NYTimes Lambasts Kuwait on Treatment of Domestic Maids

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In a groundbreaking article (and slideshow), newspaper powerhouse The New York Times, wrote a piece published yesterday on the labor situation in Kuwait, focusing on abuse of domestic female servents. The article also mentions that the US 2010 Department of State report put Kuwait, along with 12 other countries in low ranking for failing to do enough to prevent human trafficking. Furthermore, the article mentions the increased pressure that maids face during Ramadan, when they are expected to work longer hours.

The fact that the New York Times has taken on this topic is a big achievement for advocacy groups on human rights of domestic servents in Kuwait. Rarely does such an international journal touch on the subject with specific reference to Kuwait, and, as an indicator, the last time the NYT did have past coverage on this issue was in 1993.

Coverage on maid abuse, once relegated to the crime and law sections of local newspapers, is beginning to make headlines-not only in national newspapers in the Gulf, but abroad apparently as well. International outcry on the running over by car of a tortured Filipina maid by a Kuwaiti couple has flagged attention in the media. Here is a selection of the article by Kareem Farim, but you may access the full text here.

KUWAIT — With nowhere else to go, dozens of Nepalese maids who fled from their employers now sleep on the floor in the lobby of their embassy here, next to the visitors’ chairs.

In the Philippines Embassy, more than 200 women are packed in a sweltering room, where they sleep on their luggage and pass the time singing along to Filipino crooners on television. So many runaways are sheltering in the Indonesian Embassy that some have left a packed basement and taken over a prayer room.

And in the coming weeks, when Ramadan starts, the number of maids seeking protection is expected to grow, perhaps by the hundreds, straining the capacity of the improvised shelters, embassy officials say. With Kuwaiti families staying up into the early hours of the morning, some maids say they cook more, work longer hours and sleep less.

Rosflor Armada, who is staying in the Philippines Embassy, said that last year during Ramadan, she cooked all day for the evening meal and was allowed to sleep only about two hours a night.

“They said, ‘You will work. You will work.’ ” She said that she left after her employers demanded that she wash the windows at 3 a.m.

The existence of the shelters reflects a hard reality here: With few legal protections against employers who choose not to pay servants, who push them too hard, or who abuse them, sometimes there is nothing left to do but run. The laws that do exist tend to err on the side of protecting employers, who often pay more than $2,000 upfront to hire the maids from the agencies that bring the women here.

1 Response on "NYTimes Lambasts Kuwait on Treatment of Domestic Maids"

  1. Iftekhar says:

    When one human being has power over another, there will be exploitation. Immigrants picking oranges in California live and toil in terrible conditions.

    The solution is economic development back home: why do these people go abroad to work under somebody in the first place?