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Thursday, October 21, 2010

New Rules For Hiring Maids: Take It Or Leave It

"If the Philippines can pioneer  unshackling this evil bondage through its very own, the world will be on its feet, then other third-world countries will likely follow suit."

It is as easy as one plus one - if you cannot protect your guest workers then do not invite them to come over. The same is said of the Saudi government's seemingly desperate attempt to get Philippine counterpart to have a change of heart towards the latter's stance on the hiring of Filipino domestic helpers. This early, the Philippine government has stiffened its conditions set on hiring of domestic helpers - which the Saudi government finds absurd - because the prerequisites set by the labor-exporting country do not conform to the whims of the indolent and masochistic culture existent in the Saudi society.

In order for a Saudi family to acquire rights to hire a Filipina domestic helper, the Philippine government sets forth the following criteria:  The basic salary of the worker should be pegged at SR.1,500 - lower than that is deemed illegal and unacceptable. The head of the family should have at least a monthly basic salary of SR.9,000. - to ensure he is capable of paying his 'servant' (the term they label their household helper). And the prospective employer should attach a detailed map of his residence, for easy access of their whereabouts should an abuse is committed against their worker. If you see, the rules constitute protection of the worker but what the Saudi government fears about is that - its citizens are not yet ready to be bound by such rules.

Obviously if the Philippine government holds firm to its stake, the rampant abuses of Filipino domestic helpers in Saudi Arabia will be a thing of the past. And that is what their Saudi counterpart is keen to neutralize - in their favor. If this is the best way to teach Saudis a lesson - moral and diplomatic that is - then the Philippine government should remain firm to its advocacy.

If human rights wathcdogs will have their say,  Saudi Arabia will always be classified as a dangerous country for unskilled workers where there is no assurance of protection given to them . Most of them are household workers who exist at the mercies of their employers. Countless of documented and undocumented cases of abuses happen everyday in all corners of this country. They're lucky if they get to find way to escape from their abusive employers. Some of them have also found their ends here. Scores or sometimes hundreds of these distressed workers crowd temporary shelters inside Consulate in Jeddah and embassy in Riyadh awaiting months or years before being repatriated. And the bad news is - government's fund is slowly drying up for the cost of their subsistence and repatriation.

Acting the role of 'good and desirable' hosts, the Saudi government is not slow to sweet-lemonize the standoff between two governments saying there are domestic helpers from other countries waiting in large numbers offering their services to their nationals. There you go! If so, why bother to get Philippine officials to a dialogue hoping the rules set by them could be bent in mutual favor? The truth is, simple and fair the rules may sound, yet they are not willing to comply with it because they cannot guarantee the safety and protection of the worker inside a Saudi household.

How servants are being treated by them? In most instances, a servant is being enslaved by the whole clan. Her 24-hour day to day existence is offered to her masters. She is on-call even at the most unlikely of hours. She does not take offdays. After she finishes her work in her master's house, she is also being offfered  to serve in another house with the consent of her master. If she is thought to be pretty, she will be locked up in the bathroom by the wife before the husband comes. She could even end up a sex-slave by her male masters. If her masters are also monsters she could get a battering everyday. Even kids join the orgy by showering her with their spittle. ( I don't stereotype all Saudis, but my over a decade of stay in Saudi Arabia could attest to real stories of this kind, they're aplenty you would regret arguing with me.)

If the Philippine government plays its card smartly, I don't think this development is a bane to overseas employment for our household workers. Given that Filipinos are still the most preferred household workers for obvious reasons, good Saudis with penchant for quality skills possessed by Filipinos will be unperturbed by the rules. But those majority that raises the alarm are those inclined to be abusive, financially constraint and wanting  only to 'possess' a slave to flaunt to their ilks. If they cannot afford to give decent pay to their 'slaves' then it's about time that they move their asses off and wake up from their couch and start to declog their arteries because 'owning' a slave comes with responsibilities...and risks.

The astronomical cases of abuses to domestic helpers in general across the Arabian peninsula has been at the forefront of human rights groups' agenda all over the world. Various media and independent entities have documented the atrocities done to these poor individuals and how abusive employers get the luxuries of not being prosecuted for their crimes. From Lebanon and Jordan to Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, records of abuses and deaths are dizzying that calls to end this modern-day slavery are mounting. If the Philippines can pioneer  unshackling this evil bondage through its very own, the world will be on its feet, then other third-world countries will likely follow suit. And if this trade persists to exist, it is because better reforms have been put in place. Now I put my stake on the strength of the Philippines' stand. If they stay firm (which I still beg to doubt), then it's about time to bid abusers goodbye, or one more time, "take it or leave it"!


Pepe Cabrera said...

This is a welcome development, and I hope that the Philippine government will stand firm on its own rules, and not softening its stance when the going gets tough.

Just a wishful thinking knowing that this is still plausible. It might be that this is just a star beyond our reach otherwise put a complete ban on domestic helpers in the entire Middle East.

Anonymous said...

Cuando vas a escribir un articulo en lengua española?

vivas las islas filipinas!!

Francesca said...

i felt bad that there are evil employers treating their maids in such inhuman manner.

In France, there is a dept of labor, called inspection de travail (work inspectors) where a grieved HOUSEKEEPER can complain and if found guilty, the employer pay a hefty price or ban them to have future maids. The phil govt should do the same. Takot ba sila?
mama mia!

NFB said...

Hi Francesca, thanks for visiting my blog. It's an honor to have you perusing my posts. It's indeed really heartbreaking to see our Filipino compatriots being mistreated and abused by these bestial beings. I hope the figures could support the case, enough that the Phil. govt. put a stop to this modern-day slavery in this part of the world.

NFB said...

@ Anonymous, thank you for dropping by. Btw, I dont speak that much Spanish. If you're wondrin' about the title of my blog it's one way of showing my support of the Spanish language to be taught again at all school levels in the Philippines.

If you wish to read my posts in Spanish, I have also provided a Wibiya translator at the sidebar for your convenience. Thanks again!

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