Indonesia to lift ban on maids in Saudi - report

Ban was imposed in 2011 amid disputes over workers' rights and cases of abuse
By Courtney Trenwith
Thu 31 Jan 2013 02:05 PM

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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