Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Ending Maid Abuse

Empty rhetoric intended for no other purpose but to placate the Human Rights Watch [HRW]. Officials, here, are upset over a recent 133 page report issued by the US-based HRW and have dismissed it as being one-sided, saying the report is based on only "a few cases in which domestic helpers have suffered." [What is the definition of "few?" Merriam-Webster defines "few" as "not many persons or things." Effortlessly, I found NINE specific instances of maids being abused from my archives which one might argue only represents the "tip of the iceberg" - ONLY the maids who have been abused and their reports made public via the newspapers. Is NINE a few???]

The HRW report states that "Saudi families are abusing female migrant workers to the point of slavery and Riyadh needs to respond with sweeping labor and justice reforms." The head of the Riyadh Chamber of Commerce and Industry's (RCCI) Recruitment Committee, Waleed Al-Soweidan, retorts that "There are more than a million domestic helpers, including maids, in the Kingdom and it is natural that there will be some problems and disputes here and there. In fact, migrant women in Saudi Arabia enjoy good working conditions and kind employers, and they are not treated like virtual slaves." Everyone is entitled to their own opinion...

A senior researcher in the Woman's Rights Division of HRW, Nisha Varia, agreed "that workers do get fair treatment in Saudi Arabia, but that the level of abuse is persistently high enough to raise concerns." To which, a spokesperson for the Human Rights Commission [HRC], Zuhair Al-Harity, said "that the facts cited in the report are true but that he felt it was exaggerating the severity of the problem." [A maid being abused and hospitalized and/or killed is "exaggerating the severity" of the problem??? Sure.] The HRW report said "there were thousands of abuse cases [just a "few," remember?] in Saudi Arabia" but Mr. Al-Harity says, "If that were the case, why would eight million workers be applying for jobs in the Kingdom?" [Answer: All of us eight million workers are here because Saudi Arabia pays us money to keep this country functioning.]

The HRW report "made it clear that no data exists to calculate accurately the number of women migrant domestic workers who experience violations of labor rights and other human rights." Indonesia's acting Labor Attache, Adi Dzulfuat, said "that the embassy receives thousands of complaints from Indonesian women working in Saudi Arabia every year. Complaints range from nonpayment of salaries and forcing maids to work all the time to physical abuse and rape. The Indonesian mission in Riyadh alone has been receiving 10 to 12 complaints from Indonesian workers, especially women worker, on a daily basis." [Just a "few."]

The HRW report asked the Saudi government to do more to punish Saudis who are found to have abused their domestic servants. [Not going to happen.] The undersecretary at the Ministry of Labour, Ahamd Al Zamil, says that "authorities have taken all necessary measures to prevent the mistreatment of housemaids," and he also warns "of taking stern action, including imprisonment, against those employers, who violate the maids' human rights. There are laws with provisions of stringent punishment in the Kingdom that will be applied in the cases of those employers who are found guilty of abusing their maids and depriving them of their basic rights." When? When is this going to happen? We have YET to see a single example of "stringent punishment," unless of course, by that you mean the "stringent punishment" which is inflicted upon some poor maid who didn't wash a pair of socks and was beaten senseless with a mop or broom.

Dr. Bandar Al Hajjar, chairman of the Saudi National Human Rights Society, speaking to Gulfnews, under the article's, sub-headline, "Regret," "admitted there are some abuses regarding [the] foreign domestic workforce," and said, "However, we cannot blame a single party alone for this. There are several parties, who should share responsibility for this. This is a delicate issue. The concerned laws to tackle this problem need to be updated every now and then." He admits that the society has received "complaints about the mistreatment of some housemaids," and says, "We take prompt action on such complaints and refer the cases to the concerned authorities, as well as to court, and ensure employers who have committed abuses are penalised [sic]." Passing the the blame from one person to another. What an ingenious method of brilliantly solving problems. This way NO ONE has to take responsibility...

The HRW Report "urged Saudi Arabia to implement labour, immigration and criminal justice reforms to protect the workers, saying employers often face no punishment for such abuses... and that rather than receiving justice, domestic workers, most of them migrants from Asia, are more likely to face counter-accusations of witchcraft, theft or adultery."

You just can't make this stuff up...

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