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Saudi Media Acknowledges that Sponsor Abuse Drives Maids to Suicide

On March 7, 2010

The Arab Times, Saudi's leading English-language paper recently published a report about the prevalence of suicide by housemaids as a result of abuse and maltreatment. Most recently, a 30-year-old maid committed suicide in Saudi on February 26.

Below is the article by Arab Times. This article is important because too often regional papers attribute the suicide of migrant workers to mental illness and causes other than abuse by sponsors. We hope that with the realization that this desperate acts are committed because of maltreatment, abusive sponsors will be held accountable for triggering the suicide of their workers.

‘Abuse pushes maids to end their lives’
By Rima Al-Mukhtar | Mar 6, 2010

JEDDAH: Housemaids are claiming violence and mistreatment are the main reasons why many of them try to end their lives.

In the last couple of years there have been countless reports of abuse in the media, including testimonies from maids about the withholding of salaries, verbal or physical abuse and restrictions on their movements.

“Maids never have the intention to kill themselves, but circumstances put them in a place where they are facing a dead end,” said a recruitment officer.

Maids who are physically or emotionally abused have no choice but to either run away or attempt suicide. Those maids are expected to work around the clock, sleeping for only two or three hours a night.

“I worked in a house where the sponsors used to feed us one meal a day and lock the fridge later to make sure we didn’t eat anything else,” said Salma, an Indonesian housemaid.

Earlier this year, a maid tried to hang herself from the ceiling. Another tried to drink detergent to end her life. Yet another threw herself from the window of a building. The lucky ones were saved. Maids are also beaten up or sexually abused by their sponsors. An Arab News report published on Feb. 27 told the story of an Indonesian maid taken to hospital when she fell from the third floor of her sponsor’s building.

The doctors later found that the maid had been beaten up and tortured and found burns and lashing marks on her back. They also detected internal bleeding and an injury to her head.

“Sponsors need to know that we are already humiliated by working as house maids,” said Tess, a Filipino housemaid. “And we don’t need any more insults to add to our misery. We are working for the money. If we didn’t need it we wouldn’t have left our family and friends in the first place.”