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Domestic Slavery

RaphaĂŤl Dallaporta


Domestic Slavery

RaphaĂŤl Dallaporta


www.domesticslavery.com

Ondine Millot

She tells her story it as if apologizing for what happened. “For me, leaving for France was an unhoped-for chance I had to take.” Even if it meant leaving Morocco and her family aged just 17; even if, almost immediately, in the small apartment in the suburb of Paris where she arrived in September 1998, her new employer threatened, mistreated and insulted her every day; even if she wasn’t paid any of her promised salary; even if she wasn’t signed up for “the good French school” she had been promised. Salma survived “by praying.” Each day, she hoped that “things would work out.” Each day, she had to scrub the apartment from top to bottom: vacuum, wipe the dust off every centimetre of every surface, wipe down the floor in the toilet, the walls and the floor of the bathroom, hand wash the clothes and then iron them. Then, “completely empty the kitchen cupboards and clean them, … lift up all the cushions in the living room and turn them over to air, … lift and beat the mattresses and beds, and clean all the windows in the apartment.” Her employer was obsessed by cleanliness and never satisfied. Salma also prepared meals and looked after her employer’s two children, twin boys aged 10. The employer would often have hysterical fits, such as the one the day in March 2001 when she threw Salma out. Taken in by a social-services shelter, she slowly began putting her life back together, and eventually decided to take her “boss” to court. Today, Salma has found a job as a shop assistant in the Paris region; the case against her employer has yet to come to court.


Domestic Slavery

RaphaĂŤl Dallaporta


www.domesticslavery.com

Ondine Millot

Hina’s story was widely covered in the media, reported on by newspapers, television and radio stations. Professor Bernard Debré, an internationally renowned urologist, whose department treated the badly wounded girl, denounced this “act of barbarity” to the press. “I have never seen anything like it in 20 years of medicine,” he said. A member of the medical team specified the physical abuse suffered by Hina: “The wound is a perforated cut, beginning in the area between the urethra and the clitoris, to a depth of between three and six centimetres, between the mucous membrane and the skin. It was done as if to remove the vagina, and was probably inflicted with a bladed weapon.” Hina told a member of the CCEM, the Committee Against Modern Slavery, that, “My employer and a doctor – a friend of my employer – drugged me and cut the bottom of my body so that I wouldn’t become pregnant.” After that she would say no more about the mutilation. “Somebody wounded me,” she simply repeated to the police. Hina fled the house of her employer, a highly placed diplomat at the Indian Embassy in Paris, at the beginning of September 1999. She explained that she had been locked inside for eight months, working every day of the week, from 6am until midnight, without pay. She said that she had regularly been beaten, humiliated and threatened with death. She was 17 years old. The Indian media quickly seized on the affair. The Indian Embassy in Paris, however, denied any accusations of mistreatment, instead accusing the French police and the CCEM of being responsible for Hina’s wounds. Hina’s story became an affair of state, attracting a lot of attention. Well, at least for a few days; then, silence. Her employer had nothing to worry about: protected by diplomatic immunity, he refused to answer any questions from the French police.


Domestic Slavery

RaphaĂŤl Dallaporta


www.domesticslavery.com

Ondine Millot

For four years Violette slept without a mattress on the tiled kitchen floor of an apartment in the 13th arrondissement in Paris. Her work timetable was carefully planned. In the morning, she got up at 4am to prepare breakfast for Sahondra, her employer, and her son; afterwards, she travelled into central Paris where, at 6am, she began work for a cleaning company run by Sahondra’s brother-in- law; at 10am she returned to Sahondra’s apartment where she did the housework and prepared lunch and dinner; at 4pm, she travelled to Massy-Palaiseau – about 20kms from Paris – where she cleaned the apartment of Mamy, Sahondra’s brother. When she returned to the 13th arrondissement around 10pm each day, there was more work: a pile of washing-up or ironing kept her busy until midnight, either at Sahondra’s or in her sister’s next-door apartment. For four years, during which time she was hardly fed, Violette worked 18 to 20 hours a day. She had left Madagascar aged 22 in the hope of earning enough money to feed her child, who she left behind. During the whole ordeal her four employers paid her nothing. With the aid of the CCEM, the Committee Against Modern Slavery, she took her employers to court. Her case was heard in 1999 in Paris and it became the first-ever case of modern slavery dealt with in France under penal law. Her employers were ordered to pay Violette €22,900 in damages and interest; they were also fined and given suspended prison sentences.


Domestic Slavery

RaphaĂŤl Dallaporta


www.domesticslavery.com

Ondine Millot

The apartment was huge, situated on one of the most beautiful avenues of Paris’s 16th arrondissement; its owners were extremely rich. The man, the CEO of a number of Saudi gas and oil companies, spent his time on business trips; the woman didn’t work. She spent her time moving between Saudi Arabia, the UK, Spain and France, where the couple owns several properties, and acting as absolute monarch over her army of household staff. “I have so many people working for me in Saudi Arabia and all over Europe that I sometimes forget their names,” she told the police. In October 2002, Angha, 42, had been part of the “staff” for two years – and been locked in the Paris apartment for five months. Recruited in Goa, India, and the holder of a domestic-worker diploma, she applied to a recruitment agency to work in a family. She then followed the family as it moved around. Once she arrived in Paris she received no pay for her domestic tasks, which she carried out every day from 7.30am until 2 in the morning. Her passport was confiscated and another employee was given the task of watching her and locking her in every evening. Every day her employer beat her. “She hit me with different objects, such as shoes; she pulled my hair and pushed me down stairs. She broke my nose,” remembers Angha. In October 2002, Angha no longer had a choice. Taking advantage of a moment alone she rolled up some sheets, tied them together, knotted them around the edge of the balcony and managed to escape through a window on the third floor. The police officers who picked her up found her body covered in wounds and bruises. Helped by the CCEM, the Committee Against Modern Slavery, Angha was able to return to India, as she wished, and see her mother and sisters again.


Domestic Slavery

RaphaĂŤl Dallaporta


www.domesticslavery.com

Ondine Millot

During the police enquiry, a neighbour admitted that she had regularly heard Yasmina’s screams. She had given her clothes “on the sly,” but stopped there. Neither her nor another neighbour alerted the police or the social services. From 1988 to 1994, in a building in Champigny-sur-Marne, about 15kms from Paris, Yasmina was beaten and tortured daily by her uncle and aunt. “My aunt would hit me with a broom, with a colander; she whipped me with electrical cables. Her husband hit me, too. He slapped me and whipped me with his belt or electrical cables.” Yasmina was born and grew up in Mali, where she was brought up by her greatgrandmother. When Yasmina was 12 the old lady told her she had to go to France to look after her aunt’s children. As soon as she arrived in Champigny, the teenager was forced to perform household chores 16 hours a day, without a day off. In 1992, exhausted by her mistreatment, Yasmina fled. “My uncle and my aunt found me. They stripped me, tied my hands behind my back, then hit me with an electrical cable folded in two and attached to a broom. They both hit me at the same time. I was bleeding a lot; I was screaming, but they continued to hit me. My aunt put chilli on my wounds and stuffed it in my vagina.” In 1994, Yasmina fled a second time and found refuge in a shelter. It took four years for the young woman to dare to confront her torturers and take them to court. It took another four years for the courts to give a decision. In 2002, a judge in Créteil dismissed the case. “While the relationship between Yasmina, her uncle and aunt was not free of violence,” the judge said, he considered that the “acts of violence were minor offences … largely beyond the statute of limitations” at the time the case was brought.


Domestic Slavery

RaphaĂŤl Dallaporta


www.domesticslavery.com

Ondine Millot

It was system that worked. The father, Mr. L., a French magistrate posted to Dakar, recruited “good little” Senegalese girls for his daughter, a gynaecologist in Paris. Thanks to his links to the consulate, he was able to get the young women short tourist visas, which he then renewed. It was a system that allowed his daughter to avoid declaring her household employees, and for the most part, avoid paying them, too. In 1984, the magistrate “recruited” Diouma. After a while, Diouma demanded her salary and her confiscated passport. Monsieur L., playing on his status and the young woman’s illiteracy, explained that she had agreed to a contract with his family. It obliged her to perform a certain number of services; if she protested she would be exposed to some “serious problems.” At the house of Monsieur L.’s daughter and her husband, Diouma slept in a junk room and was given only rice to eat. She worked every day from 6am to midnight, doing housework and looking after the couple’s two young children. After a few months, Diouma’s tourist visa was close to expiring so the family brought over a second “employee” called Salimata. This meant that one woman could work at the Paris home, while the other was sent back to Senegal to renew her visa. Salimata suffered the same conditions as Diouma. “I didn’t have the right to rest. One day, my employer found me sitting in the kitchen. He screamed at me, telling me I didn’t have the right to sit.” Diouma escaped in 1995, Salimata in 1996. Both managed to win damages and interest at a work tribunal. Their employers were never prosecuted, however, because the case fell outside the statute of limitations.


Domestic Slavery

RaphaĂŤl Dallaporta


www.domesticslavery.com

Ondine Millot

The “sad, ashen and thin” young woman didn’t go unnoticed on the small street with its pastel-coloured facades. A neighbour had heard the woman’s employer scream at her; another had seen her cleaning the tiles in the entrance at 11 at night. Yet it was only after 21 months that a builder, in the house to put in a new kitchen at the home of the A. family, raised the alarm. From the start of his work, he was struck by the distress of the young girl introduced to him as “good at doing everything.” Looking after two children – a boy aged 15 months and girl aged 3 – Elena spent her days scrubbing, polishing, cooking and ironing. The builder never saw her take a break or even sit down for a minute. The A. family insulted her and bombarded her with orders incessantly. Elena told her story to the builder. She was 22 and Romanian. From a relatively well-off background she had been a student of management back home. In January 2002, she had come to Paris to stay for a few days with some friends; they introduced her to the A. family. Elena agreed to do some babysitting for them to earn “a little pocket money.” Once she arrived at the A. family house in Cergy – about 40kms from Paris – her passport was taken from her. Threatening her and paying her nothing, the family forced her to do 16 hours of household chores a day. Completely cut off from any form of communication with the outside world, Elena lived in fear of her employer who, she was told, had “lots of police-officer friends who often come to the house.” The subsequent investigation revealed that Mr A., who had a conviction for fraud, was indeed frequently used as an informer by the police. Taken in by the CCEM, the Committee Against Modern Slavery, Elena was able to take the A. family to court. The couple has been charged with “abuse of a vulnerable person with a view of obtaining nonpaid services” and is awaiting the case to come to court.


Domestic Slavery

RaphaĂŤl Dallaporta


www.domesticslavery.com

Ondine Millot

A doctor examined Bernadette before the trial. The medical report that he produced revealed that, “Round scars the diameter of a cigarette were found on the hands and the forearms (around 10). On the feet were punctiform scars (around 20). On the forearms were permanent, rectilinear scars (8 on the left arm), both larger scars (8mm) and longer (6cm for one; 4cm for the other), plus a scar measuring 3cm by 8mm caused by a deep knife wound. On the back: multiple scars, six rectilinear, 11 round and a more serious one measuring 5cm in length and 1.5cm in width. On the face, three thin scars near the eyes: two on the right and one on the left.” At the trial, Bernadette told of how “it began with slaps, punches, then she hit me with a broom. She crushed my feet with her high-heels or put out cigarettes on my arms. Twice she put an iron on my forearm. Once, she pushed my hands onto the hot electric hobs; she held them there until they were swollen and were oozing liquid. Once she took my forearms and sliced them 11 times with a knife. Three times she forced me to undress, opened up my vagina and put chilli purée inside.” Locked inside an apartment in a building in Gennevilliers, about 15kms from Paris, Bernadette’s torture lasted for 10 months. When she escaped, her torturer found another Togolese “good-for-everything” and inflicted similar physical abuse. On April 4, 2006, a court in the Hauts-deSeine sentenced her to six years in prison for rape and sexual violence with torture.


Domestic Slavery

RaphaĂŤl Dallaporta


www.domesticslavery.com

Ondine Millot

Aina’s employer gave her a list of words: “Yes, thank you, hello and good-bye.” These were the only words that Aina, then aged 18, had the right to say. Her day began at 6am: preparing breakfast for the family’s two children, then ironing, vacuuming, laundry, washing up, gardening and cooking. Her day ended at midnight. Aina ate the family’s leftover food from a separate plate; she slept on the tiles of the bathroom floor. Aina left Antananarivo, the capital of Madagascar, on a promise: “A job, money to send back to my family, the chance to continue with my studies.” Held prisoner for two years, she was beaten, threatened and never paid. A neighbour finally noticed this “young, thin girl who didn’t speak” in the garden. She gave her some cream to help her hands deformed by cracks and called the CCEM, the Committee Against Modern Slavery. Today, Aina works as a nurse near Paris; her employers were given a six-month suspended prison sentence and fined €4,500.


Domestic Slavery

RaphaĂŤl Dallaporta


www.domesticslavery.com

Ondine Millot

At the first trial, the couple’s lawyer underlined that, even though Henriette hadn’t been legally declared and hadn’t been paid, she had benefited from “affection and love” in the home of her employers and had lived in a “familial and warm” atmosphere. For four years, from 1994 to 1998, Henriette worked 12 hours a day, seven days a week. She slept on a mat on the floor of the children’s bedroom, getting up during the night to give the baby its bottle. Her food was one box of cornflakes a month and the “permission” to scrape the leftovers off the family’s plates after meals. At the second trial, the people who “took in” this 15-year-old from Togo, who had arrived in Paris without papers, defended their reputation as humanitarians. The husband ran a large publishing company that, in the past, had shown an ethical editorial line “inspired by Christianity.” If Henriette hadn’t been paid, if she hadn’t had the right to go out, it had all been to avoid her being “ripped off.” The husband and wife held many dinner parties in their large apartment. Henriette – who waited on the guests, but wasn’t seated at the table – was presented as a “cousin.” Four years passed before a neighbour noticed how thin she was and alerted the police; five years of legal proceedings passed before the couple was finally sentenced to a pay €15,245 damages. In 2005, the European Court of Human Rights condemned the attitude of the French justice system in Henriette’s case, reminding member states that they had an “obligation to repress” any act that contributed to keeping a person in a state of servitude.


Domestic Slavery

RaphaĂŤl Dallaporta


www.domesticslavery.com

Ondine Millot

It was August 1998, on the Champs-Elysées in Paris. On her way home Diane stopped to do some shopping at the Monoprix supermarket. “I saw her at the back of the shop, leaning against the wall. A thin young woman, wearing a tablecloth,” Diane remembers. “Two children, aged about 10, were pushing her, screaming at her, and she was crying.” Diane went up to the young woman. “I asked her if everything was OK. The children pulled her away from me. In the queue in front of the cash registers, they continued to torment her. All around people looked away.” Diane decided to follow the young woman and the children. They all entered a luxury hotel, a short distance away. Diane contacted the CCEM, the Committee Against Modern Slavery; members of the committee went to the hotel, accompanied by police officers. The thin young woman from Monoprix was called Amina, originally from a small village in Sri Lanka. A year earlier she had accepted the offer of a “recruiter” and, in the hope of earning money to feed her three children, she had followed him to Lebanon. Once there she entered into the service of a family of diplomats. “I accompanied her to the hospital,” says Diane. “She was covered in bruises. She said that her boss beat her, that the children hit her. For a year she lived being beaten up, working from six in the morning until midnight, without rest, without pay.” Three weeks after the scene in Monoprix Amina returned to Sri Lanka. Under pressure from their embassy the diplomats accepted to pay her compensation; then, they too left.


Domestic Slavery

RaphaĂŤl Dallaporta


www.domesticslavery.com

Ondine Millot

In 2001, Legba, a 30-year-old from Togo, accepted a job looking after children in France. “I arrived on March 25. They came to pick me up at the airport. The first thing they said to me was, ‘Give us all your documents.’ ” In a modest apartment in Élancourt, a Parisian suburb, Legba became a prisoner. “I could only go out to do the shopping. They timed me. If I took too long, they shouted at me. I was banned from talking to anyone in the street. They said, ‘If you do that, you’ll go to prison.’ ” Each day, Legba suffered humiliation at the hands of her bosses. “To eat they gave me crushed rice meant for dogs. When I met the man in the corridor, he would push me against the wall and shout, ‘You smell bad!’ When I went out with the woman, she would say, ‘Walk behind me, you’re not worth as much as me.’ ” Legba fled. “I shouted, ‘I want to leave!’ The man screamed, ‘No!’ He followed me down the stairs; made me fall from the first floor down to the ground floor. When I was on the ground, he kicked me. Then he hit me, hit me, hit me. It hurt so much that for a long time I couldn’t walk anymore. But they refused to take me to the hospital.” After a year, Legba was freed thanks to the intervention of a neighbour. “He had to go and see the police four times; they didn’t believe him.” The couple was convicted and ordered to pay a €10,000 fine; they paid only €3,000.


www.domesticslavery.com

Ondine Millot

In Domestic Slavery Raphael Dallaporta and Ondine Millot address an often-ignored social wrong that is related to issues of human trafficking: modern slavery. Dallaporta’s cold and stark images of ordinary-looking buildings in and around Paris, shot simply and in the same light, are combined with Ondine Millot’s texts to become chilling portraits of hidden agony. The texts describe what went on in these photographed buildings, confronting the viewer with stories of abuse and cruelty, forcing us to consider the idea that behind the façade of the ordinary can lie a discomforting reality. Dallaporta’s presentation of the unbearable idea of a person reduced to an object is heightened by the way his photographs keep their distance and his refusal to fall into the sensational. It is an approach that allows Domestic Slavery to bear witness to the banality of everyday inhumanity. Names have been changed to protect the anonymity of those featured in the text. www.domesticslavery.com Domestic Slavery © January 2010 Raphaël Dallaporta, photography Ondine Millot, text Tom Ridgway, translation Kummer & Herrman, design NPN Drukkers, printing This publication appears in conjunction with the exhibition: (In)Visible, January 29 – February 28, 2010, Fotodok, Utrecht, The Netherlands; www.fotodok.org

Thanks to: CCEM, Comité contre l’esclavage moderne, www.esclavagemoderne.org Nathalie Arnal, Grégoire Basdevant, Malika Barache, François Barré, Marc Beziat, Bénédicte Bourgeois, Alexandre Brouste, Simon Burer, Armelle Canitrot, Alexandra Catiere, Mathieu Charon, Michel Christolhomme, Henry Coudoux, Delphine de Lardemelle, Robert Delpire, Raymond Depardon, Marcel De Vries, Françoise Docquiert, Dorina Florescaut, Thijs groot Wassink, Cendrine Gabaret, François Hébel, Arthur Herrman, Rob Hornstra, Kim Knoppers, Jeroen Kummer, Sophia Lakhdar, Didier Le Tumelin, Femke Lutgerink, Florence Maille, Laurent Martein, Angèle Najjar, Sylvie O’dy, Olivia Odola, Françoise Pennequin, Cindy Reivax, Arianna Rinaldo, Zina Rouabah, Daniel Schweizer, Bart Sleegers, Parker Stephenson, Sam Stourdzé, Gaël Turpo, Pierre Vandenbulcke.

Domestic Slavery - FOTODOK  

Domestic Slavery is an interestingly designed magazine/poster collection which, with a bit of wallpaper paste, doubles as a set of exhibitio...

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