There is barely room for more than one person in the bathroom at a time, there is no air conditioning so it is intolerably hot and airless. She will sit there till the early morning. Her job is to change toilet rolls. I ask what she is reading and she says it is the Bible. In response to further questions she tells us that she has another job during the day, which means she only gets a few hours sleep each night.
I give her a large tip and later learn that my friend has done the same. Soon after my arrival, Jill s our team for a month to help write teaching materials. She is British, of West Indian descent, and has been teaching for six years in various international schools in the UAE — she has a wicked sense of humour and we often get together on weekends.
One Saturday we go to Souk el Tayeb souk is market, tayeb is food in downtown Beirut. This weekly Saturday organic-growers market is held in a car park in Saifi, an area that has only recently been restored. Its colonial style buildings have been painted in gelato colours, the cobbled stone streets and squares have been landscaped with shade-giving trees, and on the ground floor of the buildings there is an eclectic mix of speciality shops and galleries.
Souk el Tayeb is a peace-making initiative that brings together stall holders from all over the Lebanon to sell their produce: bre, pastries, flowers, fresh fruit and vegetables, and all kinds of home cooking including jams and pickles, bottled cheeses, spinach triangles with a strong lemony flavour, stuffed vine leaves, local wines.
“there is a culture of racism against domestic employees in lebanon”
I extend my hand to take it but he hands it to Jill instead. She had to tell her that Jill was a colleague, and not her maid. This was simply because Jill is black. Up until the s poor rural women, Palestinian and Kurdish refugees, were the main source of domestic labour. Then these jobs were taken by immigrants from Asia and Africa. Because of their country of origin, their skin colour and ethnicity marks them out and this high visibility is a source of prestige for the employer and of discrimination for the employee.
It is clear that class, ethnicity, nationality, gender and prestige issues are involved in the way live-in domestic workers are received and treated by their employers and the rest of the society. It worries me to think how lonely they must be and how dependent and vulnerable to abuse.
As in many of the host countries where migrant domestic workers are employed their right to fair wages and working conditions are not protected by existing labour laws in Lebanon. Inthe year I was living there, a Human Rights Watch investigation found there was on average one death a week from unnatural causes among migrant domestic workers, including suicide and falls from tall buildings.
We all cram into a tiny warm room to eat a lentil dish she or perhaps K has prepared. I am shown the cupboard, set up high below the ceiling, where the mouneh is stored. Then we go outside and down some steps to the cellar, which is tucked under the house where the land slopes steeply downhill.
Inside is one large room, half of which is taken up by a flat slap of smooth rock that forms the foundations. There are glass slits for windows that look out over a moonlit orchard and lit-up houses in the valley below. It was completely dark even in the day because they had sandbags stacked in front of the windows.
During that time they only left the cellar to go upstairs into the house to prepare meals. Her other three daughters and grandchildren live in faraway safe places — in Sweden, Australia and United States — and although Madam is still feisty and flirtatious, in her eighties, she can no longer make the long plane trips to visit them.
At night on her balcony you can see the lights of Jounieh to the south and, beyond that, Beirut.
He flew in that morning and the house is full of excitement to have him home and now he and their sixteen-year-old son are trying to get the kerosene heater working in the dining room. Unlike in my apartment, there is no central heating and Eva is wearing a pink dressing gown over her clothes to stay warm. The hairdresser and his assistant have been working their way down through all three floors so that one by one the aunts, female cousins and grandmother have their Christmas bouffant blow wave. I am definitely the odd one out with my very short haircut.
For the entire evening K sits alone in the unheated kitchen while the family has Christmas dinner and opens their Christmas presents. The ILO estimates there are an estimated fifty-three million domestic workers around the world, but the figure could be closer to a hundred million. In developing countries domestic workers make up to 4 to 12 per cent of wage employees and 83 per cent are women or girls. She speaks English and I enjoy chatting with her.
She tells me she has a five-year-old son in Nepal whom she misses terribly. She works for a Lebanese family, minding a baby and two older children for a woman who holds a job and whose husband works all year round in one of the Gulf states. I often see them walking along arm in arm.
I say that would be illegal in Australia and she explains that she is on a three-year contract and will only be able to return to Nepal to see her son when that finishes. If she returns after that she will get one day off a week. The ILO found that 36 per cent of domestic workers are excluded from maternity leave, and 40 per cent have no access to maternity cash benefits, which prevents them taking time off to recover from childbirth or breastfeeding.
They are also often forced to leave their children with family in their home country. Maternity benefits should be financed through social insurance or public funds. Workers should not have to choose between being a parent and providing for their families.
How clean does a house have to be?
And quite normal to the people around me. Everyone tells me that the overall wages are low.
Six times! Others are not so lucky and have to leave Lebanon to get work. Migrant domestic workers provide valuable income to their families and communities in their home countries. She is married, her husband works as a mechanic, and she speaks Lebanese a little and English barely at all. But she is good at her job and friendly. Initially, my colleague Robert asked her if she would like to do some cleaning and ironing for him for a few hours on the weekend and she agreed, then he sent her down to me and I said she could clean my house as well for two hours a week.
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Then another colleague got her to clean and iron for twice the going rate as well. With all this extra work and the better pay Arshi begins working for herself and I often see her cleaning in some of the other apartments in our complex. I imagine she is probably earning more in one week now than she ly earned in a month or two.
Marie, a young Ethiopian woman, had arrived a month earlier to work for them. Unlike Ruth, who speaks excellent English and almost fluent Lebanese after three years in the village, Marie speaks little English or Lebanese. Despite this she and I embark on a cookfest while Alisha and Elie are away. We laugh a lot, draw pictures, use body language to communicate and when all else fails we call Ruth to interpret. There is a combined lounge-dining room, one bedroom, a kitchen and a small bathroom off the kitchen.
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I wonder where Ruth sleeps so I ask and she points to a daybed along the back wall of the communal room. Ruth is feisty and gives it back to her but the power imbalance is too great. There is no escape. And when Ruth saw how kind Alisha was to her sister she became quite jealous. Several factors contribute to this exploitation of migrant domestic workers.
They include that work in private households is viewed as being outside the sphere of ordinary labour rights and conditions.
Forced maid training group humiliation in femdom torture dungeon
For example, in a survey conducted with employers in India, Thailand, Italy and Sweden, 48 per cent of employers did not think a domestic worker should be entitled to a contract, 70 per cent said they should not have the right to a trade union, 52 per cent were opposed to a minimum wage and 45 per cent said that fixed working hours should not apply. Unfortunately, source countries may fail to ensure domestic workers are protected from exploitive labour agencies and employers while abroad because they welcome the contribution they make to their economies.
Kicking and screaming, she was then forced into a car by two men. No one came to her assistance but an anonymous bystander filmed the incident. Dechasa-Desisa was thirty-three years old and the mother of two children. Police were called Men forced to be maids the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation International identified the man beating her as Ali Mahfouz, the brother of the head of a recruiting agency that brought her to Lebanon.
In an interview Mahfouz alleged the agency was trying to return her to Ethiopia because she had mental health problems. Police took Dechasa-Desisa to a detention centre where she was then referred for medical care. She committed suicide at the Deir Al-Saleeb psychiatric hospital two days later. No arrests were made. In Human Rights Watch Annual ReportNisha Varia and Jo Becker give an of the negotiations that took place in Geneva to ensure three hundred and ninety-six delegates voted for the Convention with sixteen against, sixty-two abstaining.
After ratification by Uruguay and the Philippines, the ILO announced on 5 September that the first global standard for domestic workers would come into force on 5 September In February the minister of labor in Lebanon proposed legislation to protect domestic workers but this has yet to be put in motion, although anti-trafficking legislation to protect victims of trafficking was enacted after the US downgraded Lebanon to tier 3, the worst level, in its report on trafficking in persons.
In situations of abuse by employers, many countries including Lebanon have failed to ensure migrant domestic workers are able to seek help, protection or justice. Even when workers file complaints, the police and judicial authorities regularly fail to treat certain abuses against domestic workers as crimes.
Unfortunately, the contract does not nominate a minimum wage and still requires the worker to negotiate with the employer for agreement on how they use their weekly time off and annual leave.
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The issue of sponsorship and the inequities and discrimination this system promotes remains a real obstacle to systemic and cultural change in Lebanon and other places. In January KAFA enough Violence and Exploitation published a series of recommendations aimed at overhauling the sponsorship system and changing the exploitive master-servant culture.
Domestic workers are a valuable source of revenue for their families and countries of origin. As the above examples show, in the countries in which they work they provide valuable domestic labour in childcare, home care and care for elderly people.
This has yet to happen in other countries that have neglected them in their campaigns. Despite cautious optimism, Varnia acknowledges the considerable obstacles and restrictions workers face in sustaining reform movement due to a lack of free time and freedom of movement, uncertain immigration status and the risk of being deported.
Despite this, she argues that continuous growing empowerment of migrant domestic workers through membership of advocacy and labour rights organisations, combined with sustained pressure from international agencies such as the ILO and Human Rights Watch, is essential to success in protecting their human rights.