No Law To Protect Domestic Workers

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Feb 2 2009

Manama- The General Federation of Bahrain Trade Unions (GFBTU) has formed a special committee to work on the rights of domestic worker which includes compulsory day off, medical insurance among other privileges.

Suad Mubarak, Assistant general secretary of women and child affairs at the GFBTU said "Housemaids have no clue about their rights and are not included in the labour law of the Kingdom. A temporary mechanism to protect the rights of these workers should be enacted immediately."

Like several other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, Bahraini households rely heavily on housemaids who are supplied by local recruitment agencies without proper terms and conditions in their contract.

Mubarak said there was no law in the country which clearly explains the rights of the employer and the maid. She said they raised the issue when Bahrain's report on the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) was discussed in Geneva last month.

"We are discussing the recommendations which Bahrain has to consider and better wages and condition of domestic worker is one of the main issues that need to be tackled," the women unionist said.

There have been several reports in the local media of housemaid abused by their sponsor. Recently, an Indonesian maid was allegedly strangulated by her Bahraini sponsor. The case is still in the court "The maids in Bahrain are unaware of their contract terms and they continue to suffer as returning home is not an option," Mubarak stressed.

Activists have been lobbying for years to include domestic workers in the Bahrain’s labour law. The new labour law which is still in parliament has no single article covering housemaids. They were removed from all clauses in newly implemented labour market reforms law to avoid imposing taxes on families for hiring maids and drivers.India, Philippines and Sri Lanka are the main supplying countries of domestic workers in the Gulf States.

The Bahrain government announced the general amnesty for illegal workers to legalise their situations from August 1- January 31 this year. According to official statistics a total of 12, 977 people left the country- of which 507 were housemaids.

Sandeep Singh Grewal

Advancing the rights of migrant workers throughout the Middle East