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P. 1
Domestic Help or Violence?

Domestic Help or Violence?

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Published by lildalal
cases of abuse towards domestic helpers in Oman.
cases of abuse towards domestic helpers in Oman.

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Published by: lildalal on Apr 15, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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06/24/2010

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KilOW
UR
RIGHT$
AmelitoAdel,
the
0verseasWorkersWetfareAssociation
(OWWA)
officer
w1h
the
PhilippinesEmbassy,
is
frustrated
and
understandably
s0.
Hehasspent
the
whole
daydealing
with
case
after
caseof
the
sameheart-breakingstories;stories
of
servitudeand ill-treatment
that
could
have
beenliftedstraight
froma
Dickens
novel.Lornaisoneof
these
ladies.She
now
lives
with
forty
other
ladies
who
have
also
fledfromtheir
employers
at the
OWWA
Centre,
a refugeofsortsattached
to
the
PhilippinesEmbassy.Until
their
cases
are
resolved,
the
embassy
areaistheir
temporaryhome.
Hunchedand
timid,
Lornaoccasionallypeersover
her
thin-framedglasses
as
shequietlyexplainshow
she
came
to
be
aresident
in
theembassyandit
isa
commonstory.
Lorna
wasemployed
bya local
family
asa
domesticworker,
withthe
promiseof
400
dollarsa month.
She
quicklycame
to
realisethatthegolden
life
shehadhoped
for
in
0man
was
to
be
very
different.
Upon
arrival
in
thecountry
she
was
informedby her
employerthat
she
wouldonlybepaid
B0
rialsa month.
with
no
days
off.
Speaking
0f
theexperienceshesays,
"l
didn'tfeel
human.
I
wasexpectedto
work
all the
time
andhadnobreakandmysalary
was
neverpaidontime."
Thegruelling
days
andgeneralill-treatment
was
justthestart
of
her
painful
path
here
in
0man.
After
beingbeaten
by
the
"madam"forsupposedlystealingfood,she lived
for
a
furthersix
monthsatthehome
in
constantfear
with
no
knowredge
of her
rights.The
finalstraw
came when
her
"master"
pushedheragainst
thewall
for
"answering
back"
and
began
to
slap
her.Lorna
says,"Hesaid
it
is
good
for
me
to
be
beatenbecause
he
is
better
thanme.
He
said
it's
good
for
me
to
kiss
hisfeetbecause
I
am
just
a housemaid."
with
ablack
eye
andbruises
over
her
bodyshe
fled
to
the
embassy.
Acomplaintwas
filed
againstherex-employerbut
she
saysnothingwasdoneabouttheprobrem
and
nowshe
is
waiting
to
return
tothe
philippines,
although
she
does
notknow
when
this
will
be.
Thispower
still
remains
with
herex-emproyerwho
still
holds
the
releasepaper
that
Lornarequires
in
order
to
leave
thecountry.
she
says,"There
is
stillonegirl
working
there
as
the
babysitter,butshe
is
stronger
than
me.
shecan
handlebeing
treatedlikethis."
It'sstorieslike
Lorna's
which
are whisperedacrossdinnertablesacrgssMuscattohummednodsof sympathy,
yetlittle
elseis
done
for
her.lnsteadherlifeis
replayed
through
forms
andphonecallsbetweenherex-employer,departmentsinministriesandother levelsof bureaucracy.
She
isnow
waiting
inlimbo
in
theconfinedwallsof
the
embassy
until
hercase
is
resolved.Therehavebeen
frequent
complaintsfrom
the
PhilippinesEmbassyabout
thetreatmentof
domestic
workers
in
the
Sultanate
from
many
different
levels.WhenIdiscuss
the
problem
withstaff
there
one word
whichfrequently
pops
up is"slave"
-
anextremely
strongword,
butthesearethe
people
who
deal
with
dozens
ofcases
of
abuseand
ill-treatment
every
weekand
are
probablymoreinformedof therealsituation
for
domesticworkersthananygne
elsein
the
country.Although
there
havebeen
effortsto
helpresolvethes1uation
by
thegovernment,
these
measures
are
usuallyhalf-baked
or
completelyineffective.
The
well-known400
dollarminimumwagerequirement
that
employersmustsignwhen
 
recruitingmaids
is
little
more
than
a
formality.
lt was drafted
by
thePhilippinesgovernmentand
thus a
regulation
that
the
Sultanate,
like
the
rest ofthe
GCC,
is
not
tiedto.
Another
formality
in
the
process
of
recruitment
for
household
workers is
a'billof
rights'that
theemployer
must
read and attach
to
every
contract.
However,
as
the
housemaids arein
no
way entitledtoview
this
documentthen the employeesareusually unaware of
their
rights.lnstead,
it
is left to
the
employer
to
inform
their
'hired hand' of
their civil
liberties;
which
is
obviouslyveryrarely done.
Noneof
the
girls
I
spoke
to
had
seen
the document.
Althoughthere arevast
abuses
ofworkers'
rights
from
agencies
andemployersin
theSultanate,therealproblem
comes
from
an
illegalpracticeofhiring workersfrom
an
agency
in
the
UAE
beforesendingthem
on
to
Oman
with
touristvisas.Thesegirlsthus slipthroughanyveneers
ol
protectiontheymight
be
entitledto, and
aS
such,
they areoftenwithout
labour
cards andare
essentially
confined
to the
house
as
illegal
workers.With
the
girlsstaying
in
the countryon expired
tourist
visas, theyarereluctant
to
go
to
the
policeif theyareabused
or
mistreated
by
their
employer.Amelitosays,
"99
percent
of
thegirls
here(atthe
refuge)were
recruitedthisway. We'vefrequentlycomplainedto
the
Ministryof
Foreign
Affairs
to
solve
the
problem
but
it
is still
continuing."The agencyin
the
UAE
treats
theemployeesas
cattle
rather
than
humanbeings.Whena
contract
expires betweena
house
maidand a
UAE
employee
theworker
issoldon
to clients
in
Oman
without
goingthrough
the
morevigorous
process
that
agencieshere
in
0manare subject
to.
Thisprocess
is
"simply
human
tralficking
and
it
happens
frequently,"
Amelito
informs me.
He
adds,"They
are
treatedas acommodity
and
the
agencyfoolsthesegirls
to
come overhereandforcesthemto
work."
The
effects
on
the
individual
who
pass
through
this transfer
arehuge.
The
girlsare sent
on
to
a country
which
has
a very
different
social structure
fromthe
UAE
and
thus
the
maids areexpected
to
performvery
different
roles."Theproblem
is
that
in
Oman
things are
differentfrom
in
the
UAE.Here
you
have a
whole
family
livinginonehouse
and
theworkeris
expected
to
doeverything
and
have
to
work
longer hours,
often
with
lowersalaries."As
with
otherparts
of
the
GCC,
abuseis
frequent
and
takes
many
differentforms.
Many
of
the
girlsI
spoke
to
at
the
refuge
fledtheir
employersbecause
of
physicalabuse.
One
girl
who
had only
beenat
the
refuge
for
a
few
days
would not explainwhy
she
fled,
butthescratchmarks on
her
chestwere undoubtedly
a
factor
in
this.Anothergirl
tells
me
that
she
was encouraged
by
her employer
on
a daily
basis
to sleep
with
him, while the
wifetold
her
that
shemust
do
whateverthe
'master'
says.
"sexual
abuse
is
aregular complaint
with
thegirls.
When
the
wife
leaves
the
house,many complainthat
the
men
walk
around
the
housenaked,andmany
girls
areraped.
With
rape,
it
is hardto
file
a complaintbecause
the
law
SayS
you
need
witnesses,"
he
SayS.
"They are
usually
treatedlike slaves
by
their employers
as
they
believe
that
becausetheypaidmoneyfor them,they ownthem."Cases
wherephysical
or
sexualabuse
are
evident
areusually
resolved
swiftly,
with
theemployerpassing
on
the necessarydocuments
to ensure
thegirls
gobackto
thePhilippines
asquicklyas
possibleso
theslim
danger
of
being
taken
to
court
nevermaterialises.
For
others,
the
process
of
leaving
the
country
is
usually
a
long drawn outaffair,
with
some
girls
living
for
over
ayear
in
the
embassy
untiltheir
cases
are decided."The
employers
paid
money
to
have
thegirls
come
to
Oman,
so
usually
theywant
to
get
it
back
from
theagencybefore
they
sign
the
papers
to
release
the
girls.When
the
casegoes
to c0urt
then
they
(theemployer)simply
don'tturn
up and
the
hearing
is
postponed
for
anotherweek,"Amelito
says.
22
lw

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