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Housemaids 'must be given rights'

On March 21, 2007

Habib Toumi of Gulf News reports:

Manama: A Bahrain rights watchdog has reiterated its call to include migrant women in the country's labour law, saying the move would ensure their protection against abuses.

"The government should take immediate steps to amend the Labour Law so domestic workers are included under its scope. Special attention must be given to the plight of female migrant domestic workers, as they have been by and large ignored and excluded from the discourse on women's rights in Bahrain," Nabeel Rajab, the vice-president of the now-dissolved Bahrain Centre for Human Rights said on Friday.

Painting a bleak picture of the status of migrant women as the world celebrated Women's International Day, the activist said all concerned parties should work to ensure the protection of their rights and to give them the respect they deserve.

"Migrant women live in difficult conditions. Upon arriving in the country, they are subjected to mandatory health testing related to sexual and reproductive health without consent or counselling. Then, they have to put up with long or undefined working hours, low salaries and late payment, poor and repressive living conditions and psychological, physical and sexual abuse," he said in a statement to Gulf News.

But, according to the activist, "few women are able or willing to seek legal redress, mainly because they are unaware of their rights, but also because they do not have access to the institutions where they could seek help."