Hundreds of migrant domestic workers marched in the Lebanese capital Beirut this week to mark International Workers’ Day and to denounce their own working conditions. The demonstrators called for the implementation of ILO Convention 189, which stipulates that domestic workers have the right to at least one day off per week and a minimum wage.
Of the 200,000 migrant domestic workers in Lebanon, most work as live-in maids, and they primarily hail from the Philippines, Ethiopia, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal. They cannot enter or leave the country for any reason without obtaining explicit written permission from their employer, making them vulnerable to exploitation.
Some of the most blatant violations of the rights of migrant domestic workers in Lebanon include excessive working hours, withholding of salaries, beatings and sexual abuse, and withholding of passports to prevent them from leaving. However, the workers are not protected by Lebanese labour laws. Last year, in an effort to improve their situation, migrant domestic workers in Lebanon moved to form their own labour union.