Maid to suffer

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Jul 5 2007

‘M’ for maid.
‘M’ for money and ‘M’ for misery

They do not have a world of luxury but make sure that their employer does.
They do not hit you back when you hit them.
Traits like this have made them an essential ‘commodity’ in Bahraini households.

Families shell out hundreds of dinars as deposits and fees for domestic workers in return for BD 50 something salary.
Some treat them well while others change the geography of their face.

But there could be some relief as the Indian government plans to implement a ban on sending housemaids to those countries which have not signed the Memorandum of Understanding(MoU).The move was suggested by the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs( MOIA).

The ministry has recommended that a minimum wage be fixed and no woman be allowed to emigrate if the contractual wage was below the minimum wage. According to the reports, Bahrain is negotiating with the Indian authorities on the issue.

"We have proposed that every foreign employer directly recruiting an Indian woman emigrant must deposit a security of $2,500 in the form of bank guarantee at the respective Indian missions,” a source was quoted as saying in the Indian media.

So what happens if the ban on housemaids in the GCC countries is enforced. Manpower agencies will use other means to bring in workers to meet the demands. TRAFFICKING will increase and this is what fears human rights activists and social workers in the Kingdom.

Local recruiters will not feel the heat, if the ban is implemented. This is because there will be other foreign nationals available from countries like Vietnam and others to compensate for the loss.

The MOIA has also suggested that “the employment contract should be between a worker and an employer, not with the agent.”
The Indian authorities have implemented a minimum age of 30 years for Indian women to work as maid abroad in order to check against the increasing cases of exploitation at workplaces.

It is estimated that over 200,000 Indian women work as domestic workers in the Gulf. The number of women from two Indian states, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh – increased threefold within a year, from about 5,000 in 2004 to around 15,000 in 2005.
According to the United Nations Population Fund’s State of the World Population 2006 report, women constituted 49.6 per cent of all international migrants.
A Human rights activist said ,“The MOU will help the workers know their rights and duties. Any violations in the past by the employer should also be dealt with seriously.” he said.

The move comes at a time when remittances to India and Philippines have dropped at a considerable rate following the appreciation in the currencies against the dollar.

S.S.Grewal

Advancing the rights of migrant workers throughout the Middle East