Monday, August 15, 2005

Ministry Warns of Jail Term for Abuse of Maids

P.K. Abdul Ghafour, Arab News
Monday, 15, August, 2005 (10, Rajab, 1426)

JEDDAH, 15 August 2005 ­

The Labor Ministry yesterday warned Saudi sponsors and employers against abusing maidservants saying they would face deterrent punishments including jail sentences.

Ahmed Mansour Al-Zamil, deputy minister for labor affairs, said his ministry was following up cases of maids who have taken shelter at the refugee centers under the Social Affairs Ministry.

He said employers who fail to honor the rights of their workers or delay payment of their salaries would be banned from recruitment and their applications at the ministry would not be processed.

“These arrogant employers will be jailed if their cases are taken to the Interior Ministry,” Al-Watan daily quoted him as saying.

He referred to the ministry’s efforts to settle disputes between employers and their maids. “If a maid agrees to resume work with her sponsor, a written undertaking will be taken from the sponsor pledging he would not violate her rights again. If the sponsor repeats the offense, he/she would be punished,” he explained.

The ministry had earlier announced the formation of a special department to safeguard the rights of expatriate workers and impose sanctions on employers who abuse them.

Al-Zamil said the Department for Protection of Domestic Workers would receive complaints from maids who have been sexually harassed, mistreated or who have not been given their salaries. “If it is proven that an employer has not paid his maid, we will ban him from applying for any domestic worker for five years,” he said.

The new move by the ministry comes after reports of recurrent abuses of maids by their sponsors in various parts of the country.

In a much publicized case, Indonesian maid Nour Miyati accused her sponsor and his wife of torturing her. She alleged that her employer tied her up in a bathroom for over a month until she developed gangrene and had to have some of her fingers and toes amputated. The woman later retracted her statements about being tortured and was arrested by police for making false allegations against her sponsor.

Indonesia sends the largest number of domestic servants to Saudi Arabia. The South East Asian country recently lifted a five-month ban on recruitment to the Kingdom following talks between Saudi Arabian National Recruiting Committee Chairman Waleed Al-Suwaidan and the Indonesian deputy minister of labor. #

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