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UN draws attention to trafficking of Vietnamese women to Saudi

On November 6, 2021

A group of UN special rapporteurs have drawn attention to the trafficking of Vietnamese women to Saudi Arabia, who are then subjected to sexual abuse and torture. They called on both countries to take action against human trafficking.

The statement highlighted that traffickers targeted women and girls (some as young as 15) in poverty, who are already vulnerable, and then on arrival in Saudi Arabia, “some girls and women found themselves sexually abused, beaten and subjected to torture and other cruel treatment by employers once they arrived in Saudi Arabia […] Often the women were denied food and medical treatment, not paid at all, or paid less than stipulated in their contracts.”

The SRs urged Saudi and Vietnam to “adopt effective measures and policies to prevent and combat trafficking in persons and to protect trafficked workers.” the experts said. “

According to the statement, between 3 September and 28 October 2021, nearly 205 women, many alleged victims of trafficking, were repatriated to Vietnam.

“We further remind Viet Nam and Saudi Arabia of their international legal obligations to cooperate in order to combat trafficking in persons, including in criminal justice investigations, provision of effective remedies and assistance to victims of trafficking,” the SR stated.

The statement was signed by four experts: Siobhán Mullally, Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children; Nils Melzer, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; Tomoya Obokata, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, including its causes and consequences;  and Felipe González Morales, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants.

Though the UN statement is specific to the Vietnam-Saudi corridor, trafficking of women and extreme abuse of women in domestic work is pervasive across the region. Except for the scant protections of a domestic workers law in four of the GCC states, there are no effective measures to protect women who are employed in households and living in isolation. Domestic workers are excluded from the labour law and the safeguards and justice mechanisms it affords.

The statement by UN experts shines a light on the rampant exploitation and abuse of women migrant workers.