By Claire Ferris-Lay
Report commends new labour law, but says 600,000 domestic workers not protected.
Human Rights Watch has criticised Kuwait for its human rights record but praised some improvements.
In its World Report 2010 the top international human rights group said the Arab country was depriving stateless bidun of their rights while abuse of its foreign domestic workers continued.
The New York-based group praised the introduction of a new labour law with tougher penalties but said it failed to cover more than 600,000 domestic workers in the country.
“Kuwaiti lawmakers have taken important steps to address gaps in the rights of its migrant workforce,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Omitting domestic workers, who need the most protection, signals to employers that the door remains open for abuse and exploitation.”
Women in Kuwait still lack equal civil and political rights while their rights to free expression and privacy continue to come under government attack, the report added.
The group also raised concerns over Kuwait’s 120,000 bidun, long time residents whom the government does not recognise as Kuwaiti nationals and are stateless. “They continue to suffer discriminatory access to healthcare, education, and violations of their right to marry and have a family,” said the report.
On Monday a UAE government official slammed a recent report by the organisation in which it called on the UAE to improve its human rights record. Speaking to WAM a Ministry of Foreign Affairs official said the report “was factually incorrect” and it failed to recognise genuine efforts made by the UAE government.
How long it will only be criticized? The world should move to solve HR problems and issues wherever they are present. It should be possible to send HR abuses to international (UN) bodies/organizations so that remedial measures can be taken without delay. Web sites and e-mails addresses and telephone numbers should be advertised where such abuses can be sent/forwarded. Most important things to tackle in the gulf are: 1. equal rights for citizens and expatriates; 2. equal treatment in the eyes of law (i.e., equal laws for all, e.g., traffic laws, driving licensing laws, etc.); 3. basic minimum salaries and benfits (like insurance, medical, leave, tickets, etc.,) for the laborers to be imposed by UN/ILO; 4. freedom to invest in properties and in business for all legal residents; 5. total elimination of visa trading (the dirtiest human trafficking allowed indirectly by these govts).