Amnesty International has called on the Saudi Arabian authorities to protect domestic workers from abuse, following the reported discovery of the mutilated body of an Indonesian woman found in a skip in the town of Abha.
The discovery of Kikim Komalasari’s body was reported yesterday (19 November) and came as Indonesian officials travelled to Saudi Arabia to investigate allegations of the serious abuse of another Indonesian domestic worker, who has been hospitalised since 8 November.
Amnesty has welcomed what it describes as the Saudi government’s “swift co-operation” with the Indonesian government over investigating the case of the hospitalised maid - Sumiati Binti Salan Mustapa - who alleges that her employer cut her face with scissors.
“We fear that these two abhorrent cases are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the systematic abuse suffered by women employed as domestic servants in the region,” said Malcolm Smart, Middle East and North Africa Director of Amnesty International.
He added, “Saudi Arabia and all the Gulf states have to take steps to put an end to this horrific treatment of migrant domestic workers”.
Migrant workers from Asian countries such as Indonesia, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka dominate service industries in the Gulf.
In the last few years, labour reforms have been belatedly introduced in several Gulf countries to recognise the rights of migrant workers. But Amnesty reports that in virtually all cases, these reforms have afforded little or no protection to domestic workers.
Other reports of abuse of Asian women in the region that have emerged in the past few days include allegations from Kuwait that an employer there drove 14 metal pins into the body of a Sri Lankan domestic worker. A report from Jordan states that another Sri Lankan domestic worker was made to swallow six nails. A Sri Lankan woman alleged in August that her Saudi employers hammered 24 nails into her body.
Women migrant domestic workers in the Gulf are extremely vulnerable to gender-based violence, other abuses, restrictions on their freedom of movement, discrimination, and harassment.
They are often not given access to legal advice or adequate language interpretation, and are often unable to obtain protection or redress under existing labour laws.
Amnesty reports that employers commonly retain the passports of their domestic workers, which may result in detained domestic workers being held at deportation centres for weeks or months, while their paperwork is being completed.
In addition, some domestic workers are not allowed to leave the house where they work without permission from their employers. They are often required to work excessive hours for inadequate pay
Malcolm Smart insisted, “These gross abuses will continue to come to light unless governments in the region give migrant domestic workers the rights that are their due”.