Maids and the virus

Muna Al-Fuzai

Last week, a local private TV channel interviewed two Asian domestic workers in Kuwait. Both were in tears and confused over their situation, because they suddenly found themselves on the street without shelter in difficult circumstances, as they were thrown out from their sponsor’s house on the pretext of the spread of the coronavirus. Their painful oppression made me and others wonder about the conditions of some of the workers who may be suffering due to the repercussions of this virus – financially and morally.

It was sad to watch these women, relatively old in age, who found themselves on the street and did not know where to go and what they did wrong. They said their embassy did not receive them, so they walked aimlessly in the streets until they met the reporter and made their voices heard. They were taken to a shelter under state custody. The video was also published on social media. They are safe now, but are victims of abuse by their sponsor.

The women were lucky and are undoubtedly secure now, but I wonder if there are more similar cases who may be struggling under the hard conditions because of the damage they suffered because of the coronavirus. We all know there are families who have lost their salaries or part of it due to the stoppage of businesses, and this has certainly hurt them. 

Some of these families may have domestic workers who are also in desperate need to support their families back home, so stopping the maid’s salary for any reason will hugely harm her family as well. She may be able to afford to eat and sleep, but who knows what her family is going through.

Those two women represent an example of what a sponsor can do in the event he is unwilling to pay the maid. He may find it easier to throw the worker out of the house like a used item or trash on the excuse of spreading the virus, instead of taking responsibility for her as per her contract. Some people have no sense, otherwise we wouldn’t see people like those two women.

I felt comfortable that the state intervened and placed those women in a shelter to protect them, as it is not possible to leave them on the street without a roof or money. Yet I wonder about the position of the law in this case and if the sponsor can act in this aggressive manner. To my understanding, he is responsible to care for these dependents. I also believe their embassy has to demand the rights of these women if the sponsor hasn’t paid their salaries.

I believe that throwing out the maids was an inhuman act, and the sponsor must be punished, knowing that the government did not cut the salaries of employees in the government sector, whether they are expatriates or citizens. The same holds true for many in the private sector as well.

I hope Asian embassies will alert all their citizens to contact them directly in case they are expelled and the coronavirus outbreak is used as an excuse to harm them. The entire world, as well as Kuwait, is recovering from this virus and preparing to return to normal life. There is no need to cause harm to others. There is no excuse because businesses are on their way back soon.

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