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Mideast, Asia fail to halt maid abuse

Beirut, November 25, 2008

Migrant and domestic workers still face beatings, rape and sometimes even murder because laws in Middle Eastern and Asian nations do not protect them from abusive employers, a US-based rights group said.

Millions of women from countries such as Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Indonesia and Nepal are housemaids in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Lebanon, Singapore and Malaysia -- many of which exclude domestic workers from protection under their labour laws.

"There are countless cases of employers threatening, humiliating, beating, raping and sometimes killing domestic workers," said Nisha Varia, deputy director of the women's rights division of Human Rights Watch from New York.

The report, published this week to coincide with Tuesday's International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, said, "Most (Middle Eastern and Asian) countries exclude domestic workers from protection under their labour laws."    

Human Rights Watch said few domestic workers can utilise the justice system in the countries they work in and even those who manage to successfully complain rarely receive compensation.

One reason why housemaids are at increased risk of abuse is because employers often control a worker's immigration status and ability to change jobs.

"Many employers exploit this power to confine domestic workers to the house, without pay, and commit other abuses," HRW said in a statement.

"Governments need to punish abusive employers through the justice system, and prevent violence by reforming labour and immigration policies that leave these workers at their employers' mercy."

HRW also said governments should train law enforcement officials on how to appropriately investigate and collect evidence in response to housemaids' complaints.

"2008 marked a year of missed opportunities," Varia said. "While most governments have started to think about some level of reform, many of these discussions have stalled."    

HRW said in August that in Lebanon, where cases of housemaid abuse make newspapers almost daily, domestic workers are dying at a rate of more than one per week either by committing suicide or while trying to escape from their employers. - Reuters




Tags: violence | maids |

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