Saudi calls for GCC-wide rules on hiring maids

Treatment of maids has been controversial across the region, with regular news reports of abuse and exploitation
By Courtney Trenwith
Wed 27 Mar 2013 10:34 AM

A Saudi
official has called for a unified system governing the recruitment and working
conditions of house maids across the GCC.

Saad Nahar
Al-Baddah, chairman of the Saudi Foreign Recruitment Committee, said a regional
system would strengthen the position of GCC states’ during negotiations with
labour-exporting countries, such as the Philippines, Indonesia and Sri Lanka,
Arab News
reported.

Treatment of
maids has been controversial across the region, with regular news reports of
abuse and exploitation as well as maids being accused of attacking and even
killing their employer or a child left in their care.

Most recently,
an Indonesian woman in Saudi Arabia was sentenced to death after being found
guilty of murdering a four-year old girl in her care in September.

In October,
Saudi Arabia beheaded a young Sri Lankan housemaid after rejecting appeals by
her home country against her death sentence for the killing of an infant left
in her care in 2005. The case drew considerable controversy as Rizana Nafeek
was apparently 17 years old at the time of the infant’s death.

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

Earlier this
month, Saudi Arabia rejected a draft deal with Indonesia that would allow
domestic helpers from the Far Eastern country to again seek work in the Gulf
state. Indonesia banned maids from travelling to the country for work in
mid-2011 after requesting raises in minimum salary, weekly time off and
reassurances over human rights after a number of cases of abuse by Saudi
employers. Saudi responded by applying its own ban.

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 Nafeek.

It has been
reported that a unified system covering maids would be considered at the next
meeting of GCC labour and social affairs ministers, due to be held in Bahrain in
October.

Chairperson of the human resources committee at the Federation of GCC
Chambers, Sahar Al-Kabi, told Arab News clearer regulations were needed to
address the increasing number of issues related to household workers in the
region and to deal with exporting countries’ attempts to impose their
conditions. She called for regulations that guarantee the rights of both
parties.

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