Domestic worker advocates have long argued that crimes committed by maids are almost always the product of abuse. Media across the Middle East, but especially in the Gulf, often report on domestic worker crimes without adequate context. Additionally, the rarity of crimes against employers ensure that they are always front page news. This tendency generates a disproportional fixation on migrant domestic worker crimes, and creates a dramatized image of maids as innately ‘fiendish.’ The cumulative effect reinforces the widely touted conviction that employer’s must monitor and control their hired help even further beyond current practices.
By acknowledging the source of domestic worker crimes, legal authorities in Dubai place responsibility on employers themselves. The recognition of this responsibility sets the stage for further legal accountability on the part of employers who mistreat domestic workers. The police’s public request for citizens to treat domestic workers humanely and civility initiates a critical humanization process that encourages locals to address workers beyond their labor utility.
The Dubai police’s statements represent an important transformation in the state’s perception of domestic workers, which we can hope will stimulate the same realization across the UAE.