Call for law against abuse of workers
Manama, July 12, 2011
Bahrain must create and implement tough legislation to punish people who abuse domestic workers, said a local human rights society.
Authorities must also adequately punish employers who illegally withhold passports and pay salaries months and years late.
These requests are among a list of recommendations Migrant Workers Protection Society (MWPS) has submitted to be discussed in the National Dialogue.
It is being represented in the talks by Bahrain Human Rights Watch Society secretary-general Faisal Fulad.
MWPS board member and former chairwoman Mona Almoayyed said domestic workers were vulnerable because they were not protected by the Labour Law.
"One of the biggest problems we have is that domestic workers don't come under the Labour Law," she told Rotarians at the Rotary Club of Manama's weekly meeting at the Gulf Hotel.
"There is no such thing as holidays or working hours, so it is up to the family to be nice to them. Some work 14 hours a day and during Ramadan the working hours are even longer. In some families the mother brings the nanny to work in her two daughters' homes, so they have three homes and three bosses to please.”
"The work is unlimited, especially during Ramadan we have many nannies coming to our shelter because the work is too much, they have to wake up early to get the children ready for school and then work late into the night. Many have no day off and some aren't even properly fed, they also face verbal and sexual harassment,” she added.
Almoayyed said 54 per cent of Bahrain's 1.2 million population was non-Bahraini and of 60,000 domestic workers, 62 per cent were female.
She said most domestic female workers, particularly housemaids, were primarily from India, the Philippines, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Ethiopia and Eritrea and from poor families.
Since 2005 MWPS has provided abused female workers with free lodging, food and clothing and a lawyer if needed, she added.
"We have lots of cases where nannies come to the shelter and they are not paid for many months," said Almoayyed, who is Bahrain Businesswomen's Society president and Y K Almoayyed and Sons managing director.
"We had one case where the lady wasn't paid for 14 years, she was illiterate and couldn't use the phone. The husband thought she had died and married another woman. In the end we helped her get her monthly wages of BD40 ($106) for 14 years and sent it to her family, but the sad part is after all this time the money wasn't worth the same.”
"The worst part is her employer was not punished for not paying on time and this is what we are asking for. The law should punish you for not paying on time,” she added.
Almoayyed said there was another case of a 41-year-old Sri Lankan housemaid who was raped at knife-point seven times by her employer's son.
"She escaped and was brought to the MWPS shelter and then taken to lodge a police complaint, but the medical check-up was too late after the assault and therefore it could not be proved.”
"After four months the case had to be dropped for her to leave the country and the perpetrator was left unpunished. Our biggest problem is our judicial system, if there is a case it can take many years," said Almoayyed.
"Cases in courts take two to three years and are often dropped because victims can't wait to get their rights."
She said the society's main mission was to raise awareness about migrant workers' issues and inform them, especially the illiterate, of their rights. It also helps migrant workers gain their rights from the Labour Law.
Almoayyed said the most common complaints reported to MWPS were illegally withholding passports, non-payment of wages and deducting wages for small mistakes.
"One of our biggest missions is the shelter for female workers and creating awareness about the bad conditions workers live in," she said. "Before they come to Bahrain many sell their houses and their wives' jewellery to pay the recruitment agency and this debt accumulation is the main cause of suicide among migrant workers here.”
"We visit labour camps and improve the conditions where we can, although the Labour Law specifies how many should be in one room and how many bathrooms and so on, in reality they don't follow these rules and don't live like humans.
"We have improved the conditions where possible and we try to do insect treatments in labour camps," Almoayyed added.
It costs BD4,000 ($10,609) per month for MWPS to run its shelter and office and it relies solely on donations to keep going. – TradeArabia News Service