Saudi Arabia is known for its poor labour and human rights record, and is widely considered one of the most dangerous places to work in the world.
Employers in the Gulf state have been dogged by allegations of physically, mentally and sexually abusing their migrant housekeepers for years; claims which continue to resurface. In Kenya, reports of abuse sparked fresh outrage earlier this month when online photos of a young Saudi-based Kenyan worker,
Diana Chepkemoi, looking frail went viral, along with claims that she was facing employer abuse and neglect. Under growing pressure from the public, the government repatriated her and a few other domestic workers facing a similar plight in the Gulf state.
This year alone, Haki Africa, a Mombasa-based human rights organisation that advocates for the rights of workers across the continent, has received more than 51 complaints of abuse from Kenyan domestic workers based in Saudi Arabia, several videos of distressed women asking for help, and at least 10 new calls for help after reports of abuse resurfaced in September.
The Gulf is plagued by complaints of mistreatment of its domestic workforce, with estimates by the International Trade Union Confederation showing that more than 2.1 million women employed in households across the region are at risk of exploitation.
Faced with these grim statistics, the foreign affairs ministry proposed a ban on the deployment of Kenyan domestic workers to Saudi Arabia until protection measures were taken.
But Kenya’s cabinet secretary for labour, Simon Chelugui, rejected those calls, saying that hundreds of thousands of Kenyans were employed there under “favourable conditions”. [The Guardian]