Friday, June 13, 2008

Abuse Against Maids

Read the article if you have a minute or two. Note the headline, "Abuse against housemaids increases in the Kingdom."

Thought for sure that I'd be reading an article
regarding one of the many cases of maid abuse and torture and death that I've been blogging about. Nope. Seventeen paragraphs. The word ABUSE is NOT even mentioned until the FIFTEENTH paragraph! This article has virtually NOTHING to do with housemaids being abused; the headline is incredibly misleading - it is about maids running away. Is the Saudi Gazette trying to emulate the New York Times style of editing? If that is the case, pardon me... That would explain exactly why the headline has almost nothing whatsoever to do with the story...

Instead of being concerned about the abuse housemaids suffer, which is, at a minimum being reported on a weekly basis [and those are just the cases of abuse we know about - how MANY go unreported that we don't know about???], mo
st of the entire article - the first fourteen paragraphs - refers ONLY to maids running away and the "social and economic implications." Huh?

The article says, "Saudi families spend money and hurdle difficulties to hire housemaid. [Sic.] It has become costly to recruit a housemaid from Southeast Asia with fees going up to SR10,000 for a maid who would run away once she is here. And if a housemaid runs away from her employer, the employer loses all
the money put into hiring her... It has now become a common practice for housemaids to abandon their jobs upon their arrival in the Kingdom."

If it costs SR10,000 to bring a slave maid to Saudi, that is $2,680.95 in U.S. currency. That amount "usually includes the cost of the visa, recruitment fees, and plane ticket." That's it?!? The plane ticket alone wo
uld account for a good portion of the cost. Just to see what it does cost, I found a round-trip ticket on SaudiAir for SR2,238 [$600.00] - I couldn't do a one-way ticket from Jakarta, Indonesia "search" because the site would not let me; but we all know that a one-way ticket costs more, per leg, than buying a round-trip ticket does. Emirates shows the cost of a one-way ticket from Jakarta, Indonesia to be $800.00 - or SR2,696 - and that is the least expensive one-way flight I could find and using a date three months out - not a walk-up, get on the plane tomorrow flight, which would be quite a bit more expensive [including the $15.00 or whatever it costs, now, to check a bag!].

So that means that the fees - the recruitment agency - if calculated in a similar way as in the States - would be equivalent to three months salary. A maid is paid approximately SR500 a month [$134.04] - so estimate SR1500 of the the cost for that - although since I am not allowed to recruit a maid [only "locals" are given this privilege], I cannot say for sure what the cost is.

Recapping, then, it costs SR10,000 to bring a slave maid into the Kingdom, and of this, minimally SR2,700 [SR2,696 on Emirates slightly rounded up] is the cost of airfare, and SR1500 [just a wild guesstimate] is for the recruiting agency which leaves SR5,800 for visa fees? No. I just don't think so. My visa costs SR200 for a year and I get multiple entry and exits; maids do not - they get the less expensive visa - with a single entry and a single exit. Obviously, somewhere I've miscalculated - probably on the recruiting agency fees, but still. Either way, I'd say $2,680.95 in U.S. currency is still a pretty damn cheap price to pay for a slave maid. And yet, that's exactly what the article was worried about - that, and the fact that the maid would run away as soon as she got to the employer's home and found out that she was going to be working 15 to 18 hours a day: Taking care of the house, cooking, and looking after a brood of six to eleven children! Good Lord!!! Who, in their "right" mind would want to run from those circumstances?!? And where will the maid run to?

Apparently she "will either seek shelter within her community, or find employment somewhere." Does she have much choice? Oh, wait. She does. [There is a third option. And don't for a single skinny solitary second tell me the third option is NOT one that a maid considers; it is not uncommon to see reports of maids who actually commit suicide as an "option." Good grief, what maid, here, wouldn't consider it? Given the miserable conditions that the majority so many of these maids are forced to work under, I know I would!] No matter... According to a spokesman for the police, "In either situation [not taking into consideration the "third option"], she would become a social and security burden because consequently all her operations become illegal and would imperial all people she would be in contact with..." She becomes a social burden to authorities? Someone care to explain this, please? "Social burden," exactly how? [She - the maid - is forced into prostitution to make a living and some man - a local man - who just happens to have an STD - who she has "received" as a client - shares, with her - the maid, his STD and she then shares it with others? Oh. Okay, then. A "social burden."] She - the maid, that is - was probably never a security burden to begin with since these maids are all fully aware of the mere fact that if an employer even suspects that she has stolen so much as a crust of bread she will be sent off to jail or to be deported. So far, the only real peril seems to be that of the danger the maids are in when they are abused by their employers.

The police spokesperson says, "Without appropriate documentation, any employer hiring a runaway housemaid as a part-timer would be investigated for breaking the law and penalized." You are joking, right? I've seen how police investigate traffic offenses, here. If that is any indication of how someone might be "investigated" and "penalized" for "breaking the law" then what, in essence, is being said, is that nothing will happen to "any employer hiring a runaway housemaid." An employer is NOT going to be "investigated," and an employer is NEVER going to be "penalized." It just is NOT going to happen. We are all adults, here; let's just be honest about this.

I found it rather interesting to read that where I live, in the Eastern Province, there are "currently more than 100 housemaids from the Philippines, Indonesia, and Sri Lanka" that are detained at the Dammam Social Center [read: women's jail] and that these women have "one of two options ["they" neglected to consider the "third option"]: reconciliation or deportation." Are these women sitting there in the Dammam Social Center because they desire to be reconciled with abusive employers? Sure. They're all just sitting there, either playing Cribbage or watching television, and debating "the best of both worlds." Whether they want to go back to their employers who - now, at this point - will abuse and maltreat them even more severely for sure!!! or whether they want to try to make it back home alive to their country of origin and to their families. No. They do not want to be reconciled with their employers. They are opting to be deported and to get the "hell out of Dodge," as soon as they possibly can.

Finally, toward the very end of the article in the fifteenth paragraph, we learn "About 20,000 runaway housemaids from Indonesia, the Philippines and Sri Lanka have escaped from their employers for alleged abuse and maltreatment." Ahhh. So that's what the writer of this article was referring to insofar as "abuse" is concerned. Seriously, though: 20,000 housemaids?!? Hello! Are there any authorities who are Is there any ONE who is looking into this problem that is actually doing their job??? Does this give you even the slightest indication that there is a problem!!! Oh. And, the alleged abuse? It is not alleged. We see the reports every week in the paper. We see pictures!!! It is confirmed. Confirmed abuse and maltreatment. Not, as it has been so delicately phrased, "alleged abuse and maltreatment!"

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