Saudi’s step back?
Kipp thinks the story of a maid who may have been tortured by her Saudi employers undermines the country’s tentative steps forward. Or are we reading too much into it?
August 29, 2010 4:06 by Samuel Potter
Just a week or two after the welcome news that a supermarket chain in Saudi would be trialing women at the checkout comes the decidedly less welcome news that a Sri Lankan maid working in the country may have been tortured by her employers. If true, it’s a horrifying, depressing injustice that would provoke a measure of anger and disgust in all who hear it. The maid was found with 24 nails and needles embedded in her legs, arms, hands and forehead. It is alleged that the 49-year-old’s employers, a Saudi couple, pushed the nails and needles into her body when she complained about her hard workload.
According to Reuters, nearly 2 million Sri Lankans sought employment overseas last year and around 1.4 million, mostly maids, were employed in the Middle East. Many have complained of physical abuse or harassment. In this particular case, the maid says the nails were hammered in while they were hot. Her plight was only discovered after she traveled home and was taken to see a doctor, and later required surgery to have the items removed.
According to Arab News, the medical report has now been received by the Sri Lankan Embassy in Saudi Arabia, and a video statement translated into Arabic has been handed into the Saudi Embassy in Colombo.
Condemning it as an inhumane act on an innocent worker, Kingsley Ranawaka, chairman of the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment (SLBFE), said that the Saudi authorities should wake up regarding such human rights violations.
“Prompt action by the Saudi government will not only give confidence to the rest of the workers but will also stand as a warning against such merciless employers who treat workers like animals,” Ranawaka told Arab News from Colombo.
News like this saddens Kipp, not just for the woman herself, who has so clearly and unfairly suffered, but also for Saudi Arabia. The small steps forward, such as allowing women to work in supermarkets, pale against the huge step backwards that a story like this can represent. We’re reminded of a story we read in the Arab News recently where a Saudi Arabian legitimately suggested employers could install iron bars and electric curtains and hide the apartment key to prevent maids running away during Ramadan.
Do you think Saudi is making progress? Or are the small steps forward completely overwhelmed by the huge steps back?