Carolyn Frederickson of the ACLU’s DC office writes on the community blog:
Yesterday, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released its report [PDF] on government efforts to address the abuse of domestic workers by foreign diplomats within the United States. The report confirmed what advocates, service providers and victims have long known: that this deeply troubling problem runs deep, and through its inaction and dilatory behavior, the State Department has unwittingly facilitated the exploitation, abuse and enslavement of poor, vulnerable women, some in the shadows of the nation’s capital.
Go read the rest. The ACLU’s site has more information about these women, including audio clips of them telling their stories. One woman, Raziah Begum, came to New York from Bangladesh to work for a Bangladeshi ambassador to the UN. And then:
Upon Ms. Begum’s arrival in the United States, the Ahmeds confiscated Ms. Begum’s passport and forbade her to set foot outside of the apartment.
The Ahmeds forced Ms. Begum to perform housework from 6 a.m. until 10 p.m., seven days a week without a single day off. They paid her $29 per month — approximately six cents per hour — which they never paid her directly but sent to her son in Bangladesh.
The Ahmeds forced Ms. Begum to sleep on the hard floor without a mattress or a blanket. They forbade her to eat at a table or sit anywhere in the house except on one stool in the kitchen. When there were visitors to the apartment, the Ahmeds required Ms. Begum to remain in the kitchen where she could not interact with the guests. When there were overnight guests, the Ahmeds made Ms. Begum sleep under the dining table so that she could not be seen.
The ACLU is pursuing a court case, legislation, and a petition to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on behalf of women like Raziah Begum.