Gulf states still fail to protect Sri Lankan maids

November 16, 2010 § Leave a comment

Human Rights Watch is highlighting today the plight facing women working in the Middle East after Sri Lankan maids were taken to hospital reporting abuse at the hands of their employers.

This is an area ripe for abuse. More than 1.7m Sri Lankans work abroad – the vast majority being women – because they can earn more pay than they would do at home, particularly given the civil wars which have plagued the country over the last twenty years.

But this is an area which is constantly neglected, to the extent where they are referred to as “daily occurances” in the UAE. These women are reporting being forced to “swallow nails” when asking to be paid (after six months of work), and for having nails driven into their foreheads, arms and legs, along with passports being seized and long working days without breaks. The stories are chillingly familiar. In 2007, Human Rights Watch published a report calling for Gulf states to take action because of hideous assaults on domestic Sri Lankan staff.

How many times does an issue have to be raised before action will be taken? In 2007 HRW called for the UAE to extend labour laws to include domestic workers, to re-think immigration laws so that workers are not tied to their employers, and to regulate the industry and working conditions . Three years ago Gulf states responded angrily that they had made a lot of progress in this area – today’s news suggests there is still a long way to go.

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