Arabia Saudita - Severe abuse of women domestic workers (2012)

The country’s 1.5 million women domestic workers are not covered by the labour law adopted in 2005. The embassies of these women’s Asian countries of origin receive thousands of complaints from domestic workers who are forced to work between 15 and 20 hours per day, seven days a week, sometimes without pay. Women domestic workers are frequently deprived of their freedom and food, face sexual and psychological abuse and are beaten by their employers.

In June for example, after being alerted by neighbours, the authorities found a Sri Lankan domestic worker who had been held against her will by her employers for 14 years, without pay.

The authorities discourage complaints and don’t usually follow up on them, other than deporting the victims of the exploitation without any serious inquiry. In September a court overturned on appeal a three year prison sentence against a Saudi Arabian women who had tortured her Indonesian domestic employee, Sumiati Mustapa.

Following the decapitation in June of a 54-year-old Indonesian domestic worker found guilty of stabbing her employer to death, after being subjected to prolonged abuse, Indonesia decreed a moratorium on sending domestic workers to Saudi Arabia. The Saudi authorities provisionally suspended granting visas to domestic workers from Indonesia and the Philippines, further to increased tensions with the two countries.

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