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Four Domestic Workers Commit or Attempt Suicide in Bahrain in One Week

On May 4, 2010

Within a week, two housemaids have ended their lives in Bahrain and two have attempted to do so. Bahrain does not offer protection to domestic workers under its labor laws.

On April 30, the Gulf Daily News reported that the body of Samantha Kumud, a 37-year-old Sri Lankan maid was found hanging from a ceiling fan at her sponsor's house in Buhair. Today, the paper reported about another suicide, this time of Mary Jane, a 40-year-old Filipino maid. She was found in the swimming pool at her sponsor's villa in Budaiya. The police believes that this was a suicide.

On April 28th, an Ethiopian maid, Suse Abene (28) leaped from her sponsor's moving car in Janabiya and suffered multiple injuries. On May 2nd, Edna Reyes Rosario (42), a Filipino maid, poured boiling water over herself in a suicide attempt in her sponsor's home in Sitra. Suse was hospitalized with burns all over her body.

Domestic workers, the most vulnerable of migrant workers, are not protected under Bahrain's labor law. The welcomed changes in Bahrain's sponsorship law do not apply to domestic workers either. Recently, Dr. Abdelbast Abdelmohsen, the Bahraini Labour Ministry's legal adviser stated that domestic workers will be excluded from the scope of Bahrain's future labor law, which is currently being formulated. Instead, Dr. Abdelmohsen said that "under the new Labour Law, domestic workers will be taken into account indirectly." The Bahraini official stated that domestic workers "will still be protected and subjected to several rules and provisions which would ensure their basic rights safeguarded. Such provisions would include having an official contract determining a fixed salary, stating a weekly day off, end-of-term bonus and exemption from legal fees."

As a recent Human Rights Watch report noted, standard employment contracts, which are used in the UAE, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia "fall short of providing the comprehensive protections provided under national labor laws.” Unprotected domestic workers who feel that they have nowhere to turn, sometimes see suicide as the only way to escape abuse or hard living conditions.