Thursday, October 15, 2015

Maid's Hand Cut Off - Modern Day Slavery At Its Worst

Once a year on December 02 - International Day for the Abolition of Slavery - I write about real world slavery. Of course it exists 385 days a year, but it is not the main topic of my blog. Neither is travelling. The story of an Indian maid in Saudi Arabia, whose hand was cut of by her employer trying to flee is what prompted me.

The insanity of it all.
Leaving it all behind to provide for your loved ones and then this.

Saudi Enigmia
For some reason, Saudi Arabia is high on my travel bucket list. As a Christian, it is not about the pilgrimage to Mecca. That would be totally disrepectful. The country is an mystery. The only time ever, they allowed foreigners into the country, was in 2014. However that year I travelled to perhaps the biggest shithole in the world, before it became like really unsafe. I didn't get blown-up and had a blast. If you think there is no bigger adrenaline rush than serving your mistress, perhaps you should come on a trip with me.

Saudi Arabia cancelled their visa program within a few months. It doesn't need our money and they most certainly are not interested in our opinions. Perhaps the latter is not such a bad choice to be honest.

There ain't much to see. Even the oil is hidden underground. The country has some structures carved out of rocks, but the Jordanian city of Petra is better. But it is not why I travel. Travelling is its own reward. It is about meeting new people. To learn and grow.

Saudi Arabia is not a pleasant country. Hundreds of people died in this year's hajj pilgramage during a stampede. The authorities were not to blame. An act of God of course. Am I the only one who sees the irony here? A dictatorship, not the least interested in democracy, the Arab Spring shocked its ruling elite to the core. So much, it unleashed a wave of repression to prevent democracy from gaining a foothold at home and in neighbouring countries. Soldiers were sent to neighbouring Bahrain to help crack down on democratic dissidents.

The kingdom doesn't treat its own people well either, especially not women. In 2006 a teenage girl was gang-raped by seven men. The victim was sentenced to 90 lashes for being alone in a car with a man to whom she was not married. Almost twice the lashes one of her rapists received.

In 2011 Saudi women tried to lift the ban on female drivers. They posted videos of themselves driving, tagged Women2Drive. One woman was sentenced to ten lashes for flouting the ban. Initially pardonned, the rising influence of the countries conservative crown prince left it up in the air for over a year.  Her whipping appears to have been dropped, because local police filed a "routine petition" for pardon.

female drivers in saudi arabia, wearing black niqab and chador
Real-life superheroes are often invisible.

Working as a slave
Now imagine yourself working there. Not a highly visible expat from some Western country, but a poor woman from India. She goes to some god-forsaken place, another country, another language, to provide for her family. She will not see her children for years, decades perhaps. The best she can hope for is that her employer treats her right, but often the story follows a similar pattern. The women are well aware of the the risky and uncertain life that lies ahead before they get on the plane. Still they go. Yes that is desperation, but also courageous, strong and selfless.

In this latest example of modern day slavery, Kasturi Munirathinam a 58 year old Indian woman was employed by a Saudi family for about three months. She was harrassed and deprived of food. In the end she tried to flee, which provoked her employer to cut of her hand. That is evil and insane.

Thinking about it only makes what happened worse. Employers often take away a domestic's passport, making sure they cannot leave. Why is that, I'm wondering. The maid earned about GBP 150 a month, which usually means working 24 hours a day and sleeping in a broom closet.

Saudi Arabia is one of the wealthiest countries in the world and this family probably was no exception. Even accounting for the fact that she is a live-in maid, GBP 150 is an absurd low amount of money. On top of that the family witheld food from their maid, who slaved away for all hours of the day. Not that it would have cost them, the best she could probably hope for were leftovers every once in a while.

It is easy to see why she was unhappy and wanted to leave. Rather than letting her go or improve her working conditions, her employer decides to cuts off her hand. Someone who works for you, for next to nothing. A woman who left her soul behind in the labour exporting country she comes from, so she can provide for her children. The arrangement doesn't work out, for which the employer is entirely to blame and when she wants to go home, you chop of her hand? In certain ways Islam is more benign than Christianity and the lack of outpour over this incident surprises me. Meanwhile the maid is in a Riyadh hospital - missing her hand for life, unless doctors surgically re-attached it. Without it, finding work to provide for her family, is going to be even harder.

Why?
After the female Saudi driver got sentenced to ten lashes, an official report on the danger that women driver pose to society, was commisioned.
"Kamal Subhi, a former professor at King Fahd University, warned that allowing women to drive would provoke a surge in prostitution, pornography, homosexuality and divorce. Within 10 years of the ban being lifted, it warned, there would be "no more virgins" in the kingdom.

Mr Subhi said moral decline was already discernible in other Gulf states where women were allowed to drive."
If that is your kind of logic, I don't want to hear what misogynic reasons you come up with for excusing the mutilation of a poor woman, who leaves her family behind, only to work in your country for next to nothing.

At times, I can be a little naive, but the sheer level of abuse and exploitation, especially when you are so rich, baffles me. What I cannot understand is why you cut of someone's hand. Being punished for trying to escape sums it up nicely - presumably -  but I don't buy it for one second. It's barbaric and the person who did it is insane. She should be put down. Equally effective when it comes to mad humans and mad dogs.

"Unacceptable" "Very much disturbing" The response of the Indian goverment is wholly unsatifactory. Sometimes Machiavelli is wrong and there is no difference between amoral and immoral. And your only option is to fight evil with evil. India should send in the special forces - even if it means risking war - to dish out some biblical justice: an eye for an eye or its Muslim or Hindu equivalent. Whether or not there is justice in the next world, let's make sure we have some in this one.

But then again the world doesn't care. The latest tweet by Hillary Clinton or Mistres Bloody Spoil Me is so much more deserving of our attention. I googled for an update but all first page results are a week old. What happens next? Who cares? Then again nobody brought those Nigerian girls back home either. Guess they weren't "our girls" after all. What if privilige turns us all into monsters?

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