Kuwait's domestics get legal protection

Kuwait is issuing new regulations to improve working conditions for more than 400,000 Asian domestic servants.

    New regulations will pass into law after a review

    A government committee rapporteur, Amina Ghazi, confirmed on Wednesday that the law would stipulate a minimum wage, a weekly rest-day, a limit on working hours and payment of overtime.

    All of these basic standards are non-existent under the Gulf country's current law.
      
    "We will review employment contracts between maids and their employees to determine more accurately the relationship between the two parties.

    "We want to establish a balance to prevent any misuse," she said.
      
    The committee responsible for formulating the regulations comprises representatives from the ministries of interior, justice, social affairs and labour, the chamber of commerce and industry, and the Kuwait labour union.
      
    A majority of domestic workers come from India, Sri Lanka, the Philippines and Indonesia, in addition to Bangladesh. 
      
    Forced to act?

    The regulations were proposed amid increasing criticism of Kuwait for alleged maltreatment and abuse of domestic helpers that have forced thousands of maids to run away and seek protection in their embassies.
      
    Abuse claims included rape, beatings, non-payment of salary and tough working conditions, particularly unlimited working hours. 
      

    "We want to establish a balance to prevent any misuse"

    Amina Ghazi,
    committee rapporteur

    According to statistics from the interior ministry, which oversees domestic helpers, 25% of runaway cases are based on a false pretext, mainly because maids refuse to serve at homes a few months into their employment for want of a better job.
      
    Another 25% demanded one day off a week, 10% complained of not being paid, while the rest made other demands, Ghazi said, without providing a total figure for abuse cases.
      
    The committee is scheduled to meet again next month to finalise the proposed regulations which will then be endorsed by the emirate's cabinet, she said. 

    New law coming

    The regulations will be implemented until a new comprehensive legislation is issued to provide maids with adequate protection, Ghazi added.

    The rules will also be reviewed with embassies of countries sending maids to Kuwait.
      
    Ghazi said the number of abuse cases in the country was very small compared to the large number of domestic helpers, and that some of these cases had been "exaggerated" abroad for political reasons.
      
    She claimed that abuse cases of domestic helpers had recently seen a sharp drop, reflecting concerted government efforts to regulate their affairs.
      
    However, three Kuwaiti policemen are facing criminal charges before a local court for raping an 18-year-old Filipina maid at a police station in November. The defendants have denied the charges.

    SOURCE: AFP


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