An increasing rate of maid abuse in the Arab world has raised concerns over the absence of strict laws that regulate the relationship between employers and domestic help and triggered calls for the necessity of imposing deterrent penalties.
According to a survey conducted by the Saudi magazine Sayidaty, more than three million maids in the Arab world are living in deplorable conditions and more incidents of verbal and physical abuse are reported.
According to the survey entitled “Maids’ Rights,” to be published in Saturday’s issue, there are around two million maids in Saudi Arabia while in several cases in the UAE, the number of maids sometimes exceeds the number of family members as maids are considered a sign of wealth.
In Bahrain, the number of maids exceeds 79,000 while in Kuwait their number is estimated at 660,000. In Egypt, there are 177 domestic help offices, only three of which are licensed.
The survey includes stories of maid abuse in different parts of the Arab world. For example a woman cut her maid’s lips and scalp and several parts of her body.
The magazine editorial staff also met with several maids who were imprisoned in their employers’ homes in the UAE and were constantly being harassed and sometimes forced to engage in sexual activities.
According to the survey, maids in Egypt are tortured with electricity wires if they break a glass and in Lebanon one foreign maid dies every week, while in Bahrain maids are thrown in the streets and in Kuwait maids run away because of mistreatment, delay in wages, or for being overworked by their employers.
Where the problem lies
Several employers manipulate the law and make maids work for them then do not give them their money, said Abdul Wahab Haidar, Labor Offices Expert at the Saudi Ministry of Labor.
“Employers can make the maid work then kick her out without paying her wages,” he said.
For Dr. Sherifa Abul-Foutouh from Egypt, maids are usually kicked out for valid reasons.
“The employer may discover that the maid has some psychological disorder or is involved in an affaire with a member of the family and other situations that require immediate action,” she said.
For one of women interviewed in the survey, the problem lies in the absence of a law that regulates the wages of maids.
“This makes maids ask for a raise everyday. There has to be a law that determines their wages.”
The survey offers several solutions to the maid abuse problems like official recognition of this profession in Arab countries and formulating a law that guarantees the payment of their wages and provides them with insurance against sickness and work injuries.
The survey also underscored the necessity of taking deterrent measures against employers who abuse their maids.
(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid)