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Saudi mulls ban on Asian housemaids because they 'don't understand our culture'

On January 27, 2010

Saudi Arabia is mulling a ban on housemaids from certain Asian countries because they are 'not able to adapt to local culture and tradition' and are becoming too problematic, according to this article in the Arab News. This seems a rather preposterous claim given that many of the problems that housemaids face in Saudi are because of abuse by their employers - physical, sexual and psychological - and breaches of contract such as failure to pay wages.

But, wait! According to the Labour Recruitment Committee, it's the maids themselves that are at fault. Says Ali Al Qureishi, Vice President of the committee:

"The main reason for considering such a ban is that the labor recruiters in those countries are not qualified enough to supply housemaids that suit the local culture and tradition.....They don’t even show any inclination to cope with local traditions and culture....We have decided to be extra-careful when dealing with such foreign labor, especially after some reports that housemaids were involved in child murders and incidents of violence”

The Labour Recruitment Committee says that the main culprits are Sri Lanka, Nepal, Cambodia and Vietnam, and that it is 'seriously considering' a ban on women from these countries working in Saudi Arabia.

The way that Asian maids are depicted as 'child murderers' here is worryingly reminiscent of the Qatar cartoon scandal last year, in which the Gulf Times ran a cartoon depicting an Asian woman trying to poison the local child left in her care. The Saudi Labour Recruitment Committee clearly sees fit to dump the blame for the rising number of labour disputes on the shoulders of maids, and tries to justify this decision by painting them as a danger to their own society.

Saudi Embassy official in Colombo told Arab News that they were not aware of any impending ban on Sri Lankan women working in their country as maids.

The Sri Lankan Bureau of Foreign Employment told the paper that they were very unhappy about the high number of abuses of housemaids at the hands of Saudi employers.

'Some of them have complained that they are subjected to physical abuse and harassed due to delayed or nonpayment of salaries, and made to work till late hours' said one official from the Bureau.