Earlier this week, two long-time domestic workers filed sexual harassment claims against UAE ambassador to Manilla Moosa Abdulwahid Alkhajah. The two women resigned after repeatedly rejecting his advances, and incurring Alkhajah’s anger. They initially responded to his lude requests, including nearly-nude body massages, which they recounted to Filipinos at the UAE Embassy. At least one of the Filipinos at the embassy was fired when Alkhajah became aware of the allegations.
The Filipino Department of Foreign Affairs has stated they will “will let the parties resolve the issue through legal means.” However, the charges represent much more than the indecencies of a single employer against a domestic worker.
Alkhaja’s (alleged) attempts to take advantage of his domestic workers reflect the predatory relationship that currently exists between migrant-sending and receiving nations. Though the UAE, and the rest of the Gulf nations, recently accepted a Filipino proposal to secure protections for domestic workers, they have historically fought to exclude domestic workers from labor negotiations and regulations. The estrangement of domestic workers from society’s regular rules allows employers to exploit their services with little scrutiny or punishment. If the Filipino government fails to intervene in a such a public, high-profile case in their own country, there can be little hope for domestic worker reform abroad.
The situation also illustrates the Gulf government’s direct participation in the exploitation of domestic workers. Our previous article inculpated Middle Eastern governments and political figures in particular cases of migrant abuse and in perpetuating the wider dehumanization of foreign workers. Real change in the condition of migrant workers is impossible to achieve when the region’s leaders outwardly contradict their ‘commitments’ to reform.