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Bahrain: Detergent abuse ordeal for maid

On August 8, 2009

This horrific yet uncommon story has been published recently on Gulf Daily News, Bahrain's leading English daily. Please be aware that such abusive employers often go unpunished.

A HOUSEMAID has taken refuge at a government shelter after her sponsor allegedly scrubbed her face with a detergent to show her how to clean the floor. The Nepalese woman, who has been working for the Bahraini family for seven months, required hospital treatment after suffering an allergic reaction.

Januka Acharya was said to have been cleaning the bathroom when the Bahraini woman rubbed the detergent on her cheeks.

The 32-year-old managed to run away and report the incident at Muharraq Police Station before being taken to Salmaniya Medical Complex (SMC) for treatment.

She was later taken to the Dar Al Aman shelter in Tubli, run by the Social Development Ministry, where she has been staying since March 23.

The mother-of-three told the GDN her duties included taking care of her sponsor's two children, aged two and five, along with the cleaning, washing and cooking.

Ms Acharya was cleaning the bathroom when her sponsor ran in yelling because she broke something.

"That day, when I was cleaning the bathroom, something was broken and she heard the sound and came running inside yelling at me," she said.

"I apologised to her but she continued yelling at me and told me to clean up the mess, so I quietly listened to her and walked away.

"But she came from behind and rubbed the cleaning detergent on my cheeks and scrubbed it hard saying: 'this is how I want you to clean the bathroom'," explained the maid.

Ms Acharya spent the next two days locked inside the house without receiving treatment for the burns on her cheeks.

"My cheeks were burning for days and I couldn't sleep because of the irritations but she (her sponsor) pretended not to know about it and just gave me a cream for the swelling," she said.

Ms Acharya claimed her sponsor scolded her for resting after she had applied cream to her face.

"But when I applied the cream, the burning sensation and irritation on my face increased," she said.

"When I tried to rest because I had lost a lot of sleep due to the pain, my sponsor would wake me up saying: 'why are you resting, your face has become much better'.

"She locked me in the house for two days before I opened the window and called for help."

Ms Acharya said a passerby who heard her took her to the police station, where she was taken to the hospital before being transferred to the shelter.

It is understood Ms Acharya does not want to return to Nepal and is hoping to find another job to support her family.

"I spoke to my family when I came to the shelter but I didn't tell them of what happened because I didn't want them to worry," she said.

"I just informed them that I'm out of work and that I will keep them updated."

Nepalese Embassy representative Tonka Basnat said Ms Acharya would remain at the shelter until her case goes to court.

Mr Basnat said the maid's sponsor had denied allegations of abuse.

A spokeswoman for the shelter said the result of the first examination done on Ms Acharya concluded that she suffered from an intensive allergic reaction from the detergent.

"When she first came to us, her cheeks were burned and had marks on them but later the wounds healed," she said.

"The first examination concluded that she suffered from an allergic reaction but because her case has been delayed for so long, the second test was inconclusive."

It is understood the Public Prosecution has reviewed the housemaid's case and a court hearing has been fixed for next month.