Video courtesy of LBCI.
“There is a culture of racism against domestic employees in Lebanon”
Ali Mahfouz brought Dechasa to the consulate while she was in a crazy frenzy. He then justified himself by saying that she had tried to commit suicide several times and he had been forced to switch her to another house. But the question is obviously not whether or not the girl had mental problems. Violence like this can in no case be justified. It’s also worth asking whether Dechasa became unstable following the treatment she underwent at the hands of her employers.Personally, I consider businesses like Mahfouz’s little more than human trafficking. These recruiters go to Ethiopia, Sri Lanka or the Philippines to convince poor women to work in Lebanon. They promise good wages, days off, freedom of religion, etc… But once in Lebanon, they often find themselves working 18 hours a day with no rest, irregular pay, and limited freedom. Sometimes, their passport is confiscated and they can’t go anywhere without their employer’s permission. They’re worse than second-class citizens, they’re like slaves. [Every year, there are reports of several thousand maids being physically or sexually abused by their employers in Lebanon.]“Our laws link an immigrant’s work permit and residency status to a single employer – and many employers abuse that power”This systematic abuse has a legal basis: our sponsorship laws. This absurd system links an immigrant’s work permit and residency status to a single employer. If a maid loses her job, she can be sent back to her country. Of course, many employers abuse that power to over-work the women.“The simple fact that such blatant violence took place in front of the woman’s consulate is proof that nothing stops employers”The system completely excludes these employees from the rights of other Lebanese workers: they have practically no legal protection. To try to secure some rights for maids, in 2009 the government set up a single and mandatory work contract for domestic workers, which includes a minimum wage, one day of rest per week, and at least nine hours of rest per day, but that didn’t solve the problem. Do they really think that these newly arrived residents can afford to turn around and sue their employers if they don’t respect the law? On top of that, many of them have no legal working documents. They need to be given the exact same rights as other Lebanese workers, period. But there’s no political will to do it – there is a culture of racism against domestic employees in Lebanon.The simple fact that such blatant violence took place in front of the woman’s consulate is proof that employers have every power and that nothing stops them.”