India and France fight over teenage slave girl

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The Independent Online
A DIPLOMATIC row erupted between France and India yesterday when the Indian embassy in Paris denied responsibility for the sexual mutilation of a teenage girl, allegedly held in slavery by one of its senior diplomats.

The Indian embassy said that cuts around the girl's vagina - discovered in a French hospital after she tried to commit suicide - must have been inflicted while she was "in the care of the French authorities".

The French Foreign Ministry, which had previously played down the affair, responded furiously to the allegations, which it described as "deeply inappropriate".

The affair began when the girl, Lalita Oraon, was found wandering the streets of Paris 10 days ago, carrying a knife and threatening to kill herself. She told police that she worked, unpaid, for an Indian diplomat from 6am to midnight. She accused her employer - since identified as the embassy's first secretary for economic affairs - of beating her daily and threatening to kill her.

The girl, who claimed to be 15 but medical tests suggested was 17, was placed in the care of a pressure group called the Committee Against Modern Slavery. It found her a temporary home in a convent.

Early this week, she threw herself from the convent wall, breaking both her heels and one vertebra. She told authorities later that she feared she would be returned to her employer and preferred to kill herself rather than be murdered.

While she was being treated for these injuries, an eminent French surgeon, Bernard Debre, discovered infected cuts around her vagina. Professor Debre said they were days old and could not have been self-inflicted or caused by the fall.

"I have never seen anything like that in my life," Professor Debre said.