Nepalese Domestic Worker Murdered in Desert

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May 21 2012

Early this week, an anonymous person discovered the remains of a Nepalese domestic worker in Kuwait's Mina Abdullah desert. Her employer, a "military man," confessed to the murder and is currently awaiting trial. The employer claims the maid’s “violence against his children” prompted his actions. Child abuse is an increasingly prevalent accusation against domestic workers that has been featured by several Gulf papers. These tales are entirely told from employers' perspectives, fail to contextualize any allegedly misappropriate behavior, and in the linked article, prove completely inflated. These unjustified exaggerations reinforce the blanket suspicion of domestic workers and further marginalize migrant workers from local society.

The unnamed domestic worker is not the first migrant to be found dead in Kuwait’s deserts. Last year, an officer killed an Indian migrant in the Jahra region. In 2010, a Kuwaiti couple tortured and discarded their domestic worker in the Kabd desert. The couple now faces a death sentence. Desert burials eerily reflect the marginalized existences of migrant (and especially domestic) workers - their absence is not realized until someone stumbles upon their bodies by chance in a desolate area far removed from civilization.

This sad incident occurred in the midst of Nepalese government statements affirming the improvement of migrant conditions in the Gulf. The government’s May agenda has been particularly busy with efforts to contract protections for Nepalese workers and establish representative bases in Bahrain and Oman. Additionally, Nepalese citizens are projected to enjoy a comparatively better year in the UAE because of improved recruitment standards, newly-established minimum wages, and some freely available services.

But a recent CNN article demonstrates that the systematized problems Nepalese workers face are too entrenched to be ‘fixed’ quite so steadily. Like many migrant-exporting governments, Nepal must reconcile the safety of its dependence on remittances. Nepal has implemented new measures, including orientation courses, to help Nepalese workers remain safe abroad. Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai admits that these steps are incremental, and that significant improvement to the average experience of Nepalese workers will take years to secure.

Advancing the rights of migrant workers throughout the Middle East