War on the home front

Whatever is the world coming to when you can’t get decent servants any more. Under the heading “Mission impossible”, the Saudi Gazette reports on the trials and tribulations of finding a housemaid for Ramadan. They expect so much money these days, and they don’t like staying up all night cooking food.

In Abha province, one uppity maid has even gone to court, claiming that her female sponsor and four other women – all sisters – physically attacked her and locked her up for being too exhausted to help move heavy equipment. The sisters, in turn, accuse the maid of “frequently leaving the house and engaging in relations with males”.

Writing in Asharq Alawsat, Muhammad Diyab comments on the shocking news that 30 Saudi women from “deprived areas” of the kingdom have taken up jobs as housemaids at 1,500 riyals ($400) a month. (This type of work is generally considered OK for Asians but shameful for Saudis.)

Although Diyab insists that “an honest job is a source of pride” and “working in the field of housekeeping is not demeaning to a woman in any way, shape or form”, the thrust of his article is to ask why Saudi women are not getting better types of job:

Perhaps many of those who put obstacles in the way of women’s employment now feel that by opposing that trend they have actually narrowed the range of job opportunities available to women to the extent that they will accept being housemaids. May God help them and us all.

Meanwhile in Lebanon, as The Angry Arab notes herehere, and 
here, foreign housemaids continue to “fall” from balconies in alarming numbers.

For more about life as a domestic servant in the Middle East, see two reports by Human Rights Watch: As If I Am Not Human(2008) and Exported and Exposed (2007).

Posted by Brian Whitaker, 5 August 2009