Friday, October 26, 2012

Employers give in to domestic workers' demands to ensure families' safety

(Oct 26, 2012, JEDDAH)--Following recent harrowing incidents with maids, many employers are seeking for ways to ensure their family’s safety by paying special attention to domestic workers they employ.

An Ethiopian maid had recently been arrested in Jeddah for allegedly burning the face of a two-year-old boy with an iron. Last month an Indonesian housemaid decapitated 4-year-old Tala with a cleaver in Yanbu, and was referred to the Madinah Mental Health Hospital for evaluation.

Both cases have left parents in shock and horrified at the current state of things. “I am still in shock. I can’t believe the maid killed a four-year-old child. It was done in such a horrific way. I cannot leave my kids alone when I go to work; I leave them with the neighbors,” said Selma Hashmi, a 32-year-old Saudi teacher. “Call me paranoid, but this could happen to any of us.”

Many employers have been on the search for different maids and many people have raised the salaries in hopes that their maids will not leave their current employment. Ahmad Mahmoud, a 38-year-old Saudi manager, told Saudi Gazette, “I decided to raise my maid’s allowance by SR500. I just don’t want to lose her to another employer for SR200 or something because my family is used to her and we have had her for many years.”

Ghassan Alawi, a 28-year-old Saudi painter, said, “It is our fault. We spoil the domestic workers and many of them take advantage of us. My maid regularly asks for pay hikes even though she only has a small house and my mother to look after.”

He said the biggest mistake most households make is that they employ illegal maids who can inflict damage and easily run away as they are not liable to anyone. “We should have a system installed where every domestic worker is liable to the firm and answerable for their actions. Because in cases like murder and robbery most of them are just deported or jailed, but it’s too late as the damage is already done.”

Dr. Khalid Al-Oufi, consultant psychiatrist and medical director of Al-Amal Hospital in Jeddah and head of the psychiatry clinic, said every now and then a little kid gets killed or tortured by a housemaid. He said psychiatrists and social and family counselors should study this trend and suggest solutions. “We can no longer remain silent or ignore this trend.”

Zainab Al-Abrar, a 25-year-old Saudi student living in Jeddah, told Saudi Gazette the recent increase in cases of violence involving housemaids is unacceptable and should be dealt with immediately.

“Why isn’t there a background check on the maids who are brought here? They might be criminals. After all they live in our houses taking care of our loved ones. You cannot trust a stranger with your family, especially young children. But we are so trusting and accepting that we never think until something brutal like this happens.”

Hala Ghanem, a 42-year-old banker, said her family takes special care of their housemaid who has lived with them for over 20 years. “When we hear such cases it’s frightening and you doubt their credibility. It scares us to think she might harm us, as we know nothing about her past or background. Even though we give her gifts, gold on Eid and send money to her family she tells us time and again to increase her pay or she will leave us. Sadly we are so used to her that we will continue with her for as long as possible.”

According to Hussein Ahmad, a 32-year-old engineer and a father of two living in Najran, the Kingdom must set laws and have a standard procedure for checking the backgrounds of domestic workers and keeping track of their performance.

“Many people have fallen victim to blackmail and give in to maids asking for higher pay, less working hours and longer breaks. Some threaten to run away so employers tend to fall into the trap and cater to their demands because they don’t have an alternative and there is no system here that runs a center for maids. Illegal maids have no accountability to their employers or the authorities and thus pose danger to our society,” he said.
Source: Saudi Gazette

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