Two Domestic Workers Commit Suicide in Jordan

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Jul 26 2010

In two separate incidents, two Sri-Lankan maids attempted suicide in As-Salt, Jordan, according to local press reports. Another domestic worker "harmed" herself in the Balqa governorate after her employers refused to let her return to her country.

Very few details were reported about either case, but from the information available it appears that on July 14th, a 35-year-old maid from Horowpathana, Sri-Lanka, set herself on fire in her employer's home. She was rushed to the hospital in critical condition where she died on the next day from organ failure and severe burns. On July 25th, the Jordanian daily Al-Doustor reported that another Sri-Lankan maid attempted to kill herself in As-Salt, jumping from the third floor.

Jordan's labor laws are considered very progressive for the region. Jordan is the only Arab country to include domestic workers under the scope of its labor laws. Employers are obligated to pay salaries directly to the workers' bank accounts, buy health insurance for their workers and limit the working hours to ten per day. However, the law does not prohibit employers from confining workers to their household and confiscating passports. A 2009 study by the Labor Watch Project at the Phoenix Centre for Economic and Information Studies showed that enforcement of Jordan's labor laws is lacking. In many cases workers were paid less than the minimum wage (150 JD, $211), overtime work was not compensated, employers prohibited the workers from leaving for annual leaves, and other workers reported of verbal and physical abuse.

Poor living and working conditions are often the cause of suicide by migrant workers. While Jordan's progressive labor laws should be commended, a tighter enforcement of those laws may be able to save the lives of such workers who turn to suicide as a way out of their desperate situation.

Advancing the rights of migrant workers throughout the Middle East