Look who’s complaining
Saudi authorities are mulling a ban on housemaids from certain Asian countries, claiming they are indifferent to the local culture and have been involved in ‘child murders and incidents of violence’. Meanwhile, the number of maids being abused in the Kingdom is growing at an alarming rate.
January 26, 2010 1:47 by Aarti Nagraj
However, the number of domestic workers facing abuse in Saudi has been growing at an alarming rate. In 2008, Human Rights Watch came out with a report entitled “As If I Am Not Human” detailing the problems faced by the women domestic workers in Saudi Arabia, numbering approximately 1.5 million. Using numerous case-studies, the report highlighted a range of abuses these workers face including “non-payment of salaries, forced confinement, food deprivation, excessive workload, and instances of severe psychological, physical, and sexual abuse.”
There have been many stories of employers raping their housemaids, of burning them, beating them and torturing them in many ways. Last year, the Saudi government also ran a public awareness campaign to try and curb the problem of maid abuse.
The Kingdom’s Shura Council also amended the labor law in July last year, which stated that employers would have to provide domestic workers at least nine hours of rest each day and suitable accommodation. However, according to Human Right Watch, the law still contains some vague provisions, such as “the duty to obey employers’ orders,” and a prohibition against leaving the workplace without a “legitimate reason.”
The Saudi government should “rigorously prosecute employers and employment agents who abuse migrant domestic workers, and reform criminal justice laws including evidence laws that make it difficult to prove rape and easy to convict for witchcraft,” the body said in its Protection of Migrants’ Rights report in 2009.