Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Saudi govt. must punish their own people who are brutal with Bangladeshi maids

The latest tragic story of Sumi Akter who was mercilessly tortured yet she was not allowed to leave the job and return to her own country. Instead of her claiming damage from her abuser, the employer himself claimed compensation for money he spent to employ her as maid. He also obstructed her to leave country though she did not make any claim of damage for the harm he has done to her. There was no talk of monthly wages he was to pay her.

She just wanted to save her life and come back home. It was necessary for our consulate there      to intervene while the labour court ultimately allowed her to leave Saudi Arabia. This incident made our people angry and very unhappy that a Muslim country was so inhuman to the helpless housemaid from another Muslim country.

Unfortunately, such stories of torture on helpless maids from our country came to be known before also. We urged the government not to send women housemaids anymore to Middle Eastern countries to be brutalised. But the greed of the government for the foreign exchange prevailed. We condemn the government. We expect some human right bodies to sue our government for deliberately ignoring serious human rights violations.

It is no wrong that many Bangladeshi women from lower income groups who live in marginal areas remain perpetually in search of jobs for a better life. When they hear of their neighbours who purportedly get high paying jobs in Saudi Arabia the temptation to join them for making their lives better economically appears natural.

But our government knows better still they send our helpless and simple minded women as housemaids to Saudi Arabia knowing they will be mistreated.

In the last four years, at least 66 Bangladeshi female workers died in Saudi Arabia, 52 of them committed suicide. The vast majority of them have fallen prey to families who tortured or abused them mentally or physically, leading to their deaths by suicide. Last year alone a total of 1,353 female workers came back to Bangladesh from Saudi Arabia because of the inhuman working conditions there.

Under the Saudi "kafala" - or visa sponsorship - system, a migrant worker's residency permit is tied to the "sponsoring" employers whose written consent is required for the worker to change employers or leave the country under normal circumstances.

Bangladeshi housemaids become victims of a system in which employers confiscate their passports, withhold wages, and force them to work against their will. Workers who leave their employers without their consent can be charged with "absconding" and face imprisonment and deportation.

What is worse is that there is no fear of any reprisal from the law for the Saudis who torture our maids. Not a single instance has occurred where a family has been punished in any way or has gone through the loops of the judicial process because of the immeasurable harm which they have caused to our workers.

It is our fervent appeal to his Royal Highness the King of Saudi Arabia that he would institute a series of legal measures by which the kafala system is abolished-as it lies at the heart of the troubles which our maids have to face.

Simultaneously it needs the introduction of punishment for those families who harass and torture our maids. As Muslims our women who go there as maids expect Islamic kindness and civility. But the stories of merciless brutalities inflicted on them by some Saudi families have appeared beastly for the core values of Islam and image of Saudi Kingdom.