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You Give Justice a Bad Name

September 4, 2010

When workers complain about being overworked, many don’t expect to have their employers hammer nails and metal objects into their bodies. That’s exactly what happened to Lahadapurage Daneris Ariyawathie on August 27, 2010.

Sadly, Ms. Airyawathie is not alone as there are other reported cases of Sri Lakan nationals and other migrant domestic workers being mistreated by their Saudi Arabian overlords.

“The abuse suffered by this woman is not an isolated incident, but one of countless cases of abuse and exploitation of migrant domestic workers,” said Christoph Wilcke, senior Middle East researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The government should address the systemic problems made possible by Saudi laws that put all power in the hands of private employers and allow them to abuse their workers with no fear of consequences.”

Other incidents involve a woman who suffered injuries after her employer pushed “her off a third-floor balcony in an attempt to kill her.” Fortunately, a swimming pool saved her life.

There is also the story of an employer who had beaten up her employee without pay for “one-and-a-half years” or an employer’s son who had raped a domestic worker or a woman who was  severely beaten and locked “in a cellar with almost no food for a month,” which resulted in “amputations of some fingers and toes” after she developed gangrene or a domestic worker was “severely burned by her employers.”

It’s not all the employers’ faults as there is plenty of blame to spread around. Employers are getting away with this abuse because the justice system that is supposed to protect these women is the very same one that is failing them. The women’s complaints seem to be falling on deaf ears as police ignore rather than investigate the charges. Maybe this type of abuse shows why power that is concentrated in the hands of a few isn’t always the best thing. Who is going to help these women if the ones who have been given the power to do so won’t help them? To borrow a phrase from Bon Jovi, the police are giving justice a bad name.

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