Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Mamas' Don't Let your Daughters...

...Grow Up to Be Housemaids. With sincere apologies to Willie Nelson... Now, I'll be humming or singing the first couple line of his song all day. What is that called? When you get a tune in your head and you can't get it out?

It is sad that there is even such a system that so many workers who come here are "hired" [and I use that term loosely!] to be domestic help. "Hired." The word hire, according to Merriam-Webster means: payment for the temporary use of something; payment for labor or personal service [emphasis, mine]. It is not a secret that many domestic workers here never get paid. Nor is it a secret that many are abused. Countries throughout the Middle East have domestic workers. Gazillions of them. Almost all of the domestic workers are imported from other third-world countries. That there are no employment opportunities for these workers in the countries which they are from is unfortunate. But to have to go to another country - away from home and family - to be a domestic worker is probably worse than being poor and unemployed at home in your own country.

You could spend an entire day going through my archives to see how many cases of abused maids and other domestic help I have blogged on. Ditto for workers who never get paid. As well, in the archives you can find other cases where domestic helpers have tried to "escape" from their employers or sponsors. An article published in today's Saudi Gazette spotlights yet another unfortunate housemaid who, in trying to escape the abuse torture from the family she was working for, jumped from a second story window and horrifically broke not only both her legs but also fractured her spine. The housemaid, a 48-year-old woman from Sri Lanka is in a "medical complex" right now.

From her hospital bed, she says that she has only been in Saudi Arabia for two months, and came "to work as a domestic helper" [that is funny! but not in a "ha ha" way] after she was offered a salary of SR650 per month [$174.26 -- $2,091.15 per year; $40.21 per week!!! and if she is lucky she only worked forty hours - $1.00 an hour]. Of course she has been paid nothing. Not one cent for the work she has done for two months. And, instead, has undergone "physical torture at the hands of her sponsor and his family" from her "very first day of her job." The woman was "afraid to even sleep in fear of someone coming and beating" her. I just cannot imagine... She still has the bruises to show for it - along with fractured bones. Not only was she physically abused - beaten - by all of the members of the household - but she was not allowed to call home and she was "given hardly anything to eat." When she "accidentally spilled some milk" she was hit by two men in the household - her sponsor and another man. Well, "hit" doesn't quite describe what she describes: "I fell down and when they continued to beat me, I begged them on my knees not to hit me further. Then they beat me on my back and the pain was so sever that I felt that I could not endure such treatment any longer." That was when she decided that she had had enough and she made plans to escape, jumping "through an opening in the wall from the second floor."

Here's the thing. The article in today's paper identifies the woman, by nationality, name and age. Worse, there is a picture of her laying in her hospital bed. I don't have a problem with the picture - hopefully it will cause authorities to look long and hard at the situation. What I do have a problem with, however, is the fact that the sponsor and his wife are not named. How come we cannot find out who did this to this woman? Why is everyone so afraid of identifying perpetrators of such horrors? A little shame on those who have committed such heinous abuses would go a long way in rectifying the situation.
But, no. We can't have that, now, can we?!! We will likely not even learn if her sponsor and his wife or any of the other family members in the household will be punished for their actions. Will the housemaid even get the wages that are owed to her? I wouldn't bet on it.

By not naming and identifying those who commit such crimes, the problem will never be solved. The perpetrators need to be identified and they need to be put at the top of someone's list somewhere that does not allow them to ever have household help, again. [Of course, there are so many ways around the system, that that would be impossible to control, and we all know that. But do not make it easy for them.] Then throw them in jail. All of them. Fine them. Force the family to pay the maid her due, give her compensation for her pain and suffering, and make them pay for the abused workers way home.

The silence is deafening. And it speaks volumes...


  1. FYI it's called an earworm. Darn annoying sometimes.

  2. Thanks, Kat. I knew there was a name to it. How do you successfully get rid of them? I've been singing the first TWO lines of Willie's song for TWO days now... Enough is enough.

  3. I thought slavery was outlawed in Saudia. Apparently not in some households.

  4. The best way I know to get rid of an earworm is to find another one, but a less-annoying one. Start singing a different song that is likely to replace the first. I have been told that some people find that listening to the earworm song completely through from beginning to end cures it. It doesn't work for me. Good luck! :>)


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