Help on way for abused maids
By EUNICE del ROSARIO
A REPORT on the mistreatment of housemaids in Bahrain is to be released by a human rights watchdog early next year, it was revealed yesterday.It will include statistics on the number of rape, sexual harassment, physical and psychological abuse cases among others.
The yearlong study, which is currently in progress, is already bringing to light some disturbing realities, said Bahrain Human Rights Watch Society (BHRWS) society regional and international relations director Faisal Fulad.The society hopes that the report would further encourage the inclusion of housemaids into the labour law in Bahrain.There is an estimated 40,000 maids in Bahrain, the majority are from India, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Ethiopia.
“The number of abuse cases filed are too many to count – but this is what we hope to find out, exactly how rampant abuse of maids is in Bahrain because this has to stop,” said Mr Fulad.
He said that the compilation of information in Bahrain followed the 93-page report filed by the US-based Women’s Rights Division of the Human Rights Watch, which revealed that maids face a wide range of grave abuses and labour exploitation in the Middle East and other parts of the world.
These include physical and sexual abuse, forced confinement, non-payment of wages, denial of food and health care and excessive working hours with no rest days.
“The report released in the US brought up several issues, which also mentioned the amount of abuse maids go through in Middle Eastern countries,” said Mr Fulad.
“Abuse happens all the time here and the BHRWS feels that the Bahrain government, particularly the Labour Ministry, needs to focus on several issues, the most important of which is that maids must be included in the labour law.
“It is also very important to have a law in Bahrain that puts a stop to human trafficking.
“Recruitment agencies must also be monitored by the Labour Ministry.”
Mr Fulad said that many maids complain about the manpower agencies that brought them here.
“Many of these maids come here to try to earn a good living for their families,” he said.
“They come here with the hope that they can earn and save money.
“But many of them are fooled by their agencies, which tell them one thing when they are in their countries, but upon arrival in Bahrain tell them another.
“Many of them think they are coming to work in Bahrain as nurses or teachers, but end up working as maids.”
Despite these ongoing issues, Mr Fulad said that the BHRWS was aware of the efforts exerted by the Labour Ministry.
“We know the ministry is doing everything to try to minimise the number of abuse cases in Bahrain and we always get cooperation from them.
“But still there is a definite weakness in this area and frankly it is worrying because it is not giving Bahrain a good name abroad.
“There must come a time here when housemaids are guaranteed the ability to work with dignity and freedom from violence.
“They are workers that need protecting too.”
In the study by the Women’s Rights Division of the Human Rights Watch, it stated that the number of women migrants has increased significantly over the last 30 years.
They now reportedly comprise approximately half of the estimated 200 million migrants worldwide.
The ‘feminisation’ of labour migration is particularly pronounced in the Philippines, Indonesia and Sri Lanka, where national-level estimates include that women comprise 60 to 75 per cent of legal migrants, many of whom are employed as maids in the Middle East and other parts of Asia.