Kalantry on Human Rights Issues Overlooked in US/India Diplomatic Flap

Human Rights Concerns Missed on Both Sides of the India-U.S. fallout over the Treatment of an Indian diplomat

The Indian government is outraged because a mid-level Indian diplomat was strip-searched before she was sent to jail on charges of paying her domestic worker below minimum wages ($3 dollars an hour) and lying about it in official documents to the U.S. government.   The prosecutor in the case, Preet Bharara, points out that she was treated no differently than any other person who is charged with a felony and sent to jail.

According to Preet Bharara, prison officials need to ensure she isn’t carrying something that could be used as a weapon or anything else prohibited in the prison.  For so many women in prison, this type of searching (including full cavity searches) are a regular and humiliating occurrence in the United States (and many other countries).   Each time a prisoner leaves the prison for a court appearance, for example, she is strip-searched when she returns.  Women in prison have told me that this practice is an affront to their dignity and sense of humanity.  These searches are often unnecessary as was likely in the case of the Indian diplomat.  However, just last year, the U.S. Supreme Court held inFlorence v. Board of Chosen Freeholders that even someone charged for a minor offense could be strip-searched without reasonable suspicion if she was entering a prison.  Many prison rights advocates have long objected to this policy.

It is understandable that the Indian government is protesting this inhumane treatment, but Preet Bharara rightly asks “why there is so much outrage about the alleged treatment of the Indian national accused of perpetrating these acts, but precious little outrage about the alleged treatment of the Indian victim and her spouse.”

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