UAE couples want ban on Ethiopia maids ended, as abuses mount
Sharifa Ghanem | 18 September 2012 Ethiopia maid attempting to jump to death in Gulf. Photo by Ethioinfo.wordpress.com
DUBAI: Abdullah and Monica, a couple based in Dubai, have lost their help after Ethiopia banned sending women to the Gulf region earlier this summer after a range of abuses and sexual violence against the workers continued to be reported.
For this couple, they said that a few “bad apples should not exclude the honorable from hiring Ethiopian women to work. They have been amazing to us and we want to hire another woman,” said Monica, a British national married to Abdullah, a Emirati citizen.
“We need the help to take care of our children while we are at work and we have only hired women from Ethiopia,” she said.
But that has changed after Addis Ababa barred women from traveling to the Gulf region as a result of increased abuses by their employers sparked fears that women could not be protected.
The Ethiopian government said they have received repeated reports that there has been abuse of citizens rights by some employers in the UAE.
Amare Abrha, a member of the Ethiopian community in Dubai, told 7DaysDubai.com that the move taken by the government was positive.
“It is long overdue but, nevertheless, we hope it will reduce the suffering housemaids are subjected to, both mentally and physically.
“Any agreement signed with the UAE should address the need to increase minimum wages and also shelter workers from abuse,” Abrha argued.
One woman, a domestic worker in Abu Dhabi for the past 7 years, told Bikyamasr.com that further discussions are needed to protect Ethiopians already living in the country.
“I know at least two women who have been sexually assaulted, one of them raped, by their employer here, but there is nothing they can do because their bosses have their passports,” she told Bikyamasr.com, asking for anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the comments.
For many domestic workers, life in the UAE can be positive and negative, but across the board, there seems to be consensus to develop an understanding and regulations for workers in the country.
The ’2012 Trafficking in Persons Report’ on Ethiopia published in June by the US Department of State states: “Many Ethiopian women working in domestic service in the Middle East face severe abuses.”
The report cites a long list of violations, “including physical and sexual assault, denial of salary, sleep deprivation, withholding of passports, confinement, and murder.”
Highlighting the poor situation facing Ethiopian women in the Gulf was the suicide of an Ethiopian woman in Kuwait in July.
According to the worker’s employer, after the woman received a divorce letter from Ethiopia, she became depressed and had “completely changed,” local Kuwaiti media reported.
She reportedly jumped her death from the fourth floor flat where she worked.
While not directly work related, Addis Ababa says the stress levels of women working in the Gulf remains high and must be reduced before lifting the ban.
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