Wednesday 30 July 2008 (26 Rajab 1429)
Indonesian Embassy concerned over surge in maid abuse cases
Ghazanfar Ali Khan | Arab News
RIYADH: The Indonesian Embassy reported yesterday that it
logged 102 reported sexual assaults of Indonesian maids in the first half of
"This is in addition to 156 cases of physical torture
reported to the embassy from January to June this year," said Sukamto Javaladi,
labor attaché at the Indonesian Embassy. "The Indonesian Embassy is seeing a
steady upward trend in the number of reported cases of sexual assaults, while
thousands of our women also suffer working inhumane hours for almost no pay
with many enduring abuse by their Saudi employers."
Javaladi, however, described the deplorable treatment of
maids "minimal" compared to the large number of Indonesian women - estimated at
626,000 - working in the Kingdom. Indonesia sends the highest number of women
to work in Saudi Arabia.
"As far as cases of (general) abuse is concerned, the
Indonesian Embassy recorded 3,428 cases, which does not include complaints
lodged at the Consulate General in Jeddah," said Javaladi.
These cases typically involve breach of contract and wage
disputes. "Many maids are not paid regular salary, while many others remain
underpaid in sharp violation of the contractual obligations," said Javaladi.
Among common violations, many of which go unreported, is
expecting maids to be at work any time of the day or night, seven days a week.
Javaladi said the embassy had been assured by senior Saudi
officials that they would take stern action, including imprisonment, against
those employers who violate maids' rights.
"The problems faced by these women workers are not limited to
the Kingdom. Rather, complaints abound in all Gulf countries, or even beyond,"
said a report released by the Indonesian Migrant Workers Association recently.
According to the report, more than 1.5 million Indonesians
are currently working in the Middle East, 90 percent of them as housemaids.
"Thousands of abuse cases are reported to embassies and
nongovernmental organizations across the region every year," said the report,
adding that many complain of not being paid or receiving less wages than
promised while others have been physically or sexually assaulted or even go
sick because of the lack of amenities.
Asked about the future plan with regard to the deployment of
Indonesian workers in Saudi Arabia, Javaladi said that there was no ban on
recruitment to Saudi Arabia, which hires the largest number of domestic workers
Describing the issue as "delicate," Javaladi said that no
single party was fully responsible for the problem. He laid most of the blame
on individual Saudi employers, but pointed out that the regulation of foreign
labor in the Kingdom lies on "several parties."
The monthly minimum salary stipulated by the Indonesian
government was increased from SR600 ($160) to SR800 ($213) last year. With this
salary, maids are supposed to be provided room and board, health care, one day
off per week, and a round-trip ticket home every other year.
The Indonesian government endorses only labor contracts of
maids that show the increased salary. However, a common practice is to draw up
a work contract in the home country in order to get clearance, and then alter
the terms of the contract after the worker arrives in the host country.
Recently, the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW)
released a report on labor exploitation and urged Saudi Arabia to implement
labor, immigration and criminal justice reforms to protect foreign workers