Justice Min. Helps Foreigner Sue Over Slave-like Terms, Assault

The Justice Ministry has filed a suit on behalf of a foreign worker from India, who says the Tiberias family that employed her imprisoned her, treated her like a slave and tried to sexually assault her. The worker is demanding half a million shekels.

The suit is being filed by the ministry's Tel Aviv Legal Aid Bureau in the Nazareth Regional Labor Court.

The complainant, J., was hired to nurse a disabled family member in 2006, and cared for him 24 hours a day. Shortly after she began working, she says, family members began demanding she perform all their housework for no additional pay.

J. says she was required to clean the bathroom after every use, wash the family's clothes, serve food and beverages, and clean and dust the furniture. In addition, she was forbidden to go out without permission.

During the Second Lebanon War the family moved into a shelter near their home. J. was not invited to join them, but was forced to keep serving the family members in the shelter while still doing all the housework.

When J. complained to her patient that she couldn't keep on caring both for him and the other family members in the shelter, he told her she could care for him alone.

However, when the man's brother noticed a dirty ashtray in the living room and cups in the sink, he lashed out at J. and told her she had to clean up after all family members, however they demanded.

"If I tell you to wipe my bottom, you'll do so," he reportedly said.

The brother then threw J. out of the shelter, and she was left to wander the streets of Tiberias for several hours.

The prosecutor, attorney Rachel Shahar, claims J. was sexually harassed by the brother and by another family member, and was threatened that if she told anyone, they would have her Israeli visa canceled.

Repeated assault attempts

In one incident, according to the suit, the brother was driving with J. in the car. He tried to kiss her and touch her by force. In another incident, the brother approached her from behind, grabbed her by force and tried to kiss her. In order to prevent J. from telling anyone, the brother threatened her and told her that he knows policemen and lawyers, and that no one would believe her.

In addition, J. says she was forced to sleep in the same room as the disabled man. On one of the last days of her employment, he pulled her forcefully into his bed, held her down and sat on her, and tried to sexually assault her. J. reacted by scratching his face, biting his arm and fleeing the room. The following day, after the patient told his brother what happened, the brother told her she was fired and kicked her out of the house without her final month's pay.

J. then filed a complaint with the Tiberias police. Less than a month later, a police representative told Kav La'Oved, the Worker's Hotline for the Protection of Workers' Rights that the investigation had been closed for lack of evidence.

"In this case, there are clear indications of holding an individual in slave-like conditions for purposes of work, such as the defendants' control over the complainant's life while isolating her and keeping her away from social interaction, and denying her freedom," said attorney Rivka Adler, the Justice Ministry's Tel Aviv Legal Aid Bureau director.

"To our regret this is only one of many examples of the grave phenomenon of slave-like employment in Israel.

Family members refused to comment.