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.