SLAVERY – RAPE & ABUSE – MODERN DAY REALITIES FOR MIDDLE EAST MAIDS
While browsing the web, yesterday, I viewed the Arab Times online site and came across several news articles about the rape and abuse of maids in Kuwait. I was surprised at the cluster of cases so I searched the web for more information and was nearly knocked off my chair when I realized the enormous extent of the huge numbers of foreign maids suffering abuse at the hands of their Middle East “sponsors”. To use the term “maid” is a misnomer – these women (and boys) are nothing more than modern day SLAVES. Slaves to be abused, raped, tortured, maimed, and killed.
Many of these maids come into the Middle East (particularly Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Lebanon) from Indonesia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Ethiopia – smaller numbers come from India and Bangladesh. Saudi Arabia has the largest number of these imported domestics estimated at 200,000 in 2004. These maids are seen as inferiors to their Middle Eastern masters and many countries do not even recognize them as being covered by labor laws – including minimum wage:
“The plight of domestic workers in Lebanon rose to the spotlight during the summer of 2006, when Israel launched a thirty-four-day military offensive on Lebanon. In Arabic, the term “Abed” is used to denote a “black” person or “slave” and the word is sometimes heard in reference to Africans or Sri Lankans. Non-Arab Afro-Asian migrants in Lebanon are physically looked upon as inferior due to their positions as servants. These workers remain excluded under Article 6 of Lebanese labour laws and are often victims of abuse by both employers and agencies.” LINK
The vast majority of these women are seeking an opportunity to earn money and send remittances back to their families –
“…….Philippines, where the economy relies heavily on remittances from nearly eight million Filipinos working overseas. Of that eight million, about 73,000 work in Kuwait. Some 60,000 are women employed mainly as maids and earning less than $200 a month on average, labor groups say.
Some of these woman do quickly realize the danger and manage to escape in a few days. But, many of the remaining “servants” are left in a living nightmare.
Over 17 deaths of Madagascan maids last year in Lebanon
Madagascar flies home maids abused in Lebanon
Indonesians protesting against a maid killing in Saudi Arabia where her body was dumped in a bin by her employers
Madagascar’s government early Thursday flew home 86 women domestic workers from Lebanon who had been subjected to abuse amid concerns over the deaths of 17 Madagascan maids in the past year.
Population Minister Nadine Ramaroson said at Antananarivo airport as she welcomed the women that most of them “had run away from their employers.”
“Their return home was negotiated by the Madagascan consul in Lebanon after either the women themselves or their families asked for them to be repatriated,” Ramaroson said.
The government decided to charter a plane after numerous cases of abuse were reported. The Population Ministry received more than 600 repatriation requests from maids or their families.
The Union of Qualified Domestic Workers (SPDTS), a non-governmental organization that helps the victims and their families, says that in the past year alone 17 Madagascan maids in Lebanon died from abuse suffered at the hands of their employers.
“There have been a lot of deaths,” Prime Minister Camille Vital said. “That’s why the government has decided to repatriate those who wanted to come home. The government is paying for this repatriation.”
On their arrival at the airport the young women were met by social workers from SPDTS and by staff from different ministries tasked with providing medical care and counseling.
“My boss used to hit me and didn’t give me my salary. I’m very, very happy to be back home,” said 25-year-old Leonie.
Another woman who gave her name as Augustine said: “The friend with whom I ran away from my boss wasn’t able to get on the plane at the last minute. I’m really worried about her. She’s not in good shape.”
More than 7,000 Madagascans work in Lebanon, according to SPDTS. In 2010 around 500 of them came home before the end of their contract.