Watching Al Jazeera International, that lovely channel which U.S. companies for some reason refuse to pick up and which I will miss very much next time I'm there, I caught a short program on the abuse of Sri Lankan maids in Dubai. Obscure, it seemed.

So I did the only reasonable thing a net-savvy girl as myself might do  I Googled. S-r-i L-a-n-k-a-n m-a-i-d-s D-u-b-a-i.


I found post after post requesting, very specifically, young women from Sri Lanka. But why? The answer is obvious, of course: the UAE has become a relatively wealthy country, and it's no secret that its workforce is made up of migrant workers, mostly from East and South Asian countries.

Sri Lankan women in particular, however, seem to suffer the most in the UAE. According to Third World Network, "The Sri Lankan embassies and local non-governmental welfare agencies get an average of 400 complaints a month about physical and verbal abuse and there are some 300 Sri Lankans in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) prisons."

Another reason that so many Sri Lankan women come to the Emirates to work in private homes is that by law, Emirati residents can only sponsor a maid from India, Sri Lanka, the Phillipines, Indonesia, and Bangladesh.  More often than not, these maids are found via Internet sites, brought in for approval, and sometimes sent back if their appearance or health is not ideal.

Now, the governments of Sri Lanka and Nepal are making it more difficult for women to work in the Gulf states because of an overwhelming number of abuse reports filtering into embassies.

The first step to solving this problem seems like a no-brainer.  Sexual harassment laws in the UAE apply to professional workers but not domestic workers.  According to Gulf News, women of the UAE are likely to report sexual harassment in the workplace  therefore, it seems likely that if the laws which apply to foreign professionals were to apply to domestic workers as well, there would be an upswing in the number of reported abuse cases.

As for the next step…I don't know.  What do you think?

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