Saudi Arabia's "Arab News" published an excellent opinion article about rights of domestic workers in the kingdom. The writer, Turki Al-Dakheel details the various forms of abuse maids are exposed to including sexual harassment, passport confiscation and physical abuse, and states that this abuse cannot be reconciled with the basic principles of Islam. Al-Dakheel writes that if maids were treated in a respectful manner, they wouldn't attempt to run away from their sponsors.
As we've recently reported, since the beginning of March there have been nine cases of suicide or suicide attempts by migrant workers in Saudi Arabia, most of whom are maids.
Below is the full article:
Local Press: Torturing housemaids
By TURKI AL-DAKHEEL | AL-EQTISADIAH
Published: Apr 13, 2010
DO we consider the housemaid to be a human being? Or is she just a machine like a washing machine and a refrigerator? Some of us, because of excessive laziness and a disdain of doing what we consider easy jobs, cannot do without a housemaid even if there are no children in the house.
The housemaid in this case will be used as something to brag about. She will drag herself behind the husband and wife carrying the shopping bags. This has become the typical picture of a Saudi family, whether large or small. Ostentatiousness is a disease eating away at our society. The main purpose of hiring a housemaid is so the wife can boast of having a servant who blindly obeys her orders.
The poor housemaid may not be paid her salary for months. Her passport will be locked away from her. She will be forced to sleep in a room even dogs would shy from. She may constantly lose her precious things.
Is this not a frightening brutality? The bad treatment of housemaids is totally against human rights and international norms.
It is a common practice even among small Saudi families not to allow housemaids to take time off to do their shopping or attend to private matters. She will not be allowed to take a weekly day off, which is granted by labor systems all over the world.
The majority of Saudi families will not allow their housemaids to enjoy their annual vacations. They may stay in the house for years.
The housemaid may be working in a house inhabited by lots of people. Everyone will be giving her orders, which she should obey.
They will look at her with disrespect and ask her to do some jobs at any time of the day or night. This of course is in addition to beatings, sexual harassment and physical abuse. The families do this while claiming to be good Muslims, apparently adhering very strongly to the teachings of Islam!!
We are actually living in a whirlpool of traditions we consider to be Islamic, when actually they are outdated and inhumane principles that we do not dare to contest or question.
The local newspapers recently published reports about many housemaids escaping due to maltreatment, cruelty and delay of payment. I strongly believe that if we treated the housemaids with dignity and respect, they will never escape and subject themselves to many risks. The housemaids experience difficulties living by themselves in our country, especially the mothers who have left their children back home.
The housemaid is a natural woman. She should be part of the social fabric of the family for which she works. She is a human being and not a machine. I appeal to my countrymen who are descendants of the companions of the Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) to be nice to them and treat them according to the teachings of Islam.
Are we very cruel people with housemaids, wives and children? Are we being true to our genuine desert ethics?