Saturday, August 29, 2009

Domestic violence in the UAE

Thousands of women come to the UAE every year hoping to build a better life working as housemaids. But for some, their hopes are dashed as they face a life of abuse.
More and more countries are putting measures in place to help protect their citizens from exploitation at the hands of ruthless employers and to ensure they do not come to the country illegally, making them more vulnerable.
One of the latest to do so is Nepal.
There are 125,000 Nepalese expats in the UAE, including 75,000 in Dubai, and during a visit to Dubai yesterday, the country’s labour minister said he was concerned about the fate of women working in domestic service.
His comments come as a Filipina housemaid spoke out about the terrible abuse she suffered at the hands of a Lebanese family in Ajman.
Speaking at a meeting of the Non-Resident Nepalese Association in Dubai, Mohammed Aftab Alam, the Nepalese Minister for Transport and Labour Affairs, said his government currently banned Nepalese women from working as housemaids in the UAE, because of reports of abuse.
But, he said, people were getting around the ban by using recruitment firms in Bangladesh and India.
Now the Nepalese government is looking at lifting the ban so that it can better monitor the welfare of Nepalese expats and keep an eye on recruitment practices.
The Nepalese Ambassador to the UAE, Arjun B Thapa, said the embassy has dealt with numerous cases of housemaid abuse. “When they come to the embassy, we assist them in repatriation and speak to the sponsor to sort out the problem,” he said.
In 2007, the UAE government passed new laws that ensured domestic workers were entitled to a month’s holiday, medical care and better salaries. Many abusers have also been successfully prosecuted.
Damith De Silva, from the Sri Lankan consulate, said the UAE government worked hard to protect domestic workers.
“By and large they are doing their best and we are happy about it,” he said. And CP Mathew, the chief coordinator at the Valley of Love, a UAE voluntary organisation that protects expat workers, said the situation was improving, especially for new maids.
But he added: “There are still women who have been here for many years who are not monitored well and are being ill treated.”
He urged consulates to visit all housemaids and their employers at least twice a year to check on working conditions.

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