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Drag abusive employers into the light…

Drag abusive employers into the light…

…and drag criminal employees there, too. In this editorial, Arab News argues that tales of torture may be harmful for Saudi, but trying to sweep them away makes things worse.

November 24, 2010 1:34 by

The current case of an Indonesian maid allegedly abused by her employer and who has ended up in hospital in Madinah and another whose body was found in a dump truck in Abha have opened a debate which is far wider than that of the treatment of foreign employees.

There are those, and they are large in number, who think that the reports of foreign employees being physically abused by their Saudi employers — of which there have been a number over the years — should never see the light of day. In their view, it humiliates the country. Their tactic is either to deny it or claim that conditions are far worse elsewhere — as if that excuses wrongdoing here. They are wrong.

Saudi Arabia is not perfect. No country is. Perfection is not to be found this side of the grave. In reality, though, the overwhelming bulk of Saudi employers treat their staff well. The proof of that is that most maids and other staff happily stay for years with the families they work for and many more of their compatriots want to come and work here. If they were all badly treated the message would soon get home and the numbers arriving would soon dry up.

As in any other society there are rotten apples here. There are some Saudi employers who treat their staff badly. They are a disgrace to this country and their faith. Any employer who is found to have attacked, beaten, deliberately injured or otherwise abused a member of his or her staff should be subject to the full rigors of the law — and be publicly seen to be thus subject. But likewise, there are employees who steal, cheat and falsely accuse; who even murder. In Tuesday’s edition, we reported the case of a maid in Jordan who had swallowed nails in an attempt to incriminate her employer. In it not only in Jordan that this happens. Where an employee is guilty, he or she must also be brought to justice and punished.

However, the idea that all this must be done behind closed doors, with nothing said publicly, does no one any good. The opposite is the case. It could be highly damaging.

Bad news has always traveled fast. In today’s digital world of e-mails, websites and social networking sites, it travels everywhere instantly. Individual stories of maid abuse cannot be hidden away. They will get out. If the Saudi media and Saudi officials are seen to be saying nothing or, worse, saying that there is no case to answer when there patently is, it will result in accusations of hypocrisy and inhumanity. To keep quiet in the face of wrongdoing is to compound that wrongdoing and take on the guilt of the guilty.

Saudis have a strong sense of moral indignation when they see injustice, regardless of who is doing it. If there is wrongdoing, this country is, like others, brave enough to admit it, confront it, discuss it and find solutions.

This paper would be very pleased to see that stories of abused maids never see the light of day — not because they are ignored but because they do not happen in the first place. That is where all efforts have to be put.

Arab News

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