Monday, August 10, 2009

Casanova and Maids

Which to tackle first...

The issue of the maids. It is more important, in my opinion, and affects many. In an article today it is stated that "On average 20 Filipino housemaids deployed in [the] Eastern Province [where I live] run away from their employers every month." I think we can all pretty much surmise that the maids are not all running away because they think they can find better employment at some other household - although from past articles that is what we would be led to believe. That may, however, hold true for a small percentage of them. Who wouldn't want to find better wages? Don't we all? But that small percentage should not be included in the real crux of the situation. According to a welfare officer at the Philippine Overseas Labor Office [POLO], he says "In the Kingdom, we can say that no less than 50 of these workers abandon their employers in a month." Further, he states, "...that in the entire country, the combined number of other foreign housemaids running away from their employers every month could be much higher than those of Filipino housemaids." Are there any statistics out there as to how many Indonesian housemaids there are? Or how many housemaids are here from Sri Lanka? Vietnam? What are the true numbers of housemaids here and how many are here from each of the various countries that import them? I have no idea.

With Ramadan starting in just a week and a half - it begins on August 22nd and lasts until September 20th - the welfare officer says, "We expect that more housemaids will be running away from their employers before and after the month of Ramadan. The big workload during the Ramadan season is a factor that drives many household workers to leave their employment." I bet it does. A labor attache from another Asian country, who asked that his identity remain anonymous, says, "The workloads mount beyond the capacity of these workers during the month of Ramadan. [The] Work period starts from dawn to past midnight until the following morning; and abuse and maltreatment usually escalate during the season." No kidding? Working for stretches of twenty-four hour periods is beyond the capacity of these imported workers? You don't say...

I've done some previous posts on Ramadan. It is a religious celebration that I know little about. I do know that one of its requirements is that no one is allowed to eat after sun-up or before sun-down. Which means things get turned upside down in The Sandbox for the duration. People tend to be awake during what would be normal sleeping hours, and asleep during normal working hours. Work days are shortened for many - not all - the imported laborers will not see a reduction in their work hours - and of course - neither will the housemaids. In fact, the housemaids will see their working hours extended, according to the unnamed labor attache, who says, "the practice by many Saudi families to loan their housemaids and other household helps [sic], like drivers, to extended members of their families during Ramadan is another factor that encourages these workers to abandon their jobs." You might think there would be the opportunity for these workers to make extra money during said period. You would probably be wrong. He goes on to state, "This practice is not only illegal, but also a violation of human rights..." Well, yeah, it probably is, but then... Supposedly slavery was abolished, here, in 1962. Hmmph. Forty-seven years later? Where does that stand?

When someone works in an employer / employee relationship, that would seem to indicate that there is some sort of remuneration - as in a benefit to the employee in the form of monetary compensation or wages for having given some service rendered, i.e., labor, to the employer... When there is no pay given for whatever service or services has been performed, what is that called? And how many people - anywhere in the world, not just here in The Sandbox - would be willing to work for free? [Volunteering for anything is not the same - when you volunteer - you do so knowing that you are NOT going to be receiving anything other than personal satisfaction. Housemaids and other laborers do NOT come here on a voluntary basis. They come here to work and expect to be paid!] How it is that so many "employers" [and I use that term loosely] here then believe they do not have to honor that employer / employee relationship and NOT pay their workers?

"According to labor and welfare officers in Asian embassies, housemaids and other household workers usually run away from their employers due to unpaid wages, delays in salaries, abuse and maltreatment and overwork." How many more articles are we going to have to read that say that workers are running away because they seek to be paid more somewhere else? Perhaps if they just got paid in the first place they wouldn't have to seek employment elsewhere. 'Ya think? For two single reasons - two! - which are the "major" reasons why housemaids runaway. "Wages and maltreatment." Add a third. "Overwork during Ramadan - [which] only deepens the resolve of household workers to run away." Seriously.

According to the article, "those who did not have the chance to escape during Ramadan will do so after the season." Another word worth deciphering. "Escape." Does that not suggest that in order for someone to escape that they have to first be held against their will?

The POLO welfare officer goes on to say, "With Ramadan coming in a few weeks [twelve days - but who's counting?] time, almost everyday now there are housemaids - household service workers - who are running away and seeking help of our embassy."

From the article:

At the Eastern Province Social Center, where runaway maids are kept before being deported, there are always no less than 100 housemaids from the Philippines, Indonesia and Sri Lanka at a given time. These runaway housemaids have one of two options: reconciliation with their employers or deportation. Those who opt for deportation face another problem of producing their own air ticket. Runaway Filipina maids have become a burden on the Filipino community and to their embassy. Those scheduled for deportation have to produce plane tickets of their own because most employers refuse to provide the cost.

That speaks volumes, if you ask me...

Onto another pressing matter: Saudi's own "Casanova." What he has done, in my opinion, is really no business of anyone else. If he were in The United States of America, he would not be in the situation he is in today. Heck. He'd be the star of his own MTV reality program. But in a Country where there is no "First Amendment" right to freedom of expression, he probably should have been just a bit more mindful of what he was doing before he did it. That is, going on a televised program and boasting of his xesual conquests. Do I think that he deserves to be beheaded for doing so? No. But, then, it is not up to me to make that decision. The charges against him - Mazen Abdul Jawad - and two of the three men who have been arrested along with him - have been outlined. The charges however, have not yet been disclosed. Of the charges that the main culprit could be convicted of, one includes "publicizing vice (making public one's sinful behavior)" or he could face "a more serious charge of promoting sinful behavior, a crime roughly akin to committing sedition against society." The other three men who have been arrested "are scheduled to go before a judicial panel this week." We can expect the trial soon. The matter will continue to unfold and I will continue to post on it as events occur...


  1. I understand that the only Asians who will come to the Sandbox to work now are Vietnamese. And that the Saudis are starting to import help from Africa, when they exhaust these continents, where will they then be able to get their maids from?

  2. Do we really want to contemplate the answer to that, Findalis?

  3. What fun it would be to see the first crop of Saudi maids!! No pay. Over work. Abuse and maltreatment. YEAH! As for the Asian workers, there is one more problem beyond having to produce their own plane ticket. They must also produce the passport held hostage by the non-paying, overworking and abusive employer.

  4. Linda, Linda, Linda... You are being so petty. "They must also produce the passport held hostage by the non-paying, overworking and abusive employer." Details, my Dear. Details. Just stop it. Stop it! [/Sarc off. Sabra.]

  5. If these maids know full well what they are getting into before coming to Saudi why even come? I know the situation in some of these Asian countries are desperate but why even place themselves into this situation in the 1st place?

    Necessity is the mother of invention...they need to find alternative employment and let the Saudis hire their own and see what happens after treating their citizens the same way they treat their expats....wonder how long this would last and when the riot would start.


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