Indonesia to lift ban on maids in Saudi - report

Ban was imposed in 2011 amid disputes over workers' rights and cases of abuse

Indonesia will lift a ban on its women working as domestic helpers in Saudi Arabia, according to reports.

The country's President Susilio Bambang Yuduyono is reportedly in the Gulf country to negotiate an agreement that would raise the salaries of Indonesian maids and guarantee them weekly time off, as well as stipulating that employers respect human rights and provide family details to the Indonesian embassy.

The ban was imposed in August 2011 amid a series of disputes over Indonesian workers’ rights and incidents of abuse by Saudi employers.

Indonesia was angered in June 2011 when Riyadh failed to inform it that 54-year old Indonesian citizen Ruyati binti Saputi had been beheaded by Saudi authorities after she was convicted of beating her employer’s wife to death with a meat cleaver.

Riyadh has since apologised.

The kingdom retaliated to Indonesia’s ban by enforcing its own, preventing Saudi nationals from employing Indonesians for domestic work.

Numerous Asian countries have fallen out with the kingdom over migrant workers’ rights.

The Philippines also recently demanded better conditions for its nationals in Saudi, while Sri Lanka has banned women under 25 years of age from travelling to Saudi Arabia for menial work, following the beheading of Rizana Nafeek, a 24-year old Sri Lankan working as a maid in Saudi. The case drew international criticism as Nafeek was reportedly a minor at the time of allegedly murdering a child in her care.

Human rights groups claim as many as 79 people were executed in Saudi Arabia last year, the majority by public beheading with a sword.

However, millions of poorer people, mostly from south and south-east Asia, have flocked to the Gulf's most populous country in search of work.

At the time Indonesia imposed its ban, approximately 1.5m Indonesians were believed to be working in Saudi Arabia, with a significant portion employed in menial jobs such as maids.

The Indonesian Association for Migrant Workers Sovereignty claimed more than 5,000 instances of sexual abuse and human rights violations against domestic workers, according to Asian Correspondent.

In another high profile case in 2007, Indonesian maid Darsem binti Dawud was sentenced to death after being found guilty of murdering her employer. She claimed she was acting in self-defence when he attempted to rape her.

She was spared execution when the Indonesian government paid the victim’s family US$533,000 as a ransom or ‘blood money’ payment.

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