunal was told that the Chandhok’s forced Tirkey to sleep on the floor, prevented her from bringing her bible to the UK and prevented her from contacting her family in India over a period of four and a half years.
After the judgment, Tirkey said: “I want the public to know what happened to me as it must not happen to anyone else.
“The stress and anxiety that this sort of thing creates for a person can destroy them. I have not been able to smile because my life had been destroyed. Now I am able to smile again. Now I am free.”
The tribunal declared that the Chandhoks didn’t merely want a domestic servant but someone they could keep servile.
They did not seek to recruit someone resident in the UK “because no such person would have accepted the intended conditions of work”.
Tirkey was assisted in her claim by the UK’s Anti-Trafficking and Labour Exploitation Unit (ATLEU).
The Unit’s Victoria Marks said: “This is a very useful judgment for victims of modern day slavery. We hope that it will give other victims the courage to come forward and seek redress.
“It is important that traffickers do not act with impunity and that they see that their victims can and will hold them to account.”
Tirkey’s barrister, Chris Milsom, said: “Permila Tirkey is a remarkable woman and deserves enormous credit for her patience and stoicism at a time when she was brandished dishonest by those who held her in servitude for four long years.”
The case is a landmark as the government has repeatedly refused to include Caste-based Discrimination – which activists say is widespread within Britain’s South Asian communities – in the Equality Act because there was not enough evidence that such discrimination does not take place in the UK.
A number of British Asian organizations, including some of the UK’s biggest Hindu organizations, have also opposed caste-discrimination laws, pointing out that they could be exploited.