The case of migrant domestic workers witnessed a major development following the publication of a report by Human Rights Watch in which many cases of female workers were subjected to exploitation, sexual harassment or deprivation of their most basic rights. The Omani Center for Human Rights was able to communicate with a number of migrant domestic workers in Oman, and concluded to the following points:
- Investigations by the OCHR have shown that large numbers of women working in domestic employment are being exploited by being forced to work overtime without extra pay or sufficient time off in lieu.
- Many domestic workers are hired at an agreed rate only to be paid in practice less than the amount agreed.
- Some housemaids complained that they were constantly being made to work in more than one house without any extra pay.
- Many housemaids are denied a single day or even a few hours off each week.
- Some maids are forced to sleep in the kitchen.
- Several maids testified that they had suffered sexual harassment from at least one family member in the house where they were working.
- There is no dedicated body monitoring the conditions of domestic workers, and no hotline through which they can lodge complaints.
- There is no official acknowledgement of such abuses, and the Oman Human Rights Commission denied the findings of a Human Rights Watch report in November 2017 on the abuse of domestic workers in Oman.
- The OCHR-Oman’s analysis of these issues makes it clear that the root cause of the problem lies in the character of the Omani labour laws and the cultural attitudes they instil in society. In some instances they virtually condone slavery, because the official stance is normally to take the side of the exploiter and encourage him to carry on violating workers’ rights, especially in the case of domestic workers. (The secretary to a committee set up to examine the needs and requirements of recruitment bureaus for non-Omani manpower’s press interview).
- The authorities are doing nothing to educate housewives and “sponsors” about the need to set fixed working hours and give housemaid two days off a week, as well as other workers’ rights like plane tickets and proper accommodation. In fact, to a large extent the authorities make matters worse with their superficial comments on the issue in the media, portraying the employer-employee relationship as being purely a matter of ethical behaviour rather than being based on laws, rights and obligations.
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